Hold On / Let Go
Welcome to Hold On/Let Go
1. Please write an emotional weight or burden that you have been holding onto on the card provided.
2. Place the card in the envelope provided and seal. This envelope will remain sealed and anonymous.
3. Leave the envelope in the bowl.
4. Take one Hold On/Let Go weight as a token of the weight you have left behind.
5. Thank you for your participation.
These instructions were part of an interactive art piece that took place on September 17, 2007, in the Art and Architecture Building of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
This piece was designed to create a simple exchange between myself and any willing participant. I began with fifty-five hand sewn and printed three square inch weights. I also supplied fifty-five hand printed three square inch cards, with envelopes, corresponding to the weights. I asked each participant to follow the directions provided. In addition to these instructions, I photographed each participant holding both weights in their hands before they sealed their burden within the envelope.The weight I had sewn was theirs to keep, and I was left with a bowl full of burdens.
While seemingly transparent in meaning, the exchange of an emotional weight for a physical one, the investigations and conclusions spurned by this piece were many and layered, and some surprised even me. I kept none of the handmade weights which I had labored over, and while I was pleased with the success of the event, as their numbers dwindled in the bowl in front of me, I felt mounting anxiety about giving away these lovely objects that I had grown to prize.
The participants were forced to address the burdens in their lives and what they considered a burden. I found some asked me for guidance as what to write, some viewed this as an opportunity to confess, some wrote quickly, some wrote long thoughts.
I had anticipated that some people would not want to share their burdens, but was surprised by those that had to consider whether or not anything was weighing on their mind, and a couple of people that chose not to participate, being that they considered themselves free of burden altogether. This was tempered, of course, by those that wondered whether they could limit themselves to listing only one of their many weights.
Participants were also replacing one burden for the burden of ownership. Since the event, I have gotten a lot of feedback about how this has affected the owners. Some keep the weight with them; some keep it in a place of honor or regular use at home. For some it has become a therapy toy, to toss during moments of stress or to flip back and forth from the “Hold On” side to the “Let Go” side, depending on mood and need for mantra. The feedback I have gotten has been an invaluable addition to this piece and one that has been most unexpected. The meaning it has imparted on the various participants has only heightened the meaning for me, and has replaced my original sadness of losing my little objects with a joy of purpose and connection.
The participants have become caretakers of this piece and for that, I cannot thank them enough. In return I have remained a caretaker of their innermost burdens. Each remains in the bowl it was deposited in, in my studio, each unopened.