Life review: One Sandpile, within hearing distance

This participatory installation was created at Terrain Exhibitions, a public exhibition space in Oak Park, Illinois, founded by artist Sabina Ott and educator John Paulett. From September 9 until October 14, 2012, the front yard at 704 South Highland Avenue was transformed into an interactive site of play, reflection, and interaction.

This performative installation built off of early reflections on hospice training as well as personal narratives informing my most recent body of work, life review. An audio montage activated the space, weaving a narrative around the loss of a parent and memories of childhood. As a backdrop to the play site, I suspended a transparency from the porch opening, montaging a handwritten passage from my mother’s personal essay “Summer Retreat” with a postcard picture from Eagle River, Wisconsin.

On three occasions over the course of the month-and-a-half long installation, I invited colleagues and friends to respond to the site by reading texts about death, dying, and loss, outside in the public space of the neighborhood. Some chose excerpts of texts by others, some read their own texts. 

These three events formed a core of poignant and reflective encounters, framed in the interior space with an arrangement of family artifacts, including my father’s hardhat, my mother’s sewing kit, family linens, and portraits placed to create an environment of memory and nostalgia. At each event, I baked sugar cookies from my mother’s recipe, gifting the audience with her nurturing.