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.


Sacred Space Rituals

As part of a three-day workshop at the FISH FACTORY CREATIVE CENTRE for preteens from East Iceland. I designed a series of three sacred space rituals that all the attendees were invited to participate in each day.

Alters for the Four Elements

I placed alters in the room at North, South, East, West and Center coordinates. All was invited to add to the alters. I shared my insight about the elements and they shared theirs with a particular focus on Iceland. We discussed the characteristics of each, our natural affinity for a particular, and the wholeness of them all. Children were especially keen on talking about animals and the element that represented them. Over the course of the workshop I photographed the alters individually.

North is the earth element. It is the color green. It represents midnight and winter. It is the place of greatest darkness. It is caves, mountains, garments, groves, and plains. The characteristics are strength, wealth, body and form.

South is fire element. It is the color red. It represents the moon and summer. It is the place of greatest heat. It is the sun, stars, deserts, volcanoes and lightning. The characteristics are courage, will and passion.

East is air element. It is the color yellow. It represents dawn and spring. It is the place of greatest light. It is the sky, wind, high places, vibrations, and clouds. The characteristics are breath, wind, music, and intellect.

West is water element. It is the color blue. It represents twilight and autumn. It is the place of the setting sun. It is fog, tides, snow, lakes, wells, rivers, oceans, and rain. The characteristics are compassion, feelings, dreams, intuition.

More photos of the FOUR ELEMENTS ALTERS.

Dream Catcher and Dream Box

I added to the room a giant dream catcher and a dream box and asked attendees to write down there dreams on sheets of paper and slide them into the box without writing their name. I discussed with the children the story behind the dream catcher and the importance of recognizing and verbalizing their dreams in sleeping and waking life.


Medicine Wheel

I added to the room with local crystals and rocks creating the shape of a medicine wheel that included the Earth, Fire, Air and Water alters. I asked the children to come up with an animal for each stone that best represented its position to the alters in the wheel. For example if it is a stone between water and earth to find an animal that possess both of these characteristic, for example a polar bear who lives both in water and on land. We also included animals from Icelandic folklore and stories.

More photos of the MEDICINE WHEEL.

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.

My Sky is Falling Immersive Experience at Envision

I put together a wonderfully talented team of designers to work on an experience design called My Sky is Falling that harnesses technology and story to create empathy for the challenges faced by foster care children was presented at Envision 2013: Stories of the Global Health Challenge on Thursday April 11. Attendees of the conference and the public were invited to participate in 45-minute sessions with intimate groups of 6-10 people at a time.

Envision is a program of IFP in collaboration with the United Nations Department of Public Information. Guided by immersive performances and sensor technologies, participants in MSiF uncover a dystopian sci-fi tale. The ending shows MSiF’s roots in real experiences of foster care.

MSiF is a project of Reboot Stories, a startup dedicated to harnessing story and tech for social change. Designing with instead of for is key to Reboot’s approach to purposeful storytelling. MSiF was designed with former foster care kids through a partnership with the NGO Orange Duffel Bag. Other creators include interdisciplinary teams of Columbia University students and data scientists from the non-profit Harmony Institute. MSiF integrates Affectiva biosensors from MIT Media Lab to give further insight into social impact.

At Envision, MSiF is an innovative project going beyond the screen. MSiF will be published as a creative commons framework for foster care groups like the Brevard Family Partnership and ASPIRAnet to use in training sessions for potential foster care parents and social workers. The intent is to help participants understand on an emotional level what it is like to be a foster child.

At the end of the experience Lance Weiler with Reboot Stories along with Clint Beharry from Harmony Institute gave a presentation based on the data collected by Harmony Institute and the Affectiva biosensors from MIT Media Lab of the participants levels of emotional response to the entire program.

The design group are artists Jennifer Cox, Darryl Hell, Mikhail Iliatov and Tessa Mauclere.

Jennifer Cox
Jennifer Cox is a filmmaker with a background in both Architecture and Fine Art. The common thread in my work has always stemmed from my interest in storytelling beginning with my studies in narrative architecture to being head writer and director for the Eddy award winning first-of-its-kind FPS game, Dimenxian, designed to prepare students for the Regents Algebra exam, to finally my work as a filmmaker.

Darryl Montgomery
Darryl Montgomery [aka Darryl Hell], mixed media artist/musician, founded sektor 6 kommunikations in 1989, a socio political and artistic think tank that produces educational & artistic events and media. He has done sound/video design for productions such as “Women in Prison” [Rickie Solinger] and “New York Values” [Penny Arcade].

Mikhail Iliatov
Mikhail Iliatov was born in Russia, moved to the US in early 90’s. Has worked on art projects and exhibited since 2003. Focus on interactive installations using audio recordings, video, and computer programming, as well as book arts and photography. Live and work in Brooklyn.

Tessa Mauclere
Tessa Mauclere has degree in textile arts at the national college of art and design in Paris (ENSAAMA) where she studied the creation of trends, colours, textures, motifs, patterns, and shapes for all areas of fashion, textile and interior architecture. She then graduated with a master degree in Event Design in Montreal, studying and creating site specific-installations and exhibition design.

Envison Logos

My Sky is Falling

Foster Care Statistics
I am so excited to be working as the production designer for My Sky is Falling an immersive story experience that aims to raise awareness about the challenges American foster children face before they age out of the foster care system. A pilot of the Story Design Lab, a lab that mixes narrative design, game mechanics, and design science to tackle social problems.

My Sky is Falling compares the experience of aging out of the foster program to a science fiction thriller. The purpose of this project is for participants to understand on an emotional level what it is like to be a foster child and will hopefully be part of a framework to help potential foster care parents.

My Sky is Falling is a collaboration between Columbia students and former foster kids, including the filmmaker Lydia Joyner. This production is made possible through a partnership between Reboot Stories and NGO’s Orange Duffel Bag and The Harmony Institute.

About Reboot Stories
Reboot Stories harnesses storytelling, technology and design science to form an innovation engine for digital literacy, cross-generational learning and social change.

About Orange Duffel Bag
The Orange Duffel Bag Foundation provides coaching, training and ongoing mentoring to at-risk youth; support to their guardians and caring adults; and service to the community in a spirit of offering hope and enriching young lives.

About the Harmony Institute
The Harmony Institute (HI) is an interdisciplinary research center that studies the impact of entertainment on individuals and society.

My Sky is Falling Schedule
April 11th – Envision @ the Tribeca 92Y
Envision explores the power of storytelling as a vehicle for social good. Envision’s annual gathering connects UN experts and NGOs with some of the most creative minds in film making and new media, and helps them work together to find new and compelling ways to create a momentum for social change. Hosted by the UN and IFP.

April 27th – diy days NYC @ The New School
1:30 – 6:00
diy days is a roving gathering for those who create. FREE to participants and organized by volunteers – diy days is about the accessibility of ideas, resources and networking that can enable creators to fund, create, distribute and sustain.

Swimming Pool Monster, Reykjavik, April 2012

I spent the morning working with Björk Viggósdóttir on her “Swimming Pool Monster” in Laugardalslaug, Reykjavik, in Iceland. This monster was part of a festival for children.

I worked with Viggósdóttir in Stockholm, Sweden we were both participated in a group show for DÍÓNÝSÍA at Supermarket artist run art-fair in 2011. DÍÓNÝSÍA is an informal artist-run residency that is held every year in Iceland with hosts being a small village/villages.