Sam Samore


Bewitched by Cold Water Well

Sam Samore lives in New York. He is an artist who works in a variety of media, including words. In his works in which words are his medium, he creates stories, poems, and songs that may appear as words on a bus window, museum wall, or the pages of a book, or in performances by actors.

He explained his interest in participating in the project:

What interested me . . . was . . . living somewhere, living in a place that was different. That was important. It was letting go of my old habits, and wanting to participate in something that I had no idea about. For me, it was more interesting because I had no advance experience prior to that. I hadn't gone to make a site visit. For me, it was all a new adventure. . . . I was going to be someone who did not know anything. It would be . . . as if I were an infant. Since I'm curious about the world, I thought that was significant. What made it important to me, too, was that it was a religious community, and I've never been involved in any kind of organized religion in my life. . . . I wanted to see what that was about. . . . Those were two remarkable aspects of it. I think that third one was the aspect of the people themselves. It's one thing to go and be by myself in a place. It's another thing to be with other individuals, and these individuals were very unique. They were, in a sense, people who were chosen, and who were involved in a very profound way. They were not ordinary people. To be with extraordinary people was also something that was important.

During his stay, Samore, like the other artists, participated in the work of the community, such as fixing the fence, washing dishes, and picking beans. He also read many of the Shaker diaries, manuscripts, and other texts in the Shaker Library; and he kept a journal. In some of the texts that he read, the Shakers recorded their dreams and visions. Reading these texts inspired Samore to write down phrases, which he developed into his book, Bewitched by Cold Water Well (1997). The book is structured as a series of phrases. There are three or four phrases on each page, and there are always twelve lines on a page—a reference to the twelve apostles. The phrases themselves come from his images of the Shaker Village, his thoughts relating to living with the Shaker community, and his notations of specific Shaker occurrences, both historical and contemporary. They do not form a narrative.

For the exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Portland, Samore installed phrases from the book on the walls of the museum. For the exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, he wrote new phrases that he installed.