Project summary: The Weight of an Object will consist of a series of three public, interactive performances in Lawrence, KS. Through a multimedia, sculptural interface participants will be able to physically experience the metaphorical weight of a set of consumer objects – an iPhone, a pair of TOM’s shoes, and a KU t-shirt. Participants will be encouraged to touch the object and pull it out of the display area, but as they do so they will have to tow the entire structure containing the weight of the item’s origins and history. A supplemental website will document the performances and provide more information about the objects.
Project details: Damia Smith will engage the community in this project by inviting them to interact with the structure she will create – a clear acrylic structure, which resembles a small retail shop from the front and then morphs into a an abstraction of a more industrial building at the rear. The display area in the storefront will feature an actual object, which many members of the community likely own. Participants will be encouraged to touch the object and pull it out of the display area, but as they do so, they will realize that the object is attached to the structure by an expanding knitted form. If they try to wear or hold the object and move away from the area, they will have to pull the entire structure behind them. The sculpture will contain information about the working conditions of the people who made the item and the materials used to produce the object. A video will be projected on the back of the structure – showing images of the object being made, as well as people from the community reflecting on what they know about this process.
Smith is creating this project to encourage people in the Lawrence community and surrounding areas to consider how the objects they use and wear are made. As a consumer, she doesn’t want to support companies that exploit labor and materials in other countries, and believes that despite an increase in awareness about these issues, the general public is largely ignorant of where the items they buy originate. The project will create a physical link between the finished product and the steps in the process of creating it, enhancing the understanding that a person cannot acquire the object without its history.
Smith is interested in not only creating awareness of the problems associated with globalized products, but also stirring up possible solutions. She will formulate a website for the project which includes all of the information used, as well as citations and links to articles, and a community board where suggestions can be made. She feels that this is extremely important – because people often do nothing about a problem when they see no real solution.
Damia Smith is a cross-disciplinary artist living and working in Lawrence, KS. She graduated with honors from the University of Kansas with an MFA in Studio Art, specialization in Metalsmithing. She also earned a BFA in Studio Art and a BS in Art Education from Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville.
Damia was awarded a School of the Arts Interdisciplinary Grant from the University of Kansas for her thesis project projection…identification…empathy. Through the project she worked with dance students and a psychology professor to create a multimedia performance and installation, which was exhibited in public venues. She also received the Daniel McMorris Professional Development Award from KU to enable her have a solo show at Plenum Space Gallery in Kansas City.
In addition to these solo shows, Damia has exhibited her work, and won awards in many juried shows across the country and in Canada.