AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CONSUMPTION: FIVE SCROLLS
2011 - 2016
Autobiography of Consumption: Five Scrolls tells a story of my habits as a consumer as well as an American story of consumption.
The scroll is an ancient form used throughout time to record history, to relay promise and imagination, or to simply tell stories. Some scrolls were sacred, some poetic, and some the ordinary documentation of the seasons or life at a particular moment in time. While parchment or linen may have been the material of ancient scrolls, I have used a contemporary medium familiar and yet overlooked by most: the receipt.
I have constructed the scrolls from my collected receipts over a six-month period. In total, I have hand sewn 50 yards of receipts; each of the five scrolls is 30 ft long and together they are 3 ft across. Directly on to the receipts, I have printed my digital photographs, documents of where I live and travel. While the photos are autobiographical, they are also related to a larger story of energy use, nature, and power structures. Growing up in Niagara Falls, NY during Love Canal, I have included photographs of the Falls, a monument to the visionary Nikola Tesla and the landscape of factories where my father labored for forty years.
These symbolic images juxtaposed with the information of my consumptive habits show my own complicated relationship with my natural and built environment, with class and privilege, and with a political and artistic voice in the face of making change. Through this work, I am using the instructiveness of the autobiographical form to hold a mirror up to viewers, so they may reflect on their own environmental, political and social behaviors. Studying the text and images on the receipts, we begin to see how common refrains such as “Change Due” or “Self Check-out” resonate against an image of the Capitol on the day of President Obama’s inauguration or wind turbines from the plains of west Texas. A closer textual reading of the receipts also reveals a diary of my habits, fragments of cultural information about who serves and sells, and the poetics and absurdity of the market’s product language. The intention is to show a contemporary elegance in the transformation of turning garbage into art and to stimulate dialogue and contemplation about internal and external sustainability. Fundamentally, I am asking, “What is enough?”