The Cage

Colorful fortune tellers with punctuation marks

Fortune tellers from the exhibit “The Cage.” (Photo by Marina Resende)

Exhibit dates: May 30–June 4, 2018
Location: The Joseph Regenstein Library, First Floor, 1100 East 57th Street, Chicago, IL

Thirteen hundred “fortune tellers” will be exhibited on the First Floor of Regenstein Library. Inside them are snippets of Henry James’s novella In The Cage.

The Cage functions as a continual re-assemblage of the book. The original novella tells the story of a young woman who works as a telegraph operator at the post office. Through the novella she tries to piece together narratives from the terse telegrams she sends between the members of the upper class. This is, essentially, the mission of the installation as well—phrases have been isolated from within the text and scrambled, leaving only the traces of their original meaning.

Hands fold a fortune teller with text inside

A fortune teller for the exhibit “The Cage” includes snippets of text from Henry James’s novella “In The Cage.” (Photo by Maria Resende)

Visitors to the Regenstein will be invited to play with the fortune tellers, which will result in receiving a phrase and a punctuation mark. This phrase will then be added to a notebook, called the Facsimile, which accompanies the exhibit. Participants will be challenged to determine which form of connection (or non-connection) best completes the addition. The chance connections between phrases and people will create an unpredictable, collaborative re-assemblage of the original text.

The installation was created for “Studio R-A,” an art theory class taught in collaboration with the Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry. The class focuses on the practice of re-assemblage, which is the combining of disparate elements to create a new whole.

This project was led by students Kevin Beerman, Kirsten Ihns, Marina Resende, and Katie Akin, with guidance from Professors Bill Brown and Ted Brown, as well as artist/collaborator Ann Hamilton. Special thanks to Course Assistants Gabe Moreno and Brandon Truett, fellow students Cecília Resende Santos, Eva Murasov, JP Henry, Ashleigh Cassemere-Stanfield, Leah Chapell, Derek Ernster, Christopher Good, Tianyu Guo, Jola Idowu, Gray Center curator Zach Cahill, and George Scheer (Executive Director of Elsewhere Museum & Artist Residency). Finally, much gratitude is due to the Regenstein Library staff for their accommodation and the friends who helped with folding.

Three students prepare colorful fortune tellers

University of Chicago students Ashleigh Cassemere-Stanfield (PhD, English), Kirsten Ihns (PhD, English), and Katie Akin (College) prepare colorful fortune tellers for the exhibit “The Cage.” Inside the fortune tellers are snippets of Henry James’s novella “In The Cage.” The exhibit functions as a continual re-assemblage of the book. (Photo by Marina Resende)

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