Excavating the 21st Century.

Amy Sharp Project Statement

My two months at the Berwick Research Institute (BRI) followed five months of commuting between a job in New York City and living and working in Boston. The timeliness of being in Lower Manhattan in September 2001 influenced my proposal to be an Artist in Research at the BRI. I needed the space to work alone, but the support of a community. I wanted to work without preconceptions or commitments to an end product. The BRI members responded by dedicating a quarter of their space to constructing a semi-private studio space and helping move my materials, including 80 ten-gallon aquariums, into the studio.

I had become preoccupied with photographs printed in newspapers and the means by which we remember, appropriate, and project meaning on images. The reoccurring photographs of the World Trade Center confirmed and explained what I experienced in Lower Manhattan. Without a recording device to mediate the events, I was forced to cope with the events as they were happening, instead of in the manner with which I had become comfortable. Video and still photographs had assumed the roles of intermediaries for my experiences. Relying on other peopleís photographs and video, I reconciled the images I retained in my memory with the images provided in the newspaper. I cut photos out of the New York Times and Boston Globe and created a wall of images. This motivated my conversations with writer Ken Chang. Ken used one of these images to develop a short story.

Two years after my residency, I created the piece Frames, a descendant of the newspaper images. Using picture frames of different sizes and styles, I framed portraits and snapshots of immediate and extended familyóthe same kind of images families display in their homes. I included empty frames in the collage to stand in for the personal traumas and struggles, the undocumented moments most would prefer not be photographed. I wondered if these moments were recognized through this ritual, if it would allow myself (and my family) to recover from these events with greater ease and, consequently, appreciate their significance in our lives. Ultimately, I posed this question to allow for the dialogue to begin and as a means to acknowledge the process.

During my residency, I was interested in the negotiation of emotional and physical boundaries, to manage experiences and reconcile a world in constant flux. During my residency, I created sculptural works to illustrate spaces with fluid boundaries. I suspended a television monitor from the ceiling, positioning the screen parallel to the floor, and added an apparatus to the innards of the monitor which dripped water into an aquarium positioned below it. The aquarium was also elevated above the floor, allowing viewers to lie directly under the aquarium. The viewer lying below the aquarium and monitor watched the television images through the bottom of the aquarium. As it dripped water, the monitor distorted the same image it projected. Images could be clearly read between water drops, but the clarity never lasted.

I also spread the aquariums out in multiple arrangements, with and without monitors, to build grids and pathways. The aquariums were not attached to one another, only placed next to each other. As their own individual entities, their influence on one another was through the eyes of the viewers. Reflections, atmospheric conditions in each, and water levels or lack of water contributed to the assemblage. These relationships are something I continue to explore.

I am honored to have been the first Berwick Research Institute Artist-in-Research, and grateful for their trust in my process. My BRI residency allowed me to test and research ideas relieved of the pressure of resolution and, instead, concentrate on the process.