Tuesday, October 21, 2008

An interview with Sarah Haig

An interview with Minneapolis Sarah Haig about Words Unspoken: breaking the cycle. Sarah recently moved to Minneapolis from upstate New York to pursue and Master of Fine Art degree. The installation will be on exhibit November 7-December 20, 2008 in ArtSpace at Lake Nokomis Presbyterian Church, 1620 E. 46th St., Minneapolis and part of the show Leap of Faith 4: let peace reign.

Sue: Tell me about Words Unspoken: breaking the cycle.

Sarah: It is a large scale installation that makes visible and present the anonymous words of survivors of abuse.

Sue: What sorts of materials is it made out of?

Sarah: It is sheets of muslin, Plexiglas, photos, drawings and words. The muslin is huge, hung from the ceiling. It was stained, burned, ripped to create the right energy for the words.

Sue: Where did the words come from?

Sarah: The words were anonymously donated by survivors of abuse. I made this while living in a small town in upstate New York, where everybody knew everbody. I put the word out that I was looking for people’s stories.

Sue: Did you advertise? Send emails to groups?

Sarah: No, I just told a few people who told a few people who told a few more. Then I began receiving letters and emails. In the end I received 12 responses.

Sue: Did you edit them?

Sarah: No, I used them exactly as they were written.

Sue: Even the poetry? That was donated?

Sarah: Yes, a surprising number of the responses were in the form of poetry. I wondered if it was somehow easier for some of the people to deal with their experience that way.

Sue: Did you know the respondents?

Sarah: No. It’s a small town, so I could guess…but really, it was an anonymous response. I wanted it to remain that way because, really, the abuser and the abused…they could be anyone.

Sue: What kinds of responses have you gotten to Words Unspoken?

Sarah: The public responses seem to fall into three categories: sympathy with the victims; personally relating to the experience; appalled. Some people just didn’t get it, or were so uncomfortable that all they could do was make a bad joke and leave. But more people came up to me wanting to add their experiences to the show.

Sue: Have you done that? Add their experiences to the show?

Sarah: No, but there is on going work with the show and I do invite anybody to contribute their own stories. I am still in contact with a few people who ultimately identified themselves to me. I started a conversation with one person in particular who is very successful. We are having an ongoing conversation about how overcoming the fear and pain of the abuse has helped and empowered her. I hope to use something from this conversation to supplement the show.

Sue: What do you want people to “bring away” from the show?

Sarah: Mostly I want people to become more sensitized, more aware of the prevalence of abuse. I want people who have not experienced abuse to understand that anyone, and surely someone they already know, has experienced this. And for those who have survived abuse, I want them to understand that they are not alone.

Sue: What are you working on now?

Sarah: Oh I am in the frustrating stage of creativity: gathering information. I have sent letters to 70 shelters asking if I may distribute index cards, soliciting whatever residents or clients of the shelters want to tell me. I don’t yet know what form the art will take…but it will take some form and give some voice to another under-recognized population.

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