This project began as a response to a conflict surrounding politics and religion between my family and Uncle. When I was a child, the differences in our world-views were never an issue and his house was a space for togetherness and fun. However, as I grew older some of my life-choices were offensive to his moral sensibility. In addition, my uncle and father were at odds over political issues. These tensions mounted and my uncle decided he could not attend my wedding. I was confused and wanted to understand, so I sought out a conversation with him.
When we spoke, I appreciated his candor and commitment to his core beliefs. It was clear to me he was not ill-intended. In fact, he believed he was coming from a place of concern and was leading by example. The tone of the conversation was friendly, though our viewpoints were radically different.
I was struck by the similarity in our intentions. The exchange left me thinking about the complex ways our individual ideologies come to be so dearly held. Both of our values are the result of genetic, environmental, societal, and epistemological factors. The expression is varied, but the parameters are the same. We were both doing our best within these parameters. I felt unified by this. “Line Project,” emerged out of my desire to visually represent this concept, while providing a safe space for the participant to express their views and engage in collaboration.
I begin by offering my participant a questionnaire. It asks them to write about one of several divisive issues. The questionnaire asks them to identify the factors that have informed their convictions, whether they have always maintained these beliefs, and how their views might be perceived by those with opposing views. The participant is then asked to imagine the issue from the opposing viewpoint, surmise potential factors that may have led to that belief, and identify possible intentions for maintaining this belief. By reframing the discussion, I hope to foster neutrality and patience. Upon completion, the questionnaire is set aside, opening space for a collaboration.
The participant and I then create a drawing using 108 straight lines within a 6x9 frame. Passing the pen back and forth, this repetitive process creates a space for presence and camaraderie. The parameters for the drawings are fixed but the outputs are vastly different.
Eventually, I hope to have issue-specific exhibits bringing opposing views into the same space. I plan to invite all participants who wrote about each issue. The questionnaires will be in a filing cabinet that people are free to sift through. Each individual will be featured as an artist, creating a common thread amongst all participants.
The issue with my uncle recently came full circle when my father went to visit him following a cancer diagnosis and resulting surgical intervention. The visit was warm and amicable - two people together...how comedic our bluster in the face of death.