COUNTDOWN TO MEMORY #5: With Big Installations, Less Is More

less is more - Pyragraph

T-Minus 5! This post is part of an 18-post countdown to Amy Stacey Curtis’ next and final solo biennial in Maine mill space. After MEMORY, her upcoming biennial, she will have completed nine solo biennials over 18 years, with 81 massive interactive works, all told. She’s been unloading her process on Pyragraph as we countdown to MEMORY. Read the series here.


Twenty-two months is usually just enough time to mount a solo biennial. So when it comes to these big installations, less is more.

I try to minimize steps, to move with the smallest range of motion, to smaller-ize tasks. It’s like micro-choreography.

To make “x,” I do “a” through “w” thousands of times, each time as small or in as short a distance, or in the quickest amount of time, as possible.

While carrying and scrubbing and installing and sanding and painting, I figure out ways to do these things even smaller, shorter and quicker.

There was only one time I didn’t finish installing my solo biennial on time. When the doors opened to my seventh solo biennial (SPACE, 2012), I was still installing.

My process had been spread to three floors, 27,500 square feet—three huge spaces, instead of one huge space. So whenever I needed a specific tool (if I didn’t have it with me), or I needed the restroom, or a big sandwich, I might walk 15 minutes to retrieve it. I think these 5-, 10-, 15-minute, not-so-quick amounts of time, added up over my 10-week install.

No one seemed to mind—when they arrived to be the first participants of my exhibit—that I was still making my work. They seemed to enjoy watching me install, using the teensie-est movements possible, waiting a little while before they became a big part of my work.

When my solo biennials are done, I will make my life smaller. Less intense. Slower. Eliminate. Do only what I love most. Somehow, I think my life will be bigger as a result. Because less is more.

About Amy Stacey Curtis

In 1998, artist and writer Amy Stacey Curtis began an 18-year commitment to interactive installation art, nine solo-biennial exhibits from 2000 to 2016. In the end, Amy will have installed 81 large-in-scope, participatory works in the vast mills of eight or nine Maine towns. Each solo-biennial exhibit is a 22-month process, each exhibit exploring a different theme while requiring her audience to perpetuate its nine unique installations. As part of each biennial process, Amy scrubs by hand its respective mill; the spaces averaging 25,000 square feet.

The Maine Arts Commission’s 2005 Individual Artist Fellow for Visual Art, and recipient of numerous grants including those from the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Amy committed to this ambitious and ephemeral project to convey that everyone and everything affects everyone and everything, no matter how small or fleeting the impact. MEMORY, Amy’s last solo biennial, will be open for participation September 17-October 28, 2016 in a Maine mill to be announced. MEMORY will be worth the trip from wherever you are.

Amy (and the thousands of objects she stores to mount her massive exhibits) lives with her husband Bill in Lyman, Maine.

1 Comment

  1. […] the one set up in the photo above, I practice the task before my assistant arrives. I determine the quickest way—I think—to get the task done. If it’s multiple art assistants, I set up multiple tasks. Some […]

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