Client: Community Architexts
Location: Chicago, IL, United States
Completion date: 2006
Artwork budget: $7,500
Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs
Illinois Arts Council
InSight Sign Company
In this guerilla public design-art installation on the South Side of Chicago, the ground floor display windows of this abandoned building are activated with inscribed acrylic resin panels and warped forms that represent the familial and societal impacts of dementia. Largely invisible to the public, the family caregivers of dementia victims struggle daily with the difficult behaviors of loved ones. The experiences of a group of these caregivers — mostly female African-Americans from Chicago’s South Side — are represented in words attached to and set behind these rusted-shut security gates. Vertical, torqued acrylic resin forms with words such as Paranoid, Spacey and Abusive suggest the symptoms and behaviors that dementia victims unknowingly inflict upon their family caregivers. Behind these vertical yellow and orange forms are large green panels with texts taken directly from outreach group interviews with family caregivers: I’m stranded. My family is in denial. You want to run away from home. I might have it. Develop a thicker skin… Dimensions: 17’W x 11′ H x 12′ D (corner display windows). Materials: Die-cut vinyl inscriptions, acrylic resin panels, machined aluminum components.
The primary goal of this community-based, publicly-funded sitework was to draw attention to the plight of family caregivers in this inner city community – their individual voices – set within the larger social impacts of dementia. The sitework is installed on a building on a corner where US Hwy 41 zigzags through the neighborhood, insuring a steady stream of viewers in cars – an indirect, hands-off experience that represents public oblivion.
We conducted community outreach through a support group organized by the Memory Center, affiliated with the University of Chicago. We recorded discussions with small groups of lay caregivers – usually a wife, daughter, granddaughter or niece – to gather their experiences and feelings about their role in providing care. Their most resonant statements were woven into a meta text that was inscribed upon green acrylic resin panels that were slid-in behind the rusted-shut steel security grates that lock down the storefronts, a symbolic imprisonment. To represent the conflicting feelings that arise during their interactions, the torqued acrylic resin forms are inscribed with oppositional words that suggest the emotional whiplash -- Paranoid-Spacey, Abusive-Loving. These forms were attached to the front of the security grate with tamper-resistant machined clamps. The installation was carried out early in the morning as a guerilla action.