The River Project
“Time is an enormous, long river and I am standing in it – just as you are standing in it…” – Utah Phillips
The River Project harnesses personal narratives of friends and strangers, creating a river of words. It is inspired by folk singer and storyteller Utah Phillips, the Quaker tradition of active listening, and my experience of the healing and validating effect of being heard or witnessed. I have collected the recorded stories from people in various cities in the United States. Within the structure of an installation that reflects a river’s bed, the speakers’ words flow away from the tributaries of their origin. The resulting current mirrors nature, as stories, like a river, diverge and merge.
As a piece created by an emerging artist, The River Project was exhibited in Seattle’s Art Patch Gallery and at Consolidated Works Gallery. At the latter location, Proffitt was amply humbled by the extraordinary honor of being included in the season’s programming, which included six MacArthur Fellows on exhibition.
The materials used to realize this piece are hand blown and sandblasted glass, LED lights, custom electronics, recorded narratives, and velvet.
The process of this piece has provided the opportunity to bear witness to many lives, and grow to look at the tales in unknown people in a more reverent, considered light.
The River Project was made possible in part from funds granted by Art Patch and Consolidated Works, as well as sizeable in-kind donations from Brian Karr, Ben Dombey, and Wavefront Semiconductor, not to mention Visa and MasterCard.
stories from the river project
Photos by Tania Westby