The original intent for this Artist-in-Residence project was to interview many members of the Atlanta community about their experiences living on or near the BeltLine (with the knowledge that feelings about the presence and success of the BeltLine are mixed), and then create Tired Bodies that reflected their experiences. Eventually, a performative procession carrying one such Tired Body along the BeltLine would link all these stories together, a celebration and memorandum of the success and failures within these stories. The idea of reflecting specific challenging experiences from the community through the vehicle of these soft, exaggerated, and fatigued forms was an appealing task, but that is not what this project became.
The Endeavor has instead become a vehicle for examining larger, more sweeping experiences. This work touches on deeply entrenched social and political norms but also attempts to imagine a kind of space where those norms are turned on end even as they are illuminated.
Previously, Tired Bodies was a series that mostly involved large-human-scale soft sculptures and installation environments where they would reside. There was a lot of freedom within this work to experiment with medium, and it incorporated smaller sculptures, drawings, paintings, and stop motion animation, among other things. In the beginning, Tired Bodies were mostly concerned with labor and fatigue. Over time they become ways to talk about gender norms, sexuality, body image, ableism, and motherhood. With even more time, Tired Bodies became something humorous, resisting much of the normative demands forced on them by the culture they inhabited through their strangeness. They were failing, but in so many ways, they were resisting those demands through their resting, soft, diminished frames and their failure was also an act of resistance: Resisting the dominant culture and its expectations.
Being awarded this residency and the time to produce this work during the pandemic, as well as during a time when many were forced to reckon with their own privilege and issues of race for the first time or in real and tangible ways, meant that many of these initial ideas shifted. Because Tired Bodies reflect the relationship our bodies have with the world around us, they easily take on new meaning. While many of the ghosts of these original ideas still haunt the project, the specific direction of the work changed drastically for logistic and conceptual reasons, and the outcome of the work reflects all of those shifts.
In her/their final form, The Endeavor is a 100(ish) foot long Tired Body. She will live along the BeltLine resting in the grass for 10 weeks. Overall, she resembles so many of her sisters, only much, much larger in scale. She has become a monument. Technically, monuments are meant to exalt someone famous or notable, to commemorate the dead, or to mark a site of historical importance. Our country has been made hyper aware of monuments recently, and how much they can end up representing more than history, and instead represent a viewpoint or ideal, no matter how twisted. There is a lot of new, and some not so new, work being done to document our monuments, their removal, and to create new and different kinds of monuments. The Endeavor is a kind of study and student of that work.
She/they might represent the labor of survival that most everyone has had to endure to some degree, many in far greater and more painful ways than others, and especially in the past year. Through their rest they might also represent the necessary resistance to the capitalist drive for additional and unnecessary labor beyond survival. As a creature that required much labor to produce, she is, in many ways a reflection of failure to resist as well. She/they take up space consciously and self-consciously. The space they inhabit is fraught, it does not necessarily belong to them, but they are there, existing, and she/they might represent the kind of learning we must all do in the spaces we exist in, even if, and when, we fail to do so perfectly.
But more than anything The Endeavor is to be a monument to love and care. In another timeline, when exchanging objects and being in community was easier, The Endeavor would have been a creature literally lined with gifts. Her/their body lined with 500 pockets, based off a silly but lovely passage in one of my favorite novels, she would have contained 500 gifts/love notes to the community of Atlanta. In this past year, the ideology of “mutual aid” has entered the mainstream, and many were ignorant or unaware of it before. This work has become entangled with the idea of mutual aid, and by extension, theories, and ideas around gift economies, the ways we give and exchange, and the ways those gifts and exchanges are warped by the market and culture we live in are endlessly fascinating to the artist. There are ways so many of us participate and participated in many kinds of gift economies without being conscious of it. In any case, logistically, exchanging hundreds of gifts during a pandemic is not something advisable. Instead, the gifts The Endeavor contains are three Tired Bodies within her “womb” named Atalanta, Astarte, and Inanna and the community will receive those gifts via three separate performances that will reflect on labor, community, family, care, failure, learning, gift exchange, and love.
The Endeavor has also become a mother, resting, and surviving a pandemic, who will labor to deliver children/gifts unto a community at possible risk and damage to herself. The gift economy is seated in the matriarchal, and because our culture is seated in the patriarchal the pandemic has deeply impacted women and mothers in an alarming way and our revolutions are most often performed on the backs of women (all this especially true for black women and other women of color).
There are so many more things to write about this project and the work that has gone into it. For instance, the material choices of The Endeavor and Atalanta, Astarte, and Inanna are specific. The Endeavor is made from recycled military parachutes, dyed, and sewn. The appropriation of a tool of colonialism and violence for a project centered on care and community felt important, but also that the parachutes also served as methods of protection and care in their own right. There is no straight line to the answer, merely the constant shifting and evolving as we learn to do better, hold ourselves accountable, care more, and embrace community.
The research that went into the creation of the Endeavor is catalogues here: http://jessicacaldas.com/the-endeavor
You are invited to take in that research or submit related information to participate in yet another type of exchange.
Jessica Caldas is a Puerto Rican American, Florida and Georgia based, artist, advocate, and activist. Her work connects personal and community narratives to larger themes and social issues. Caldas has participated in numerous emerging artist residencies, including the Atlanta Printmakers Studio in 2011, MINT Gallery’s Leap Year Program from 2012-2013, The Creatives Project form 2018-2019, and Vermont Studio Center in 2020. Caldas was awarded The Center for Civic Innovations 2016 Creative Impact award, named Creative Loafing’s Best of ATL Artist for 2016 and 2015, received the City of Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs Emerging Artist Award in Visual Arts for 2014, and was a finalist for the Forward Arts Foundation’s Emerging Artist Award in 2014. Her work has been featured at Burnaway, ArtsAtl, Creative Loafing Atlanta, Atlanta Magazine, Simply Buckhead, and more. Her work has been shown at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, GA and is included in the collections of Kilpatrick Townsend, The City of Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs, and the Kyoto International Community House.
In her advocacy work, Caldas has spent time lobbying for policy at the local level in Georgia and spent time with the YWCA Georgia Women’s Policy Institute at the 2016 general assembly to assure the passage of the Rape Kit Bill and in 2016 to stop HB 51 in 2017, a bill that would have harmed the safety of sexual assault survivors on college campuses.
Caldas received her Masters of Fine Arts degree at Georgia State University in 2019 and received her BFA in printmaking from the University of Georgia in 2012.