Kim Abeles - Frankenstein's Hearts
Central sculpture for the installation:

The Sarcophagus made of copper and satin with a cavity housing a woman (twelve feet long) who is made from "body parts" of other people, both women and men, unites the process and resulting biographies. The body parts were created to reflect the life stories of individuals who are elders in the community. The process took place in both Los Angeles and San Francisco; some of the students knew the elders they interviewed and some had been strangers to them.

The Legend for this woman was made by students and community members who participated in the collaborative biography. Formats varied, including two- and three-dimensional legend items: jars on shelves containing imagery, archival documents rephotographed or enhanced through computer graphics, and actual objects. Conceptually, this legend became the interior wall of a honeycomb or the interior tomb with the hieroglyphics of the biographical language developed in the collaborative process.

Detail during installation Detail of hand
Process and Systems:

The Process was to have participants interview and interact with someone over the age of 75. I supplied a structure by which this kind of visual and conceptual research-gathering proceeded. Workshop exercises encouraged the student participants to enter the Jungian-style world of symbolic and metaphorical impact.

Two particular structures or systems come to mind. One is to develop collectively a visual language, harvested during the interviews; a language of color, texture, symbol, image, signifier, form and shape inspires an unexpected view for this acquired information. These became elements in the legend-pieces; these also became the elements for the hieroglyphics walls, whether they are used as actual objects, recreated as small-scaled artworks, or painted in silhouette and attached directly to the wall. The second system that organizes the ideas involves The symbolic body part: each participant defined the body part for the person interviewed. This selection emerged through the process and the legend visuals have been placed in the welded framework of the constructed woman.

The structure of the piece:

Originally a log book containing all the data about the persons interviewed was to accompany the woman assembled from all their lives. Through the evolution of the process, the book lifted to the wall, and the pages became a graphic sequence surrounding the sarcophagus.

The graph could be read horizontally along the wall so that all the hand-painted symbols were read along the lavender line of the graph, or the color indications on the gray line, as examples. Between each portrait, a delicate thread divided each section, so that a portrait was readable for each individual. Frankenstein's Hearts is read as the collective and the individual interpretation of both the youth who interviewed and the elders who shared their essence.

This exhibition was created by Kim Abeles in consort with the San Francisco Art Institute's Youth Arts Collective and students from Youth Leadership Academy, SFAI, and in Los Angeles, students from California State University Northridge. It was sponsored by the Surdna Foundation. The installation FrankensteinÕs Hearts was exhibited at Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco (11/01-1/02), and at the Art Gallery of California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo in 2002.



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 Last Updated On: 1/13/06