To Climb The Mountain, April Camlin (Baltimore, MD)
Baltimore Goes Elsewhere Fellow. August 2017. Installation view. Found ribbon, pegboard, wood, plexi sheet.

To Climb The Mountain is a project of many stages.

When Elsewhere was a thrift store, owner Sylvia Gray would sit at her cash register and spin ribbon—wrapping the material around pencils to form tightly-wound coils she’d secure with a pin or the scrap of another ribbon. When she passed away, she left behind hundreds of ribbons reels. She left behind, too, thousands of ribbons, yet to be spun.

Camlin’s idea was simple—to start where Sylvia left off. Activating repetitive gestures of mass industry and production, and too, Sylvia’s memory, Camlin would sort, detangle, clean, and wind all of the ribbons in the Ribbon Room. She would leave the space cleaner than she found it and create a more accessible material resource for the museum.

After a week’s work, the project “began to feel delusional— the more (she) tried to to diminish the pile, the larger it seemed to grow!” Struck by the subtle colonial implications of her task—a singular force, replacing an organism she deemed as non-functional with a system of enforced order and structure—Camlin veered her work in a new direction. She decided the only way to break from her methods was to democratize her task, creating a system for sorting and spinning that could be continued by future Elsewhere visitors, residents, and staff.

Leaving behind a storage sculpture and explanatory publication, Camlin’s work remains unfinished. She leaves the fate of her project to the people:

“Wind, unwind, sort or blend the ribbon, I leave it to you. In my time here I have thought deeply about the folly of trying to fight systems larger than oneself in solitude. Capitalism coerces us into situations of self-perpetuated alienation. Our freedom, the disentanglement of these structures, lies in collectivism and community.”