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.
We were originally provided a teal Toy Locker Safe for repurposing. Given that the object’s original function as a safe was to house coins and monetary valuables, we decided that we would continue emphasizing the concept of value in our object. We wanted to call into question the idea of value as a primarily monetary concept. We spent some time brainstorming about other kinds of value(s) and what kind of a space could hold these other, non-monetary valuables. Specifically we asked: what do we value, why do we value it, and what does value look like when it is separated from the monetary? In considering these questions, we concluded that we value memories, experiences, and processes--the stuff of life that is attached to quality of time spent, with that itself (the quality of time spent) being our most precious commodity of all.
In thinking of how this object could be repurposed, we realized it first needed to be renamed as Safe Space. This title grounded us in our intentions for the project, allowing for a more expansive definition of “safe.” Our new definition of our given space therefore nodded to the monetary, while also including what we considered to be of ultimate value: the priceless need for mental, emotional, and physical safety, especially in turbulent times.
The combination lock in the Toy Locker Safe, along with the accompanying keys influenced us to display the contents of the Space in a manner that visually continued to play with the original monetary function of a safe. We therefore spray-painted the teal locker and some of its contents (its inner white storage area, the keys, the Safety Scissors) gold. We also chose items for the interior that fit the gold theme. Furthermore, we maintained the object’s original function as a locker, as the Safe Space allows for the housing of personal paraphernalia, much like a school locker.
Given that we decided to retain this nod to both the school locker and the monetary safe, we didn’t want to transform the object entirely; rather, we wanted to transform its purpose. The fact that the Safe Space includes a small coin slot at its top made us wonder what else could enter the Space through this slot. The idea for the Daily Keep-Safes was born out of this consideration. Users of the Safe Space can write down things valuable to them on small slips of paper (the Daily Keep-Safes) and insert them through the slot for safe-keeping. The Safety Manual instructs users that these Daily Keep-Safes could be used to jot down memories, dreams, wishes, secrets, ideas, the names of loved ones, daily occurrences, and much more.
It seemed obvious to us that our Safe Space would require a Manual for use. The provided Safety Manual guides users’ interactions with the objects within, including their personal Daily Keep-Safes. We drew from personal traditions and experiences to create the Manual, referring to our own individual practices of safety that we could share with the user. These personal practices are culturally specific to our personal histories. The Safety Manual is a loose narrative of the object’s possible uses, guiding the user to interact with the Safe Space contents and their own personal treasures.
For one of us, seeking and maintaining safety is of paramount concern. For the other of us, safety is a boundary to be stretched and crossed. In co-authoring the Safety Manual, we hope that the user will find themself pushed in opposing directions, encountering the intersection of each of these polar opposites. In doing this, we have called into question what we individually consider safe or unsafe, and also the concept of safety as a whole--thereby allowing users to formulate their own understanding of safety within this spectrum. We therefore imagined our intended audience/user to be anyone seeking to interrogate these notions of both value and safety.
The Safe Space includes a compact mirror glued to its interior and nestled behind a velvet curtain, a velvet lining for a rich sensory experience, a jar of ginger and sage tea, a jar of rosemary and lavender for smelling or burning, a bell for initiating and ending Safety Sessions, a pyrite crystal, a battery-powered candle, a string of small beads, safety pins attached to a tulle entry curtain, a small teacup for use with the tea, a glue stick, and a pair of safety scissors. The user is instructed to use each of these objects in a variety of ways by the Safety Manual. The Safe Space itself is protected by a bubble-wrapped Safety Bag, which the user is encouraged to hug to their body while transporting their Space. Additionally, Safety Eyeglasses and Safety Gloves are provided for mediating the user’s interactions with the Space.
TOOLS & MATERIALS USED
Kids coin locker safe box , hot glue , velvet , tulle
glitter cardstock ,
spray paint ,
acid-free paper glue,
one pair of nitrile exam gloves,
paper envelope for nitrile exam gloves,
bubble wrap ,
battery-operated plastic glitter candle,
compact mirror affixed to the interior of the safe space using hot glue ,
safety glasses, decorated with glitter cardstock and tulle using hot glue,
artists’ notebook, decorated with glitter cardstock using hot glue,
small paper pad, decorated with glitter cardstock using hot glue,
Elmer’s glue stick, covered in velvet using hot glue and oil-based, gold sharpie ,
safety scissors, painted with spray paint ,
metal beads on a plastic string ,
pyrite stone ,
safety pins ,
Glass jars of culinary grade, organic dried lavender, rosemary, sage and ginger, and nitrile exam gloves.
Photo credit: Samantha Ruggiero
is a Master of Fine Arts candidate in Poetry at the University of Massachusetts Boston, where she teaches sections of composition and creative writing. She is a former US Fulbright Research Fellow to Albania and she works in translation from Albanian to English.
is a current MFA candidate in Poetry at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Her work can be found in Narrative Magazine
, Belle Ombre
and others. Her work was selected to be featured in Ted Kooser's project, American Life in Poetry
, forthcoming in 2019.