Sunday, April 07, 2013

SpinCycle - The First Installment

You know when 1 + 1 = 10000?  Well, that is what it was like at the World Premiere (that is a joke, btw) of SpinCycle.

All throughout the creation of this project, I have been waiting for it to fall apart or otherwise self-destruct.  None of it made sense - why was I making spinning more complicated?  What was the point of the bicycle?  And how in the world did it actually manage to pull together?  Yet, somehow, someway, the thing came together and I was giving it the test drive on Friday afternoon.

Can all my projects have a rehearsal?
Come Saturday evening, people began gathering even before the appointed hour.  We had two tables of yarn - generously donated by Lion Brand Yarns (can we just take a moment and appreciate their support for artists.  I mean, I know they get publicity and all, but I am not the only artist that they have helped out with yarn donations.  They deserve our appreciation - thank you Lion Brand Yarns!).  We set out the yarn and the instructions for finger knitting.  

If you finger knit it, they will come.  Within minutes we had a crowd - old, young, men, women, all shapes, sizes and colours.  By the middle of the evening, hundreds of people had given it a try and many of them had settled themselves down on a chair or the floor and were deep into it.  It was a sight to behold.  In fact, here!  Behold it!

This was taken before the evening officially began, so it was when the crowd was still small.  One extra cool thing was when one person who had just learned began to teach those around them.  I had recruited two volunteers to teach - the brave Shannon Hayes and Miranda Norris.  I barely saw them all evening since they were three- and four-deep in the crowd.  Shannon had volunteered to teach and then, about three days later, emailed me to tell me that she actually didn't know how to finger knit.  Never let a lack of skill get in your way, I always say.  She did wonderfully and, in fact, was still helping people well after I had already packed up my contraption.

Speaking of which, the contraption worked.  It worked beautifully.  People pedaled the bicycle and it turned the bobbin and I drafted some white merino and, yes, we had yarn.  But there was more to it than that.  As people signed up to pedal, I greeted them and invited them to help me spin and to tell me a story.  I had prepared some prompt cards, so people were not put on the spot to create something out of whole cloth.  Then they began to pedal and we looked at each other in a mirror I had propped up on the floor.  I could see their face and they could see mine but we couldn't see our own.  Among the surrounding chaos of finger knitting and people walking by, our sharing the story via the mirror became an intimate space.  We were the only two who could hear what was being said - and people told some incredible stories.  It was beautiful.

At the end, I again shook the person's hand and thanked them for spinning yarn with me and sharing their story.

This was my first time making a performance with such a ritualized beginning and ending.  Usually I let things take their natural course without any interference.  This time, it felt like the interaction needed more of a structure.  Ultimately, it felt like each encounter was complete.  This project will be re-created at an upcoming one-person exhibition at Northern University (in South Dakota) next spring.  I am excited to see how it unfolds in another context.

I did ask a friend to video tape some of it and I will post it here when I do some editing.

Many thanks to The Brooklyn Museum, especially Lauren Zelaya, for inviting me to participate and working with me on this piece.  Also, again to Lion Brand Yarns for their donation of yarn, and to Todd Cowdery and Shawn O'Hagan for excellent ideas that helped to shape the piece, and to Bob Lanaghan, who came through with extra Majacraft drive bands at the last moment (just in case mine broke).  Thank you all!  

And thank you to all who came and pedaled with me and shared your amazing stories.  It was a wonderful night!


seagrrlz said...

Robyn,looks like a great evening!

dorinalouise said...

so glad it went well! it looks very cool . .