Elsewhere is a chaotic land wrought with harrowing adventure, heart-pounding romance, rare beasts of all manner and proportion, whimsy and wonder, hidden gems and forgotten treasure, and sudden twists and turns. It is a land both terrifying and beautiful that has been known to enchant visitors upon first arrival, only to turn them inside out and upside down until no one is sure which way is where or what. Time bends into strange, unrecognizable shapes, and you may find yourself lost for days, weeks, or even months at a time.
from A Field Guide for the Social Butterfly, Elsewhere
I’m spending a couple of weeks at a residency at Elsewhere, a very unusual place in Greensboro, North Carolina. Residents live communally with staff and interns in a 3 story building in south downtown, presently there are about ten of us here, some from as far away as Jakarta, sharing meals and working.
The building was a used furniture, fabric and curiosity shop that has been in the same family since the 1930′s. The current executive director George’s grandmother Sylvia amassed a huge collection of items that are now the museum’s archive.
When Sylvia died, George, a writer, started inviting his friends to visit and find inspiration in the extensive collection. This evolved into the not for profit residency program that I am enjoying today. Everything feels in process here, it is a very exciting atmosphere where anything seems possible.
What I am starting to realize from SMW’s Bio-ethics of Beer sci fi fantasy project, time with Bread & Puppet over the summer, some new investigations, and as I dig deeper into the recesses of my brain for an appropriate project for this residency, is the power of words to create and transform reality. Although you could look at Elsewhere and say that it started with an old building and a strange collection of things, but what I am sensing here now is that the collection and the history has come alive through the interpretations and writings of George and others. The stories bring the community which brings the artwork, and much of the work here to me functions as a kind of fiction, beautiful to look at but only meaningful in relation to the magical history it implies.
Where is Elsewhere? Elsewhere is always there and here, here and there, somewhere. Elsewhere is a paradox, an illusion, possibility. Herein lies the experiment…this place proposes a re-arrangement of things – our assumptions, diversions, responses, timings, visions – a re-arrangement of our objects and our selves…Elsewhere is a museum and a home. It’s a life on display, intimate life, unusual life, sometimes impossible life, an utter fantasy living squarely within the really real. So too, Elsewhere is in-between this and that…you’ll see what we mean when you get here. As you will come to know, a careful calibration of intention and chance, order and chaos, sanity and madness, public and private, reorients our most basic presumptions about mind and matter, things and meaning, suggestion and referent, process and practice, and the whole ecological systems of art, ideas, life, what it is to be human, after all, as in, to keep a history alive as you invent new ones.
from A Field Guide to Customs & Culture of the Elsewhere Commonwealth
For part of my orientation, the cool kitchen coordinator Emily played me this short Gus Van Sant film: