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This little book shares a sampling of the myriad of moments, hands and places that make up Mandy Greer's on-going process-based public art installation "Mater Matrix Mother and Medium”.
Now an on-going project, MMMM began in 2009, originally commissioned by the Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs using the Seattle Public Utilities (our water utility) 1% for Art Funds, as a way to encourage stewardship, to celebrate and interpret the splendor of Seattle’s urban creeks and watersheds.
"This project began with the communal creation of a 200+ foot crocheted ‘fiber river’ installation, created in part through a series of over 30 community crochet events held over three months all over Seattle during the spring of 2009. I taught anyone willing to learn how to crochet, with some contributing a few minutes of chain stitch and others sticking with me for a few hours and returning to multiple events around the city.
I then took the fiber "pools" into the forest of Camp Long, an urban park in Seattle, and spent the next six weeks in-residence on a ladder crocheting and integrating the river into the trees, a brilliant blue flow moving through the forest from ground level up to heights of 25 feet.
This artwork is a unique blend of community engagement and personal inquiry, of site-embedded installation and performance. It embodies the ancient human practice of acknowledging our own physicality rooted in the cycles of water and how this forms the very foundation of human community. Water, both mundane and miraculous, mirrors the everyday meeting of strangers and the tiny moments that begin to bond us together.
‘MMMM’ becomes on-going...
During the installation, many people came to the park, wanting to continue to crochet even beyond the completion of the installation; and when I was invited to participate in the “Still Water” exhibition at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta in late 2009, I realized that there did not have to be an arbitrary end to continuing the process of making this installation with any community that wanted to engage with a myriad of topics about water. The issues at stake about water and community where by no means Seattle-specific, but indeed water issues impact every person on the planet. The installation was carefully cut down from the trees in 20-foot sections, packed and taken to the trees in Atlanta.
And like water, the crocheted water takes the shape of the vessel that holds it. The installation has now been done 5 times, each time becoming a very different shape and engaging in urban to rural environments. To re-create the installation each time, it require a 100 hours of patient shaping from myself and artist Paul Margolis, as we piece back together cuts and crochet together tears or fibers that have become fragile from the weather or the sun, creating brighter blue veins running next to beautifully sun-worn pale blues by adding new materials and thousands of new stitches. Each time I install the installation community participation is key; I am hosted by new communities and gather people together around piles of recycled yarns and fabrics. And those small round fiber ‘pools’, often made from left-over scraps from when the installation is previously cut down, are also integrated back into the river.
In 2010, with funding from the 4Culture SITE Specific program, “Mater Matrix Mother and Medium” traveled to sites around the Northwest, adding more hands and stitches to the flow.
The latest installation…
In 2011, with the invitation to install MMMM in the massive and awe-inspiring Gothic stone architecture of The Cathedral of St. John the Divine -- to engage with massive columns of stone as a natural site -- I am reminded of my earliest desire for the installation, to investigate the notions of the sacredness of water that every culture throughout history has held, and how we have lost sight of that sense of water by only relating to it as a commodity, to the detriment of the planet and those who cannot afford it when it is privatized. The need and right to clean water is something we all share.
The River is made up of thousands upon thousands of tiny moments and movements of individual citizens, integrated and interwoven into the natural environment. Inspired by the Clooty Well tradition of Celtic regions – bits of cloth tied to trees around sacred wells bind intention into action -- MMMM is an exploration of how we ourselves are both literal and metaphoric manifestations of the living fundamental quality of water. Our experience of water is both one of intimacy and also of civic structure."
The profit from your purchase of this book goes to fund the continuation of "MMMM", to new sites and communities.