Emotional Obstacles (with Eric John Olson)

These Emotional Obstacles were the result of a participatory project created collaboratively with Eric John Olson and brought to life at the Sou’wester during arts week. We invited volunteers to build models of their personal emotional obstacles. To do this, we made five emotional obstacle course kits that contained a very specific set of model making materials—balsa wood, colored pencils, construction paper, glue, tape, and rope—and presented them to participants. Along with the kits we brought an analogous set of architecturally sized building materials that corresponded with the kits.

Once the details of our participant’s models had been negotiated and worked out, we built their obstacles, remaining as faithful to the models as possible, and invited the participants along with the general audience to run through the obstacle course.

The kits we gave to participants were accompanied by the following letter:

Dear Friend,

Welcome! Please make yourself at home. We hope the materials before you provide a medium to begin shaping your very own emotional obstacle. If you need anything—coffee, tissues, cigarettes, chocolate, music, shiatsu?—just ask, we’re here to make sure you’re comfortable.

The idea for an emotional obstacle course came from a general observation: that political and cultural forces have an interest in the way we feel and experience our lives, and that sometimes those interests do not share our interests, and may even inhibit or alter our actions. For instance, have you ever felt like your vote doesn’t count, and let that almost prevent you from voting? These are the feelings we want to investigate, the ones that keep us from doing things that are clearly in our interest to do.

We chose the materials in this kit, and their dimensions, to aid with the architecturally-sized construction of your model. When designing your obstacle please be sure it is surmountable—this is important. Instructions for your obstacle—how to move through it, what people need to achieve to overcome it—should be written out (if you prefer dictation, Sam or Eric would be happy to transcribe).

Sincerely Yours,
Samuel & Eric