introduction to an idea

Former West Philadelphia JCC (detail)

Former West Philadelphia JCC (detail)

I’m in a transitional period with my work… I’m waiting to hear back from publishers for my Garden of Time children’s book project. I don’t have much studio time to speak of since I’m full-time mothering a 5-month old baby. And, I’m just plain in-between projects. So I’m working on ideas…

Some of the ideas are more developed than others. One idea in particular is requiring a fair amount of research and thought. It’s an idea about a public art project related to buildings in West Philadelphia that used to be synagogues. Some of the buildings are now abandoned, but many are now African-American churches. There are so many facets to this idea, so many ways I could approach the project.  I’ve found myself spending a fair amount of time doing preliminary research. But… I’m not even sure right now that I’m going to actually do the project. This is the part that’s new for me. I need to spend more time doing research on this before I can determine whether or not the idea feels right to do. In part this is because the project itself is larger and more complex than any of the others I’ve done before. And the time spent researching and planning is necessary to arrive at even the first step of the plan.

This idea is also much more specific than anything I’ve done before. My first two public/participatory projects (The Listening Station and Show Someone How You Feel About Something) were open-ended by design. I wanted people to listen and to show but I didn’t specify what about. Now I’m thinking about trying to show something about these buildings, their history, the people who used to use them, the people who use them now… there’s much more information here.

So, planning a project before knowing it will happen. It’s work that may not lead to a final product. I’m learning to accept this. It helps to remember all the hours I spent when I was making paintings, making and un-making, over and over, with no apparent forward movement. The time I spend doing this research, thinking, talking to people, looking at these interesting buildings in parts of my neighborhood that I don’t usually frequent… it will all lead me somewhere, point me towards a new place…. It just may not be leading to the result that I can imagine right now. This is the way in which the conceptual modality for my current work can still lead to the unexpected, with poetic and mysterious results.


About zoecohenart


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