Contributed by Kara Jefts*
What are the Stone's Stories?
The multi-faceted Cairn Project has enabled hundreds of individuals to reflect on personal experience through art making. To me, what is so moving about the project is that each stone and token of light were literally shaped by personal experience: where feelings of pain and resilience were worked through and into the malleable clay. When all of the people who have participated are memorialized in the Cairn and Cloud installation, the pieces they created are powerful in their permanence, but I, and I expect most viewers, can’t help but be curious: what are their stories?
Photos of Each Stone and Token to be Archived
One aspect of the project that Peterson deliberately maintained was a system for documenting who shaped which stone. When dealing with hundreds of objects, many of which are difficult to differentiate in their abstract form, this was a monumental task. It is these records that are the foundation of the archive now in development.
Each ceramic stone and porcelain token has been photographed individually, with the same attention to detail that is typically paid to objects in a museum collection. These images, numbering well over 1,000 photographs, will be entered into a digital archive paired with the individual makers and their stories, molded into stone.
This archive effort, also monumental, is still in process and will require volunteers to edit the photographs and to pair each record with the individual who made it. Once the records are compiled, they will be posted on the Cairn Project website so that participants can revisit the ceramic forms they created and reflect on the shared experience of the project.
Digital Archive Presents Each Stone as Valuable
In its physical form, the Cairn and Cloud installation represents a chorus of voices singing in unison. In contrast, by separating out individual participants and their contributions, the digital archive presents each stone as a valuable object in itself, worthy of appreciation; just as each person and their life experience is worthy of attention and respect.
The archive on the website will provide easy access to an illustrated history of the lives of hundreds of Chicagoans as well as lives of those who participated in satellite workshops outside of the city. As the website expands, it will include not only the record of each ceramic piece created, but it will also aspire to create a platform for understanding and will continue to inspire audiences in and beyond Chicago. The archive will exist as a forum for those who don’t pen our shared history per-se, but instead, are the reason for its writing.
*Kara Jefts is a professional archivist. She received her Master of Arts in Modern Art History, Theory, & Criticism, at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Kara has been archivist for the Cairn Project since September, 2016. http://www.karajefts.com/biocontact.html