St. Peter's Lutheran Church
13 May 2017
Years, Months, and Days grew out of my participation in A Sense of Place, a collaborative art residency that brought together engineer Matt Borland, poet Amanda Jernigan, visual artist Sarah Kernohan, and myself. Organized by Inter Arts Matrix and hosted at the REAP Feltlab in St. Jacobs, Ontario, A Sense of Place was a means of exploring the “vernacular landscape” of St. Jacobs Country—a heavily touristed rural community with a large Mennonite population—through the conception of several distinct but related interdisciplinary art projects.One of the sites we visited during the residency was an Old Order Mennonite graveyard. We were particularly struck by the convention of listing age on the headstone by years, months, and days lived. We began to reflect on our own ages, and something about calculating them in those terms was more immediate and unsettling than was our conventional, years-only nomenclature. I started writing sketches in which the ages of all four collaborators (in days, months, and years) were used to generate rhythmic and melodic material. Though I often use numerical constraints to generate material, using numbers so immediately connected to the life (and, by extension, death) of me and my collaborators gave a weight and intimacy to the material that I hadn’t previously found. Amanda eloquently (and flatteringly) described one of these sketches as “a melody, hymn-like in its key, but odd and unfamiliar in its numerically-dictated intervals: an offering, a celebration, a lament; an expression of both intimacy and disorientation.” These sketches would form the basis for Years, Months, and Days.I have reservations about borrowing from the Old Order community — a community understandably resistant to those who would take from it — to make my art. I hope that Years, Months, and Days will be received as it is intended: as an offering and a gesture of respect to the communities with whom I share a common landscape.