The Fence


During their stays at Sabbathday Lake, some of the artists participated in the restoration of an eighteenth-century fence in the Shaker Village. The different approaches to restoring this fence that the artists developed generated numerous conversations with the Shakers about the concept of restoration. The first group of artists, which included Domenico de Clario, Adam Fuss, and Kazumi Tanaka, decided to restore its part of the fence by scraping away the paint, which some said dated to the eighteenth century, and then applying new paint over the already painted wood. The result was a fence that looked as if it contained many layers of paint, but the surface was gleaming white. The second group, which included Janine Antoni, Mona Hatoum, and Nari Ward, decided that the best way to restore its part of the fence was to remove the old paint completely with a power sander and to replace rotten planks. The result was a fence that seemed to be new and that displayed no trace of its history. The third group, which consisted solely of Sam Samore, as well as de Clario, who returned from the first group, decided to restore its part of the fence by trying to make the fence look old again by applying thick layers of paint. These three different approaches inspired a series of conversations with the Shakers on the meaning of the preservation of heritage in the context of a living culture that is constantly changing and on the role of spirituality in everyday life activities. The experience of restoring the fence also mapped the history of the Shakers' responses to living and working with the artists, which began as curiosity and apprehension, but eventually developed into admiration and appreciation.