Becoming American was the first annual exhibition project of cefalonia. A non-profit organization dedicated to bringing international contemporary art to the Pacific Northwest through site-specific projects, the organization was founded by architect Aaron Bush, artist Cat Clifford, and curator Fionn Meade. Taking its name from the birthplace of Juan de Fuca (b. 1536 as Ioannis Phokas on the Ioanian island of Kefalonia), cefalonia is committed to working with artists and locales that reveal issues of ecology and the socio-political climate of our time while promoting public discourse through the presentation of challenging art.
Gretchen Frances Bennett explores issues related to visual perception and personal and historical memory, in the context of the everyday. Her recent projects explore the connection of place and memory though creative non-fiction writing.
Bennett’s text based work for Becoming American, Air: the free or unconfined space above the surface of the earth, was installed and performed in the American Camp site project organized by Cat Clifford with Lynne McCabe and Ruth Robbins.
Instructions, titled 7,683 (for the current population of San Juan Island), were given to Catherine Clifford by Bennett, for the continued development of and care for Air, for the duration of the exhibition, August 1-September 30, 2018.
These instructions were inspired by Lucy Lippard’s Number Shows, four exhibitions of contemporary art curated by Lippard 1969-1974. Each show took the population of the city in which it was shown as its title: 557,087 in Seattle, 955,000 in Vancouver, 2,972,453 in Buenos Aires and 7,500 in Valencia, California, before touring the US and moving to London.
The instructions for Air, as delivered and performed by Clifford, served as an addendum to the project and exhibition that were cumulative, organized, energetic and mixed the voice of curator, writer, cultural worker, and viewer. They allowed the work—two newsprint broadsheets folded together—to move as needed, sometimes through singular pieces—take-aways picked up by gallery visitors—and sometimes at the end of the day, as a complete stack, moved by Clifford or a ranger, indoors.
1. Encourage visitors to take a newsprint broadsheet from the stack as they view the exhibition, so the work, the broadsheet with published essay and images, moves singularly.
2. For end-of-day, bring the two stacks, as they exist in installation at the American Camp location, into the building each night—to protect them from morning dew, mist, and wind. Bring them out again each morning. If the wind takes some papers, please document.
3. On rainy days, during exhibition hours, the stacks may be temporarily relocated to the porch of the second white building at American Camp. And for variety, on sunny days, the stacks can sometimes be placed on the front steps of the building with no porch in two or three stacks.
4. Reading aloud of the work by anyone is encouraged, please document.