PHASE I - STATEWIDE CIVIC ENGAGEMENT
Telling our stories in sculptural form
In the summers of 2014 and 2015, 100Stone Project set out across Alaska by road and air to reach some of our most vulnerable community members, and their loved ones, caretakers, and service providers so we might take an active and creative role in severing the shame and isolation common to those who experience acute vulnerabilities. It was an effort to creatively activate those who understand acute vulnerability all too well—as physical or emotional isolation—and to physically tell their stories of illness, trauma, grief, disability, difficult transitions, and struggle, without the daunting burden of verbal expression. More so, it was a movement to address the attitudes and approaches to those of us who suffer that reinforce the devastating activation of suicide.
Facilitated by the 100Stone team and community partners, nearly 600 creative and non-creative community "allies" gathered in 30 private and community spaces across the state in order to manifest an ephemeral moment of sanctuary and expression in which ecosystems of fellowship, connectivity, and physical and creative engagement could produce the "telling" of some of our most difficult stories. In these spaces, more than 200 "stories" of our human condition of vulnerability, and our unique relationships to its acute expression were told in sculptural form. There, artists and non-artists captured the forms and features of participants' faces and bodies in messy, awkward and playful plaster-casting sessions designed to both find pointed focus as well as respite from burdensome states. Through the laying of hands and building of forms, and the activation a purposeful creative action, physical and emotional barriers were breached, sometimes for the first time, and the roots of connectivity were propagated. When completed the masks and forms were stored in a trailer or packed onto freight planes and returned to Spenard, Anchorage for final production.
One of 30 very special casting sessions, captured by local filmmaker, Joshua Bransetter:
PHASE II - Production
fleshing OUR stories
While part of the 100Stone team continued to cast our statewide community on and off the road system, another part moved into an abandoned church on Spenard where they worked to bring the figural vessels to life. With the support of countless volunteer production assistants, and the incredible hospitality of the Anchorage community, our team buzzed around our new hive for hundreds of hours. Some volunteers occupied the basement sealing the vessels, mixing light-weight concrete, and filling the forms. Outside, the team produced hundreds of arms and heads from mannequins, while guest sculptors merged them with their bodies and positioned them in their chosen gestures. Once we found the systems and processes that worked best we were able to complete approximately two figures per day. Ultimately 85 of our 100 sculptural stories were completed. Of the 15 not completed, 10 were damaged beyond repair during travel, and it was agreed that the original 5 casts of the 100Stone team would not join the installation in respect to physical and temporal constraints.
By the end of the summer of 2015, the inner walls of the church's sanctuary—a most appropriate place—were lined in the magnificent beauty of our most vulnerable truths. The figures became family. They became Us.
See also Bob Halinen's award winning photo story. Alaska Dispatch News, 7/09/15
PHASE III - Installation
A chorus of truth echoes through the inlet
On November 21st, after a sustained deep freeze in the leading weeks, creating the perfect conditions for this winter installation, and an accumulating total of 8" of snow the morning of install, the 100Stone team, joined by Ironworkers 751, Laborers 341, JD Steel, Whalen Construction and non-labor volunteers, set all 85 figural stories onto the icy beach of Point Woronzof. Cushioned by the warm blanket of snow, the sounds of clanging steel, crushing ice, and the shouting and laughing of men and women echoed across the Inlet. The substrate was perfect. The ice was hearty and thick, yet compliant. The figures slid onto their footings with ease. Within 4 hours, all 85 were nested into their wintering grounds. It was the full realization of a creative vision yet unparalleled in Alaska. Word of its completion immediately traveled national channels.
Regional Emmy Award winning documentary by Scott Jensen of Alaska Dispatch News.
See also Bob Halinen's award winning follow up photo story. Alaska Dispatch News, 11/21/15
PHASE 'X' - THE STORM
MOTHER NATURE'S POETIC TRUTH
On November 24th, after a 3-day spike in local temperature to near 50° and an anticipated spring tide amplified by high winds, the installation was ripped out of its disintegrated substrate, tossing our 100Stone family across the beach. All but 17 of our 85 figures were still standing. It was too soon.
The installation became a search for survivors. Many figures could be recovered right away, but some figures had been buried under 15ft ice sheets, waiting to either be entombed by a surging ice shelf or exposed by tidal action. Ultimately, two figures were lost to the Inlet, one was stolen amid the chaos of recovery and triage, and 14 were irreparably damaged. The installation aged what was anticipated for the totality of its temporary life in just 5 days. The poetic truth of our fundamental vulnerability as humans was fully realized with the help of Our Mother. It was the perfect storm for the urgent message of awareness. The story echoed across the globe. 100Stone Project became an awareness colossus.
See also Bob Halinen and Marc Lester's breaking news Photo Story, Alaska Dispatch News, 11/25/15.
PHASE IV - REINSTALLATION
AFTER THE STORM
On Friday December 4th, the day before the opening of the installation, eleven days after Mother Nature's poetic voice joined our chorus of Truth and Vulnerability, the fellowship of 100Stone and the community of Anchorage mobilized to reset 68 of our surviving figural stories in their new arrangement. The sacred ground of Point Woronzof became a platform built to sustain the immense burden of our silence and shame while the icy tides of Cook Inlet continued their transformative action. It was then that the100Stone story took it's ultimate form as a body of Living Art composed entirely of resilience.
PHASE V: THE OPENING EVENT
AN OCEAN OF ALLIES
On December 5th, and on each day after, thousands of visitors and pilgrims came to look out on the creations of our Alaskan brothers and sisters, evidence that we are truly surrounded by allies. They came to stand witness to our landscape of fearlessness and truth, made by the hands of hundreds of our brothers and sisters, and recognized the terrific power and beauty of 100Stone as something that emerged from within each of us. It is there in those moments that we can truly feel what this project is about—an authentic transformation of how we see ourselves and each other; a divine moment of liberation...ascension...from the stigma that is associated with the often-crippling marathon that is mental health management. The installation was born into the Alaskan community as the first public artwork of such scope and scale to address one of the most critical public health crises in our Northern home: Suicide.
See also Bob Halinen's photo story of the opening event in Alaska Dispatch News, 12/06/15.
In the days, weeks, and months that followed, thousands of viewers visited, and returned, to witness the evolution of 100Stone as our winter children weathered the punishing landscape of its frozen home. The installation took on a story of its own. The storm; a kidnapping and return of one of our own; vandalism evolved into voice; a bluff-side rescue effort for our perched sentinel after he was tossed twice over the edge; the lighting of candles; the placing of flowers...Life happened as it will. As did death, and a memorial built upon the life-blood of a 20-year-old mother murdered at the foot of one of our own.
With every individual, family, and group that visited to utilize our stories as platforms of introspection and communication, an opportunity to relate to difficult truths in a sanctified space brought an opportunity for intimate, life-sustaining discussion. And as each person formed their own relationship to 100Stone the threads of truth, humanity, resilience and peace were woven through us all into our families and communities.
In All Our Winter Children: 100Stone and the ways we are humaned, Lu-Ann Haukaas Lopez (Anchorage Press, 12/10/15) uses her remarkable voice in the poetic telling of what she witnessed on that icy beach:
In 100Stone: Anchorage art installation makes a powerful statement about suffering, caring, Mary Katzke of AffinityFilms, Inc. (Alaska Dispatch News, 12/09/15) described how she, and our community, has been forever changed:
Our network of partners and community champions continues to grow, even after the projects conclusion. And, through the amplification of our message online by entities such as BuzzFeed, Hyperallergic,Upworthy, Recover Alaska, Alaska Public Media, Midas Well Films, the Emmy Awards, and all our visitors, a web community of hundreds of thousands of viewers and followers have emerged. 100Stone Project has become a creative movement of unprecedented scale in Alaska. Messages continue to come, praising, blessing and pledging fellowship as our community continues to fortify relationships with our 100Stone family, still after their removal. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world have been touched. Some have shared that it has saved their life. It is going to require years of reflection to describe the impact of this installation. But what I know for certain is...
We did it.
We touched The Sublime...together.
Let the shift in attitude and approach toward those of us who suffer start with Us.
Collected social media images from 11/21/15 - 4/09/16