Adaptation / Heather Hart

In art and in verbal communication, much ofthe meaning of a thing falls between the linesof description. Hermeneutics, the intendedmessage of the semantics one chooses, changefrom person to person, based on their perspectives.These gaps grow and narrow dependingon understanding and relations. Persons fromthe same hometown may share a frame ofreference in interpreting a piece of art or idea.What is nostalgic to one person is avant-gardeto another.

Blue Veins, my piece for Jamaica Flux: Workspacesand Windows 2007, has been throughfive “fluctuations,” originating with a proposalcalled In Said Out, a collaboration with Chineseartist Wei Weng. We set out to emphasize thecollaborative element of our process, calling attentionto the artist’s role in initiating dialoguethat crosses cultural boundaries. Weng’s papercutting and my crochet would create a habitatin which we were able to contain and negotiateconflict. The project made sense consideringwe both worked with similarly re-contextualizedtraditional media, and had been conversingabout culture and exchange when we bothlived in Brooklyn at the commencement of theJamaica Flux process.

Our intention was to communicate in ourrespective languages (mediums) and, throughperception and assimilation, negotiate a wayof settling together. The result of our collaborationwould reflect the immigration dynamicin the United States and in Jamaica, Queens.As different people live and work together, ourjuxtaposed materials would do the same. Ultimately,we would test the grounds that must becrossed to communicate and cooperate.

When Weng had to return to China at the end ofher visa, we saw it as an opportunity to reallypush the communication issues of our projectto the forefront. Now our project would literallyillustrate the practical difficulties of distance,cultural differences, and inadvertent miscommunicationthat we were previously workingwith conceptually. This time, modern technologywould add a dimension to our traditionalcrafts that again reflected the issues withwhich we were concerned..

The approval process for our first proposal hadnot budged, so we decided to move forwardwith another site, keeping our conceptualthemes but changing the project. Slowly, thetechnology and our own miscommunicationbegan to break down our alliance. Our timelinewas shortening and we had only this relational,virtual interaction, nothing physical yet, as ourproject.

And then Weng decided it was best if shebowed out of the project altogether. Her commitmentsoverseas were physical and at theforefront of her life, while our project took avirtual backseat. She decided she would not beable to travel for the show and I was unable,on my own, to complete the scale of project wehad planned.

I wrote a new proposal for a solo project Iwanted to make about Weng’s and my experience.I wanted to work with ideas of distance,culture, communication, and nostalgia. Let’sCall the Whole Thing Off would be a set of interactivestations in the medium of playgroundequipment. The focal point would be a laundryline that spans between the two stationscarrying postcards from one side to the otherand back. A viewer would write their own noteson the cards to pin on the line and send to theother station. Then they would take a note withthem that was written by a viewer at the otherend. Strangers would exchange greetings as ifthey were old friends on distant continents. Inthe tremendously diverse neighborhood of Jamaica,on a corner where people rush by to gowhere they go, the stations would exist not onlyto encourage pause and play, but also to bridgecultural divides. I renamed the project WishYou Were Here in response to conflicts the sitemanagers were having with my proposed title.

Time was running short and the project wasbig, so I made the call to change sites again.This time, I submitted multiple proposals tocast my fishing net wide. In the event of a fireat one of my new proposed sites, I was able tomove forward on the Blue Veins images set intophone booths along Jamaica Avenue.

“Adaptation to the environment is the maincausative agent of human system’s evolution.”Wei wished me well on the opening day of JamaicaFlux.. I realized walking into this projectthat what makes it unique is its unforeseeablecircumstances. This is a show of projects thatdepend on the people and environment to affecttheir outcome. “Jamaicans” are neededto participate and interact, otherwise it wouldonly be artists inserting their agendas andobjects into a foreign environment. Here, weslowly learn the language of Jamaica; all ofthese projects are the result of a year’s worthof engagement with this neighborhood. Here,a failure is only a disguised success, for in theprocess we learn about art in the context of humanity,and both artist’s and viewer’s framesof reference are widened.

Heather Hart

Artist, Jamaica Flux 2007