In conjunction with the Endless exhibition currently on view at Plug Projects, the premise of our show reminded me of Bloom, an installation by Brooklyn-based artist and 2006 MacArthur Fellow Anna Schuleit. Bloom was an installation of 28,000 potted flowers installed in the vacant hallways of Massachusetts Mental Health Center prior to its closing in 2003.
I had the privilege of meeting Anna at Montana State University-Bozeman where she was a visiting artist in 2007. I was emotionally taken by the visual impact of this piece and the connection it successfully made to audiences both past and present. In an interview conducted by Christopher Jobson of Colossal, Anna explains her desires to transform the interior of this building, a place with nearly one hundred years of hope, love and sadness. In three months, she created an experience that provided comfort and support by giving flowers to those patients and families that rarely, if ever, received them. Schuleit used the building’s original PA system to cast the sounds of the daily events and interactions of the MMHC across spaces, reminding the audiences of the moments that came before. I can only imagine the sensational experience of standing at the end of a hallway filled with the endless view and smell of white mums. This offering and gesture to the public truly transforms the architecture and our expectations of how others can create new experiences for us.
Taken from the Colossal interview, Schuleit states:
“The concept for Bloom came to me as a site-specific installation to mark the transition of the life and history of the institution toward its closure, from its physical state to the remembered. I imagined the project on a 1:1 scale with the building, on all floors and hallways. Twenty-eight thousand flowers arrived on trucks in the span of a few days, all needing to be watered as they came in, all having to be placed in the building, unwrapped, arranged, watered again. I had a team of about eighty volunteers to help me with this, all spontaneous helpers. After four public days of “Bloom”, the building was closed for good and we delivered all twenty-eight thousand flowers to shelters, half-way houses, and psychiatric hospitals throughout New England—which is why I didn’t want to work with cut flowers. I wanted these flowers to continue onward, after the installation. Bloom was a reflection on the healing symbolism of flowers given to the sick when they are bedridden and confined to hospital settings. As a visiting artist I had observed an astonishing absence of flowers in psychiatric settings. Here, patients receive few, if any, flowers during their stay. Bloom was created to address this absence, in the spirit of offering and transition.”
At the end the installation, the flowers and sod were distributed to mental institutions, half-ways houses and homeless shelters around New England for others to enjoy. For additional information on Anna Schuleit and Bloom, please visit her official Bloom website. All images copyright of Anna Schuleit.