Friday, January 10, 2014

Earth Stories, Part Two
A Performance Piece?

Last year as I started the counting process, I actually thought I would finish counting during the Christmas holidays.  Didn't happen.  I did start however.  See Part One here.

And, with the amount of work involved in counting all the stuff, I slowly began to realize that there was going to be a lot more time and energy involved in gathering information for this piece than actually making the piece, and significantly so.  Does this qualify as a performance piece?  Well, maybe if you could see the performance?  And, no, I didn't take any videos.  It wasn't pretty.  In fact it was messy.
a glimpse into a dresser drawer in my bedroom
First, I had to decide HOW to count all the stuff.  It would have been easy to have a team come in, and go through each room at the same time and count it all.  I have participated in inventory counts when I was young; this is how it is done.  Close the store, all the employees come in, and we count and write down the numbers.  But we were living in our "store".  And the kids move things from one room to another...all the time.  And the "count" is constantly changing, as we use things up, throw them away, and buy more stuff, and buy more stuff.  It is complicated to just think about it.

So, I set about to make some helpful counting strategies, and I accepted that my count would never be accurate or even possibly valid.  It's because of the flow.  The flow of objects coming in and out would make it impossible to know at any given time exactly how many objects I had.  Unless I hired that massive team of robots, which I didn't not have funding for....  I would have to accept that my NUMBER would be, or could be, close to the truth, but never perfect.

This was also a liberating thought, because it means that I can make some helpful guidelines or rules for the counting.  And though some of my rules might seem arbitrary, and well, maybe they are, it doesn't really matter.  They needed to serve me and my purpose for doing this.  You may even disagree with my rules, which is okay for me.

First, I bought a ton of post-it notes.  I decided NOT to count the post-its.  As I counted a room, I wrote the name of the object on the post-it, and how many of them that there were.  Example:  shoes, 15.  Now you may be asking the next question (because I was too).  Do I count individual shoes? or pairs of shoes?  I decided that if things came in pairs or sets, it would count as one object.  Like earrings, there are some that have backs on them.  technically that would be 4 pieces for one pair of earrings.  I counted it as one object.  However, if the objects were missing pieces, or their other half, I counted them as one object.  So 1 sock, counts the same as 1 pair of socks.
 
After writing on a post-it note, I would stick it to a vertical surface in that room, typically a window or glass door, because it stuck so well there.  If I found another pair of shoes, I could put a tally mark on the previous post-it that had shoes on it.  In this way I would work across a room, and know what had counted and what had not been counted yet.

Unfortunately, this got increasingly cumbersome.  Who would of thought?  As I progressed through a room, the number of post-its was growing to a very large number.  It was hard to find the post-it that had "shoes" on it.  Or "pencils".  Apparently there are pencils in every room and every draw and under every piece of furniture in my house.  I don't know why.  Maybe it's the cats? 

Regardless, my system got slower and slower.  I even tried drawing pictures to represent the objects, thinking that searching for a visual might be quicker than searching for the abstracted word.  It didn't help.And so, even though I could leave a room at any point in my count, and at any time, I began to resist wanting to start back up again.  I made it about half way through my house with this system before I changed it, and it took me 4 months.  The last 2 months, I got much more efficient at my counting skills, and it wasn't quite as bad.

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