The Woodland Pattern Book Center consists of a book store and a gallery- performance area. You enter the gallery through a hallway from the bookstore. In the hall we hung a participatory piece, OUR SHADOWS STAND TOGETHER. This is a large cloth on which visitors could draw shadows around each other. Pens were left at the base of the piece to facilitate the drawing of these shadows. I had expected a static composite, defined by the largest and smallest participants, with line density increasing toward the mean size. Participants, however, positioned themselves in ways that kept their shadows from repeating those that had been made before. Some added drawings and messages. This collective and spontaneous effort shows that participants weren't going to stand still in the middle of the cloth and simply fill in a space. They had their own ideas of what they wanted to do and weren't going to try to figure out or obey what some absent authority figure expected of them. As a result, they created a much more lively and profound piece than I had expected. This optimistic piece emphatically underscored the point of the whole project.
The gallery is a large, rectangular room. The design problem for the show was to use this space to best advantage. I made a number of preliminary sketches, contrasting areas of greater and lesser density with areas of negative space, working areas with a vertical orientation against horizontal and angular designs. Most design work beyond this was done on a day to day basis by Anne Kingsbury and Karl Gartung who worked out excellent solutions to difficult problems. Among the problems were how to keep small pieces from being overwhelmed by larger ones nearby, how to display envelopes, how to let each piece keep its individuality while interacting with the show as a whole.
You enter the room from the west. At the center of the eastern wall we set up several cubes in the form of an altar. On the top of this we placed a garland of cranes made by Mizuho Kakiue specifically for this show. Mrs. Kakiue was a child on the outskirts of Hiroshima at the time of the bombing. A painting by nine year old Jules Villanueva- Castano, the youngest contributor at the time of the opening, was placed below this garland. Two other crane garlands were lent to the show by visitors. The altar was the exhibit's centerpiece, both underscoring the fact that Hiroshima victims included an inordinate number of children, and that the consequences of continued nuclear insanity will be a world in which there will be no future, in which the succession of generations will cease. With this and the patriarchal nature of nuclear weaponry in mind, we opened the show on June 17, Father's Day in the U.S.
The north and south walls worked out the patterns mentioned above. Cut out and painted shadows formed a motif through all the walls, culminating on the western wall. Here they not only reached their greatest density, some were bent around angles in the wall. No negative space was left as visual relief or visual silence on this wall.
Many contributors did not address nuclear weaponry directly. Two large pieces by Clemente Padin of Montevideo traced shadows of Disappeared Persons in his country. Others addressed the same issue, as well as child and spouse abuse, censorship, AIDS, colonialism, and other horrors under the nuclear umbrella. These formed a second motif, asking the viewer not to see nuclear arms in too narrow a context.
The show constantly changed. Work kept coming in past the deadline. Works not immediately mounted were placed on tables at the center of the room when it was not being used as performance space. Many contributors sent poetry, and some of the poems were initially placed on the tables. Later many were moved to the walls and eventually bound into books. Patrons of Woodland Pattern often sit in the store or the gallery and read available books. The Poetry from the Shadows books were read by many visitors, including those who wanted to sit down for a while before looking further, and by those who felt more comfortable reading poetry from books than on a wall.
Though the world changed drastically after the first Hiroshima Day, life has gone on. Those of us who have participated in this project have done so in the hope that humanity can continue despite its present suicidal course. There's more than a little crazy optimism in this hope. Maybe that's what will ultimately save us from ourselves.
Go to a panorama of photos of the show.
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