This project is part of Container's Multitudes series, which invites writers and artists to transform the same object into works of visual and literary art.
In this series, MFA and MA students from University of Massachusetts Boston's Fall 2018 special topics course were invited to interpret a piggy bank. Proceeds from the sale of these items are split equally between Container and the artist.
When we were first given the gumball machine, our thoughts immediately turned to memories of childhood: begging our parents for one more quarter and the urge to drown ourselves in sickly sweet emptiness. We knew we wanted to maintain the kitschy amusement of the gumball machine while acknowledging and interrogating the fact of exchange and money that is inherent in its operation.
As artists, we are both interested in ideas of memory and its application through art, i.e. art as therapeutic practice. We’ve also both been privy to the way in which contemporary, and specifically American brand of neoliberalism has warped ideas of self care. Not to mention the prospect of forgoing basic necessities to pay for professional mental health care.
We brought these ideas to the gumball machine, desiring to explore the potential for therapeutic art while also acknowledging the ways in which self care has been cheapened and fetishized.
Thus we have ‘rally your marbles; a therapy machine’.
An object with multiple purposes, layers, and requirements if it is to work properly. First, the machine has a frosted glass globe which contains marbles. The marbles are painted to represent three types of content: Moments, Feelings, and Therapy. The marbles for moments are painted blue; the marbles for feelings are painted red; the marbles for therapy are painted gold. Each colored set is numbered from one to fifteen, and they are meant to point the reader to a corresponding moment, feeling, or therapeutic message found on a card located in an RX bag attached to the outer cover. The machine itself suggests the human brain and neurons firing; the cloudy glass the distortion of time and ego. With the outer box, we meant to emulate the kitsch of an old fashion television or arcade game.
Through this project, we hoped to explore the ways in which we often force the memories and moments from our past into narratives that make us feel better or lead us to something to make sense of the various violences and pastoral scenes of earlier times. This object asks the reader to engage with the mechanism by exchanging money for a marble that allows them to dive into the content. As a result of the randomness of this engagement, the reader must do the work themselves to cohere the different outcomes into a narrative. Ideally, this results in a reader who must then question their own conclusions about what the story is and why they think of it as such.
In the end, we want our object to be playful and endlessly refreshing while also allowing the space for them to interrogate the assumptions and histories that brought them to their impressions of
TOOLS & MATERIALS USED
Junior Carousel Gumball machine; clear glass marbles; rust-oleum spray paint in gloss deep blue, gold-specialty metallic and gloss apple red; black fine point sharpie; clear vinyl shower curtain; gorilla super glue; staples; stapler; nails; hammer; frosted glass spray paint; battery operated LED lights; RX prescription bag; 4x8 cardstock cards and square wooden dowels (spray painted with purple).
Drew Bevis is a writer out of Boston. He believes a word is never stronger than when its grasp on its own meaning is weak. Find more of his work at S/Word, Mannequin Haus, and The Cafe Irreal. He believes everyone reading this should join a revolutionary socialist party as soon as possible.
Amanda Spencer is currently a graduate student in the English program at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She is fascinated with how villains become villains and constantly users her writing to try and dissect the dichotomy between good and evil. Her hobbies include working on her young adult novel and hanging with her three cats: Peepee, Buttercup and Squiggles.