A proposal from Ruth Robbins:
Becoming American is an opt-in process. As Americans we do not share the genetic-historical connection that a people might have to their traditional land. We do not share the genetic-historical connection that a people might have to themselves as a people. Instead we have a kind of negative connection to this place and to ourselves as a people. Where else could I have been born?
My parents met in New York. My mother came to the city to escape small town New England. Her ancestors, actual pilgrims, boat number two right after the Mayflower. They didn’t like to talk about the Irish Catholic immigrant my grandmother married. He died young and then they did not have to talk about him at all. My father grew up in Brooklyn and Queens and the child of Jewish immigrants fleeing the pogroms in Germany, Georgia, Lithuania.
My proposal is to make an object conceived from these two traditions using my maternal and paternal great grandfathers as a starting point.
Fival Rabinivitz- Jewish doctor and poet arrives at Ellis Island in 1906 from a eastern European country that no longer has a name. He lives with his wife and with 6 young children in a lower east Side tenement. They speak no English and he can not practice medicine. Fival supports his family with piece work tailoring and Yiddish poetry. His children go to NYU medical school. His grandchildren go to NYU medical school. His great grandchildren are artists.
Harold Bruce Hunting- Socialist pastor and founding member of Berea College, KY. Berea is a tuition-free College started in 1856. Berea was initially open to any students from Appalachia including women and African Americans before it was sued by the state of Kentucky. In lieu of tuition Berea students work 10-15 hours a week in a variety of fields doing community service/ work-study. One area they may choose is the Appalachian Craft Studio. Berea Contemporary Crafts produces woodwork, weaving, ceramics, and brooms.
My proposal is to work with the Berea broom craft studio to create a broom with one of Fival’s poems embedded in its design. The Shaker Braided broom was the first flat broom made and like Jazz one of the only truly American craft traditions. The poem will be woven into the broom using a pattern of light and dark colored corn in the woven handle and straw for the whisk. The broom will be functional and it is my intention that it be used as a broom to sweep the exhibition space.
Ruth Robins is an artist and educator living in Houston, Texas. She holds a MA in Social Practice from California College of the Arts. Her practice currently includes images, sound and text that explore sensations of loss, embodiment, pleasure, delight and desire. Robbin’s collaboration with Red Vaughan Tremmel, Subjects of Desire: Relics of Resistance, was included in documenta 13.
Robbin’s Proposal for Untitled Broom will be included in the project at American Camp. Docents will sweep the exhibition spaces with the broom.