Waiting TimeGAMBIER, Ohio (June 13, 2011)
During senior week the Public Affairs office began hearing from members of the Class of 2011 who were excited about a student art installation in the front staircase of Peirce Hall. In the exhibit Waiting Time, Ellie Jabbour '11 used yarn to suspend pieces of fabric printed with responses from her fellow seniors to the question "What are you waiting for?" Curious about the artist and her work, we asked Jabbour to tell us more about Waiting Time. Below is her response:
For my senior seminar, Professor Karen Snouffer suggested our final project be something that we wouldn't be able to do after we graduate. I knew I wanted to make something big, site-specific, and relevant to Kenyon at this exact moment.
The piece actually originated during the fall while reading Anxious Pleasures by Thomas Gregor in Professor Suggs' anthropology class. The text is an ethnography about the Amazonian Mehinaku tribe. One passage in the book describes a waiting ritual couples perform when husbands go on long fishing trips. The husband leaves his wife with a knotted rope with one knot for each night he'll be away, and he takes an identical rope for himself. Each night, they untie one knot as a way of keeping track of the waiting period. This beautiful but simple ritual made me think of waiting in a whole new way.
One of the most satisfying things about Kenyon is when different classes overlap or complement each other, and as a studio art major and anthropology minor, incorporating this waiting ritual into my artwork felt like the right finish to my time at Kenyon.
This idea of waiting as a ritualistic time made me think about the end of senior year, and how all the seniors I talk to are waiting for something, anticipating something, or looking back with nostalgia about our time at Kenyon. It made me want to stop everyone for a moment and make them focus instead on right now: this waiting period we're all in during our final days at Kenyon together.
To create the piece, I sent an e-mail to seniors I've met over the years and asked them to forward my request to any seniors they knew who might be interested. I simply asked them for a list of things they are currently waiting for. I set up an online survey so that they could send in their lists anonymously. The result was over 50 responses and a communal list comprising over 600 things that seniors are waiting for. With the help of friends, I transferred each item on the list onto pieces of muslin fabric using a wintergreen-oil transfer method I learned my freshman year. Then, I created knots out of muslin fabric and suspended them on yarn ropes in Peirce Hall to simulate the Mehinaku rope ritual.
Exhibiting the piece in the Peirce staircase was important to me because it is such a central location and is such a quintessential example of Kenyon beauty. The idea of seniors ascending the staircase in order to be truly present in the waiting experience felt in keeping with the communal and celebratory nature of the piece.
My hope is that the piece has allowed seniors to realize how leaving Kenyon is a communal process and is a mix of confusion and excitement for all of us.