COUNTDOWN TO MEMORY #2: A Little Bit Of This, A Little Bit Of That

School desks in Amy Stacey Curtis installation - Pyragraph

This is the penultimate post in an 18-post countdown to Amy Stacey Curtis’ next and final solo biennial in Maine. After MEMORY, 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 count down to MEMORYRead the series here.


I’m deep into the 11-week installation for my 9th and final solo biennial MEMORY.

In 2000, when I installed what would be my 1st solo biennial, EXPERIENCE (in the same town of Lewiston, Maine, in the same Bates Mill; I’ve come full circle after installing my previous eight solo biennials each in the mills of eight different Maine towns), I could focus on the same task for hours without stopping, except to take demure, 30-year-old stretches.

Among many other things, each taking much less time: I swept the 25,000-square-foot floor of the Bates Mill for two days; I arranged thousands of little white pellets on the floor for 12 hours; and I uncapped and placed 4,900 vials of water and ink on a low platform for 26 continuous hours.

I didn’t nap. I had food and water within reach to snack and drink as I installed. I got up only to pee and to do my little stretches.

Over the course of these 18 years (I started the work for my 1st solo biennial in 1998), my body has changed.

Gone are the straight hours I could climb up and down flights of mill stairs to carry in, then out the thousands of objects for each exhibit. Gone are the straight days I could sweep, and scrub, and arrange.

My demure stretches are now long bouts of yoga, or long walks to “work out the spine,” and days when I give my back a break, or my neck, or my knees, or a hand, so I have a back, neck, knees, and hand later.

Mill space preparation by Amy Stacey Curtis - Pyragraph

Now that I’m installing my 9th solo biennial, I’m more apt to do a little bit of this, a little bit of that—a little bit of each thing, each day, to advance each and all, a little bit at a time, until each is done.

I’ll try to complete a step when I can, like cleaning this part of the floor, or adding the second round of mud to a pedestal, or painting this wall…and if I can’t, I set out to paint half these objects today, the other half tomorrow, or to install a 3rd of these objects today, another 3rd tomorrow….

As I progress each of these little things, I try not to think about the big exhibit I’m trying to complete. And, I certainly try not to think about how this 9th exhibit—of which these little things are part—is about to complete my 18-year project overall. All of this would be too big, too overwhelming.

So, I march each little thing forward, along with each hour, assuming the final hour will come when it’s time, and my little things, and my larger everything, will be done right there with it. If they’re not, and it’s not, I guess they weren’t meant to be.

I mean, there’s only one little me.

Mill windows, Amy Stacey Curtis installation - Pyragraph

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.

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