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Artist/designer Rebecca Krinke reflects on the success of ‘Mapping Joy and Pain’

Rebecca Krinke is an artist and designer whose expresses her research on trauma and recovery primarily as sculpture, installations and site art. The human body is often her starting point, and the focus of the meditative environments she creates to inspire transformation. She also teaches in the College of Design (Department of Landscape Architecture) at the University of Minnesota.

Her current public project, “Unseen/Seen: Mapping Joy and Pain,” has already yielded profound responses from the people who’ve experience the work. The project consists of a sculptural, tablelike artifact that includes a wood map of Minneapolis-St. Paul. Designed to-scale, the map’s streets are clearly market for easy orientation, and visitors are invited to add color to this map — gold where they have felt joy, gray for pain — to reflect their experiences.

Thus far, Krinke’s project has occurred at Minnehaha Falls Park, Father Hennepin Park and Gluek Park. “I have been gratified by what a very strong, positive reaction the project has engendered — from kids to elders — and the desire by virtually everyone who sees it to map,” Krinke says. “Many people talk out loud as they map and tell you what they are mapping. Sometimes someone else’s mapping triggers a response from another.”

“A powerful example of this was when a participant was mapping/talking about where he OD’d on heroin, and almost died were it not for a certain kind of shot the paramedics gave him right away. Then another participant said, ‘That same thing happened to me.’ They looked at each other with a kind of ‘we made it’ and a ‘not alone, no shame’ shared moment.”

Krinke adds that the easy-to-use mapping table “creates a powerful space of emotional opening up, letting go, sharing, and catharsis. When a group of schoolgirls colored their school as a big dark gray block, that it triggered compassion and concern.”

One aspect of American culture that her project has revealed thus far: “There seems to be a deep need or hunger in our society for emotional ‘processing’ (testifying?) and sharing. A public space, with an invited action (mapping), with strangers present (witnessing), seems to facilitate this process. It underscores that there is still a strong role for physical space and face-to-face interactions, even in an era of social networking sites, etc. In fact, it may underscore the need for new types of spatial typologies, objects, and situations. There is certainly a huge amount of pain in this world that needs to be addressed and transformed.”

Upcoming dates in St. Paul for the project: Mears Park, August 18, 11-2; Como Park, August 19, 11-2; State Fair, Crossroads Building, U of MN exhibit, Aug. 27, 5-9 and Aug. 28, 9-1.

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