Sarah Baugh is a Portland-based designer whose work we’ll be referencing in this class. I encourage you to follow her Tumblr, which offers an interesting glimpse into her practice. Well, and it’s also called practice. I’m not sure if Sarah would call her self an artist, primarily, or a designer, primarily, but her creative output and process certainly seems to pull from both kinds of work.
This post is about process.
When I first came here I had an idea of what I wanted to work on, but I also knew that, for me personally, it would be hard to know in advance, without ever being in Green River, what I wanted to work on. So I spent the first couple of weeks just kind of taking everything in. I actually felt a little overwhelmed. There is just so much here with the landscape and the dynamics of a small town. I’m from a very rural place, but I’ve spent the last six years in an urban environment. So readjusting to that took a moment. I rode my bike around. I talked to melon farmers. I talked to melon pickers. I ate melons. I went to the library. I took part in what was happening here at Epicenter. I thought that I wanted to look at one aspect of life in Green River in depth. I thought that I wanted to look at farming, specifically melons, because they are so important here, economically yes, but they are also one of those things that bind people together here. It’s something everyone has in common. And I wanted to explore the relationship between melons and the physical environment. What factors made it possible for people to grow melons here and how has this ultimately shaped the experience of living in Green River and calling this place home?
But the more I got into this, the more I realized that I kept wanting to take a step back and that I didn’t want to be that specific or come to any type of conclusion. I wanted to do a project that mirrored my experience here. I realized that a month is a such a short time and I know so little. Everything was coming at me in little bits and pieces, from all these different directions. There was what I could see, the town itself and the surrounding landscape. All of this is new. There is what is happening now. I would get bits of stories here and there. And then there is everything that has happened here in the past. I began to get a picture of this place, but it was fragmented, and I knew it would never be anywhere near complete.
So I began to go to the local archive. I just wanted to be surrounded by preexisting information. And I liked the fact that the archive, any archive, collects information and doesn’t necessary do anything with it. That’s not the point, the point is to keep this information from disappearing into the past and making it accessible to the public. So I’ve been gathering documents in the way that I had previously been experiencing this place physically. I want to put these things into a new context and hopefully see them in a new light. I want to present what I’ve found in a way that doesn’t overtly create a narrative, but still has these narrative threads hidden inside, kind of waiting to be uncovered, but not forcing any one version of events. I want to make copies of copies and kind of perpetuate this idea that the history of a place is indeed fragmented and a bit fuzzy and coming from all these different sources and each source has a point of view, even if it’s trying to be completely objective.
This project is process driven. I want it to feel a little unfinished, using copies of copies and playing with layers of source material. Office supplies. Cheap, abundant, and available resources. Allow for mistakes. Rapid prototyping. Rapid experimentation. Visible process. No outcome. A patchwork history. Impressions. Amateur historian. Curious observer. Gatherer. Pick and choose. Create more questions. Partial image. Unresolved. My hope is that the viewer finds some bit of interesting information that they may or may not explore further. I don’t want to even try to present a full picture of the history of Green River. I want to present fragments. I want to tell a story with other people’s facts. I want to tell a story with stories that other people told using other people’s facts.