Home Is Where You Lay Your Head: Stories of Identity and Homeland

Home Is Where You Lay Your Head

Home Is Where You Lay Your Head: Stories of Identity and Homeland is a community engagement project based around storytelling, conversation and healing.

This project started in 2016 is part of an existing, exploratory, project titled Learning How to Fly. It is dedicated to my mother, Helen Marie Jacobs, a member of the Lumbee Nation of North Carolina–the largest Native American tribe East of the Mississippi not federally recognized by the U.S. government. The Lumbee Nation has fought  for recognition for more than 125 years.

My mom died on April 7th 2000. She took with her, her history, her stories, and her understandings of an Indigenous woman coming of age in the Jim Crow South.

Home Is Where You Lay Your Head

I will provide an intimate space (a temporary shelter, a home away from home) to share my experiences around identity and home from the perspective of a mixed-race Native American woman. A woman who is coming to terms with her relationship to her people and her understanding of them, while healing the past and forging her new identity for the future. This shelter, inspired by my time at Standing Rock living in a tent at the camps, also parallels and references  the refugee and migrant crises happening all over the world in present-day.

My focus is on indigenous people denied identity, civic rights, land, traditional culture preservation, language, and opportunity from a hegemonic oppressor.

Through photographs taken over a span of seven years, my conversation will include the B’doul Tribe of Petra, Jordan who were forced to abandon their semi-nomadic life for the nearby settlement of Umm Sayhoun. Social interrogations also commented on are the Palestinian struggle for statehood, the impact of neo-colonialism on Greenlandic culture and identity post-establishment of Home Rule, and the historic gathering of tribes and allies at Standing Rock, North Dakota to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline. Lastly, I will touch upon my people, the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina and their fight for recognition by the U.S. Government.

This dialogue through photographic images with visitors will be an exercise in self-expression, which will strengthen and empower my voice. It is my aim that such gesture will engage others to share their own stories around home and identity. It will also provide an opportunity to inspire new work based around these exchanges and topics.

Home Is Where You Lay Your Head: Stories of Identity and Homeland is part of Reroot, an exhibition at Smack Mellon in Dumbo opening in November. My performances will take place December 3rd and 10th from 1-3 PM.


The Spiral Dance Installation and Ceremony

Coming together at sunset with a view of the sea, at the Fish Factory Creative Centre in Stöðvarfjörður, Iceland, I hosted a ceremony along with Sif Yraola. We joined together in The Spiral Dance – a Meditation on the Ghosts of our DNA, along with the beat of a drum, thanks to Tom Allon. We explored our inner DNA and the mysteries it holds of those that gave life to us and walked before.

I created a sculpture of old nets used for drying fish, relics of the fishing industry of yesteryear, found at the factory. This sculpture is approximately 10 ft. tall with more than 600 candles and composed of 200+ nets.

A tribute to our DNA and to our ancestors before us. My intention to create an atmosphere for movement, ceremony and contemplation. The shape, similar to DNA, also happens to resemble the symbol of my ancestral tribe, the Lumbee Indians.

Questions we pondered;

  • What is DNA?
  • What is passed on through our DNA?
  • How are “survival instincts” passed on through generations?
  • What other kinds of experiences might be saved in our DNA?
  • Is it possible that DNA holds important memories of our ancestors?
  • Can our DNA reveal experiences of previous generations long before our present time?
  • Reveal fears? Reveal trauma? Reveal blessings? Reveal patterns?
  • Can this information be accessed by us, here and now?
  • Have there been times you instinctively knew information without learning it?
  • Have you ever known about a historical event without physically being there?
  • Have you experienced deja vu?
  • Have been to a place for the first time that is completely familiar?
  • Felt a strong connection to something without clearly understanding why?
  • Met someone you just seem to already know?

During the ceremony we stopped and looked into each others eyes and then we moved together in unison.

We are the past as much as we are the future. We need to listen to our inner DNA. To conduct our own personal research and to find out for ourselves; to listen to the voices, feelings, sights and experiences of our ancestors. Their joys and fears are within us. In that way our ancestors are with us always.

Sherlock Holmes & the Internet of Things

Sherlock Holmes and the Internet of Things

I am pleased to be part of Sherlock Holmes & the Internet of Things, a prototype of the Columbia Digital Storytelling Lab that experiments with shifts in authorship and ownership of stories while exploring the ethical and political implications of ‘Internet of Things’.

The ‘Internet of Things’ is positioned to be the largest deployment of connected devices, dwarfing PCs, tablets and smartphones combined. The opportunity this presents for laying storytelling over the physical world is exciting. Stories that can aid the discovery, personalization and connection of people to places and things.

Sherlock Holmes & the Internet of Things focuses on four design principles;
1) THE TRACE the importance of being able to see a trace of your contributions within the story
2) GRANTING AGENCY balancing team and individual tasks enable participants to see where their decisions and actions impact the experience
3) THEMATIC FRAME designing an emergent space for Sherlock Holmes inspired creations provides a common foundation
4) SOCIAL MOVEMENT through a kind of serendipity management we can design moments where participants “bump into” unexpected points of collaboration

Sherlock Holmes & the Internet of Things is world wide endeavor; includes meetups in close to 20 cities, collaborators from over 60 countries and 250 participants within a pilot massive online/offline collaboration (MOOC), which was developed within the Film Program at the School of the Arts and is powered by the Columbia University School of Continuing Education (SCE). MOOC is an effort to create a dynamic experiential learning space that bridges the physical and the digital.

This MOOC will create an experiential learning environment that mixes theory and practice to reimagine the world of Sherlock Holmes. Over 10 weeks, participants will engage in lectures, teamwork and project based learning that explores the future of storytelling. Together teams design and build smart storytelling objects, which are plugged into a massive connected crime scene with locations around the world. The goal of Sherlock Holmes & the Internet of Things is to build a massive connected crime scene consisting of smart storytelling objects. This fall teams will create, design, build and test prototypes that will be plugged into a number of crime scene locations around the world. The first crime scene will be staged at Lincoln Center during the New York Film Festival September 26th through October 11th

Sherlock Holmes & the Internet of Things

About the Columbia Digital Storytelling Lab
The Columbia Digital Storytelling Lab designs stories for the 21st Century, building on a diverse range of creative and research practices originating in fields from the arts, humanities and technology, never loseing sight of the power of a good story. Technology, as a creative partner, shapes the ways in which stories are found and told. In the 21st Century, for example, the mass democratization of creative tools — code, data and algorithms — changed the relationship between creator and audience. The Digital Storytelling Lab, therefore, is a place of speculation, of creativity, and of collaboration between students and faculty from across Columbia University. New stories are told here in new and unexpected ways.

For more information visit
Columbia Digital Storytelling Lab
Sherlock Holmes & the Internet of Things Global Challenge
Sherlock Holmes & the Internet of Things featured at Convergence as part of the New York Film Festival

Inside Zone Artist Residency – Romania

I was invited to participate in Inside Zone Artist Residency in Romania, a poetry and visual artist festival in Transylvania at the Casa de Cultura, Strada Carpati on May 17, 2015.

An exhibition concluding this two-week residency in Borsec, Romania, along with Sophia Gardiner, Waalko Dingemans, Christina Marie Jespersen, Larissa Mellor, Ivana Ognjanovac, Mary Opasik, Paul Simmons, Mare Suljak and Nuri FY, and poets Florin Dan Prodan, Corina Bernic and Radu Andriescu.

The work I created for Inside Zone Exhibition are “Exercises in Letting Go” is the most intimate work I have made as an artist. Revisiting a place, facing memories, memorializing a relationship, reflecting and then letting go. I worked with found materials in a meditative state; the repetition of writing and fastening and finding kept my body in movement to open my heart and my mind.

For more information visit Inside Zone Residency web site.

Bloc Party at Celebrating Red Hook

As part of Celebrating Red Hook, a day-long festival celebrating everything Red Hook I worked with Amy Weng under the name of DE-CONSTRUKT [projekts] where we hosted Bloc Party, an intervention that is part experiment and part play, a project conceived over brainstorming ideas to engage the public in communication.

What is Bloc Party? Imagine one of your favorite games made out of wood pieces but now blow it up in size and add a twist. “Who inspires you most?,” “What is your greatest Secret?”

Bloc Party is both a conceptual and participatory game where passers-by are invited to join in both building and breaking down in either silence or with the added twist in conversation.

Celebrating Red Hook
Red Hook IKEA Ferry Terminal, Brooklyn, NY. 11231
Saturday July 12, 2014 12-10pm

For more information about the festival visit http://www.star-revue.com/?p=1167

Reboot Stories Lab & Learn Do Share – NYC

On June 12 and 13, 2014, I was part of a two-day intensive Reboot Stories Lab on DIY Urbanism, in which 40+ participants explored together through collaborative action, design thinking, storytelling, play and technology. Our focus was “The Village of Arts and Humanities” an arts-focused community organization whose mission is to support the voices and aspirations of the community through opportunities for self-expression rooted in art and culture. This local community in Philadelphia embraces D.I.Y. culture to change their neighborhood and use these tools for civic engagement and social good.

We broke up into groups and workshopped ideas how to revitalize a low-income neighborhood, that could be implemented in “The Village.” Quickly we had to imagine, using off-line, low-tech approaches (including The Wheel of Reasoning and the Hoshin Strategy Outline all components of a toolkit offered by the FreedomLab based in Amsterdam) to help define crises/threats/opportunities and solutions in low-income neighborhoods.

It was a interesting experience to work in this manner without direct research of “The Village” or the neighborhood. We relied on first-hand accounts from Aviva Kapust and El Sawyer, staff of the “The Village” Aviva and El spoke to the group about the cultural history, economic challenges, and social successes of the neighborhood, providing a snapshot of life there. They also participated in the small group exercises, not only as contributors to their projects but as resources for the full group to tap into.

In our separate groups we defined a specific crisis and then proposed solutions, opportunities, and potential resources. We later presented our ideas and then came together collaboratively to map out our ideas together on one really long sheet of paper. It was quite interesting to see in the end all our ideas mapped out and connected in our re-imagined community.

This intensive program marks the beginning of Learn Do Share (Learn by doing, understand by sharing) which took place at The New School, in Manhattan on June 14, 2015. Learn Do Share is a social innovation hub which happens internationally free to participants and run by volunteers. This year the focus of our Reboot Stories Lab and Learn Do Share is DIY Urbanism.

VECTOR – Issue 3 / New York


I am so excited to be published in Vector Issues 3/ New York, artist journal, is a collection of written works by 25-30 emerging and established artists for print and online for download. The form, length, and theme is up to each artist. Essays range from 1-10 pages, are printed in black & white, unedited, and arranged in alphabetical order.

Artists included in VECTOR – Issue 3:
Laura Arena
Javier Barrios
Keren Benbenisty
Rita Sobral Campos
Nicholas Fraser
Harmony Hammond
Jay Henderson
Theresa Himmer
Steffani Jemison
Sarah Johansen
Anna K.E.
Szabolcs KissPal
Ellie Krakow
Monika Malewska
Nadja Marcin
Paulien Oltheten
Ann Oren
Elise Rasmussen & Paul Garayo
Georgia Sagri
Edward Schexnayder
Stacy Scibelli
Gina Siepel
Ashley Simone
Magnus Thierfelder
Hakan Topal
Pawal Wojtasik & Toby Lee

500 bound copies are printed and handed out for free at the opening reception and a PDF of Issue 3 will be available for free download (www.vector.bz) February 8, 2014.

VECTOR Artists Journal
Peter Gregorio / Founder, Editor
Austin Shull / Editor
John Buffalo Mailer / Introduction
Launching: February, 8, 2014
Opening Location: Interstate Projects, Brooklyn, NY
Reception Date: Saturday February 8, 2014 / 6-9:00pm
On the Internet at: www.vector.bz