Where did this odd little slice of rubber come from? This thing that I have spent the last five days diligently peeling, skinning, scrubbing, probing . . . Now I am holding one of my own, still prodding it as I sit here contemplating its meaning. It's funny; if I do assume that this little object that seemed to evolve out of:
if it in fact does have some particular meaning for myself, it seems to be hidden away right now, somewhere inside this object that just seemed to happen over the last couple of weeks. Between the four of us, the rubber thing makes sense, in the way that something makes sense just because it has been with you for a while now. But when we are asked to explain it to someone new, I discovered I need to find a story for it to maybe have significance for them too. I don't know if the meanings of donation and gifts were the issues that truly instigated this project, but that is what floats into my head and seems to fit when Sue Bright, the inquisitive gallery attendant at the List today, asks what are we hoping to get out of this? I think about it for a second or two. We started with a certain amount of money, and decided to give it all [contingently] to the List Center. By agreeing to offer our gift on their counter, the List is redistributing the object as a gift for visitors to take. We've packaged them in such a way that they might be interpreted as such, or redeployed as a donation (re-donation) to the List. Ultimately, though, we cannot know what we actually gave to the List or the people who visit it over the next few weeks, any more than we know we have given them some sort of choice; to determine the meaning of the object for themselves. I imagine approaching the desk, removing a peculiar, soft rubber sleeve, turning it over and discovering some money inside of it. Next, mindful of the fact that this is a donation-based gallery and that I am under the observation of three gallery attendants, I must do something with the object and the money; to essentially decide if the List has given me a gift or if I will give one to them. I had to wonder how many of these things that we had labored over for the past week were going to end up in the box or between the seats of someone's car, stuck to take-out crumbs and loose change.a quick sketch here
Now, as I sit here again, I begin to think that about my own experiences with donation. I think back to when I was eleven, maybe twelve years old, sitting in a pew of our church, passing the collection basket from my dad on my right to my mom on my left, who deposits a special envelope into the green felt-bottomed basket mixed full of dollars, coins, and other identical envelopes. When I was younger, my mom would give me the envelope to put into the basket myself. I always found those envelopes sort of curious. In addition to a cartoonish drawing of the church or a cross and the Virgin or something, there was always a little series of boxes to check, with amounts next to them. There seemed to be some motive to suggest the amount of the donation on the outside of the envelope, which were prescribed in amounts of $5, $10, $20, and $50. When the baskets reached the last person in the pew, the ushers would transfer them from one row to the next. I always imagined that they were carefully noticing anyone who did not drop a bill into the collection, and administer a scornful look to them for not doing so. I used to sit there and think that we probably could manage to transfer the basket between rows ourselves, so why were they there, except to enforce the spirit of giving? But it didn't really concern me yet . . . I was too young to be expected to make a donation of my own.
I haven't gone to church regularly since moving away at the beginning of college. In this time, donations have changed. I am now old enough to become a subject to the domain of donation-guilt. Now, the only time I go to church is with my parents on Christmas Eve, every year. And now, sitting next to them as the little basket approaches, I always start to sense a dilemma. Realistically, I have been financially independent for a couple of years. Yet my parent's donation has always been understood to include me. It is really a ritual for our family, a donation for the church. I am twenty-four, and still have never donated any money at church. A part of me doesn't really feel guilty about this at all. I know that my family's donation, more than anything, is symbolic.
I do not perceive the donation issue at the List Center in exactly this way, but my own preoccupations with donations have seemed to emerge as a matter of reflecting after interacting with the gallery attendants through our installation of the project. According to Sue, they really don't get many donations at all. In fact, she explains, most people walk right past the collection box without even noticing it. It is clear that the List does not thrive on donations, and the donations that they do receive are symbolic. My choice not to donate at church Is a symbol of my younger place in my family, and the realization of this opened the flood of potential meanings to me that donations might have. I had not realized this significance when we started this project by deciding to give all of our money to the List, but it seems a funny coincidence to me that we have deferred the dilemma of donation by giving the visitors choices, not really donations, since we cannot determine what the ultimate destination of each object really is.