On Monday night, Sally Taylor and her brother Ben sat side by side, singing a song together as the sun set behind them. Mr. Taylor strummed his guitar while Ms. Taylor tapped her foot to the beat, a large smile forming on her face. After more than two and a half years of preparation for her multi-media art project Consenses, Ms. Taylor had just concluded her final planning meeting. The show opens on Monday, August 18, at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury and runs through August 20.
“The idea that this is actually coming to fruition a week from today is probably the most exciting thing that has ever happened in my life,” Ms. Taylor said.
The project was inspired by an old fable of six blind men stumbling upon an elephant carcass. Each blind man touches a different part of the carcass and comes to a different conclusion as to what he is feeling. One examines the tail and believes that the elephant is a rope, while another feels the tusks and believes they are spears. It is only after the six stop arguing and talk to each other that they realize they are looking at an elephant.
Ms. Taylor began the project by selecting 22 images, each depicting a different angle of the same object. She sent these images to 22 musicians who then each wrote a song based on the image and sent the song back to Ms. Taylor. She then sent these songs to painters who interpreted the music into paintings and the paintings were sent to dancers and the dances created were sent to poets and so on with each artist only seeing the work that immediately proceeded their own in the chain. In total, 144 artists from around the world participated in the project, including Jimmy Buffett, Patrick Corbin and Reggie Watts.
“It’s such an odd experience to be on this planet,” said Ms. Taylor. “We get here and it’s not the beginning of time and it’s not the end of time. We get here in the middle and we only get a century or so if were lucky, and that is all we get to interpret. Of course, we are going to be scared. We are in the middle of nowhere with only five senses to decipher it all, but if we all band together and say I don’t know what this is but I have this piece, then there can be more freedom to enjoy the ride.”
For the show, visitors are invited to sign up for one-hour shifts to walk through the installation. Eight of the 22 art chains will be on display in physical form. Visitors will use all five of their senses to observe how the work developed and morphed from one artist to the next. Around the periphery of the room, tablets will be set up to show the other 14 chains that are not displayed physically.
Even during the course of the show, the meaning of the artwork and the way it is perceived will continue to develop. For each of the 22 chains of work, visitors are encouraged to write their own interpretations on bulletins.
“Consenses allows people to expose themselves with faith that there is no wrong answer,” said Ms. Taylor. “We are all blind men, including myself who started the project. We can’t really say what the object is without everybody’s participation and without everybody weighing in.”
Just hours before the show opens to the public, the artists involved in the project will look through the chains and see for the first time how their work fits into the larger dialogue that is Consenses. As the show unwinds, the artists will watch their work interact with the other art and the visitors’ interpretations. In addition to attending the show, many of the artists involved in Consenses will teach workshops in locations across the Island. Eliza Ryan, Allison Shaw and Ms. Taylor are just a few of the artists who will teach these small classes. “These artists are coming here from around the world and they have these incredible talents, so I asked them to bring their incredible talent and experience with Consenses and share them,” said Ms. Taylor. “Each of them has grown as a result of having participated in some way, shape, or form from this interpretive work. I really wanted them to be able to share their perspective and for them to be a lens into Consenses.”
Although this show is the first public Consenses installation, Ms. Taylor believes that this is just the beginning. The funds raised next week will go towards touring the show, commissioning more artists, and bringing the work to schools to inspire a new way of thinking about art.
“Each of us is an artist in that we are constantly bombarded with stimulus that we make up a story about and then that story becomes what we project onto our surroundings,” said Ms. Taylor. “Everything I experience I have painted in my mind’s eye. Everything I smell, I smell in my mind’s eye. It’s all an embodiment of my own creation.”
Consenses will be at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury on August 18 and 19 from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and on August 20 from 2 to 5 p.m. To reserve a time to view the project, visit consenses.org.