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ON BEING ELSEWHERE

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By JENNIFER SCHMIDT


A pocket in Greensboro, North Carolina: two tracks come together at a crossing, going where/coming from...I don't know. It's southern here with some BBQ on the horizon. Old signs and antiques... Beer in the alley... And famed Cheerwine soda. I keep thinking of lakes and swimming. While, at the Y, they talk of God.

Welcome to Elsewhere: a place defined more by stuff than by location. Dense with objects, Elsewhere represents an event horizon of consumables produced between 1930 and 1997, which, amazingly, have been rescued in the wake of new trends. Clothes, ribbons, games, books, toys, lamps, fabric, pictures, and odds n’ ends, create a space dense with nostalgia and history—riddled in the present. Sleeping in rocket sheets on the second floor of a dusty warehouse, I play a game of productivity... moving things from one place to another, calling them by some other name. Portraits and charades turn over. Artists move in and out of the room.

I will have only been here a week, though others will stay for a month, or perhaps two or three. One week is sometimes a month, and after leaving, maybe a day. While Elsewhere, it’s easy to get lost in the heap and sea of things. Not only in time spent looking, but in time “doing” the basic musings of everyday life and co-habitation. Time: talking, cooking, eating, cleaning, sleeping. Whiles, some Elsewherians “do” supper, others “do” dishes, lights, bathroom, or night cup collection. And, out of joy and want, color code the games, arrange the toy bin, and make forms for thinking about things anew.

Moving slow in perfumed humidity. The air stands you still. Sweating... Wrapping the day about you... like a sleeping bag, and dropping you into a corner or a chair.

You may find yourself tracing the future of an object you did not know you knew. Following clues and identifying labels across a blueprint and workings of someone else’s mind. Where would you find the favor of your thinking, and where would it belong? Things shift.

Conversations move from room to room, parallel to the world at-large.

Showering in the alley... with clotheslines, tables, chairs and things... in between buildings, you can make-believe you’re in the country. A screened door creaking... A train going by... Someone playing something on the radio...

Twang.

I sit at my desk. I have a pen, pencil, scissors, notebook, camera, laptop, some tape and some string. Someone says “I’m listening to my ears listening to my ears.” And I begin.


The History of Elsewhere as told by Elsewhere

In 1939, Joe and Sylvia Gray began selling furniture imports at 606 and 608 South Elm Street in downtown Greensboro, NC. Following WWII, the furniture business transformed into a Surplus Store and catalog company, mending used army goods and selling them to Boy Scout troops across the country. After Joe’s unexpected death in 1955, Sylvia began to stock surplus fabric, clothing, and eventually general thrift items such as toys, books, housewares, and knick-knacks. Shopping daily, Sylvia’s collection increasingly became an unmanageable mass stored in boxes and piles throughout the three-story building. The astounding accumulation amassed over her lifetime remained in a seemingly chaotic heap after Sylvia’s death in 1997.

Inspired by the potential for these “found objects” as artistic resource, George Scheer (Sylvia’s grandson) recruited fellow artists and friends to begin excavating Sylvia’s old store in May 2003. As the reorganization of Sylvia’s collection took form, local support increased, and the artist-residency program expanded, a living museum created by a collaborating community of artists flourished.

Almost daily, Elsewherians discover new objects that reflect Sylvia’s fascinating mind and life, and whose placement and preservation reference the eccentric process by which the objects of her collection were ordered. Hidden within this mass of objects lies a historical narrative about the depression’s effect on notions of possession and ownership, an economic narrative about overproduction and waste, and a cultural narrative written in attics and basements across the country.

Elsewhere layers these complex and variable histories: the mythic story of Sylvia imagined from her extraordinary collection and the continual creation story of an art production space and museum.


From July 5 to July 13, Jennifer Schmidt spent a week in Greensboro, NC at the Elsewhere Artist Collaborative. Hosted by George Scheer and Stephanie Sherman, she lived and worked amongst Elsewherians: Kelly Monico, David Dotson, Cynthia Brinich-Langloi, Art Codex, and the ghost of Monique Besten.

While at Elsewhere, Jennifer created a series of environmental sound recordings:

Part One (0:36)
Part Two (5:18)
Part Three (0:52)
Part Four (0:06)
Part Five (0:48)
Part Six (0:02)


At the end of her time at Elsewhere, Jennifer recorded an experiential conversation with Geroge Scheer and Stephanie Sherman:

Part One (10 min)
Part Two (10 min)
Part Three (10 min)
Part Four (10 min)
Part Five (10 min)
Part Six (10 min)
Part Seven (7 min)


Experience Elsewhere through Jennifer's eyes:

Jennifer’s Blog whilst Elsewhere
Psychedelic Swatch (video)
Elsewhere (video)
Falling Water


Elsewhere Artist Collaborative

All images are courtesy of the author and Elsewhere.


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About Author

Jennifer Schmidt is an artist, professor at SMFA, and an occasional contributor to Big Red & Shiny.

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