Marginalia, Graduate Blog

The Long, Slow Goodbye: De-installation

Mike St. John

Taking down the Hallway (Photo Credit: Kathi Beste)

Taking down the Hallway (Photo Credit: Kathi Beste)

The feeling is déjà vu as I walk the hallway between the Raw Space and the B&P Gallery. It is a short walk I have taken hundreds of times over my three years in InterArts…except this time it’s different and I know it. It is the end. Realization slips into place, and the gallery loses another ounce of gravity. This is where grad school and I truly part ways–it’s the end of the MFA exhibit and everything must go.

Prepping to Paint (Photo Credit: Kathi Beste)

Prepping to Paint (Photo Credit: Kathi Beste)

Apologies for sounding so melancholy…but it’s only a small apology. I enjoy honest, direct emotional responses to the situations I land in, and this de-installation is no different. There is no drama, only dramatic life (and there is a difference). My state of mind as I de-install my work is that empty-topsy-turvy feeling that only questions like what next? where do I go from here? can bring. It is hauling that familiar boulder to the top of the hill and watching it roll down to the bottom again. Next round. Rinse and repeat.

A Simple Cereal De-install (Photo Credit: Kathi Beste)

A Simple Cereal De-install (Photo Credit: Kathi Beste)

Again, that déjà vu feeling. I thank my lucky stars for it. Despite its uneasiness, the feeling of having been here before reminds me that I have been here before and I made it. Sure. Of course. As I dismantle my counter–a counter where I have spent dozens of hours making and serving cereal–I think back through the body of work I made at Columbia. The hours spent shooting video and editing, the painstaking installation work of projectors and lighting and stage elements, the critiques and papers and presentations. Then, I think back to my undergrad work and all of its successes and failures and iterations. And then I think back…

…and back…and back…and back…

…only then, when the sheer accumulation of memories anchor me back down, do I realize that this de-installation is indeed important (of course it is, it’s my MFA Thesis de-install, right?), but is also only one in a long line of them, from the past and surely into the future.

Goodbye Cereal (Photo Credit: Kathi Beste)

Goodbye Cereal (Photo Credit: Kathi Beste)

There is another term that is not as, say, romantically well-worn as déjà vu. It is the companion feeling called reja vu. This feeling is not of events in the present having already happened, but ones that will happen again, whether soon or in the distant future. It is déjà vu in reverse, and my feelings towards this phenomenon is also reversed. It brings me solace, a settled mind about the current ups and downs. Yes, this will happen again…and it will be as wonderful, heartbreaking, exciting, and draining as what is happening right now. Maybe even more so.

For right now, there are still boxes to pack, holes to patch, and walls to paint. Work, in a word–that all encompassing term for getting everything, from one’s thoughts to one’s chores, in order. It is a long list, but with every line drawn through a task, I am closer to finishing this cycle in preparation for the next.

When it comes, I’ll think about what I did right here, right now, and it will help me persevere at the end.

Erasing Transgression (Photo Credit: Kathi Beste)

Erasing Transgression (Photo Credit: Kathi Beste)

The Long, Slow Goodbye: De-installation

The feeling is déjà vu as I walk the hallway between the Raw Space and the B&P Gallery. It is a short walk I have taken hundreds of times over …

Interdisciplinary Arts & Media MFA Mike St. John, chadrikosuave@aol.com
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

The Graduate Experience