Inspired by the Situationist International’s notion of ‘the beach beneath the street’ and personal experiences of psycho-geography in St. Louis, Maura Pellettieri and Laurencia Strauss came together to create Impossible Wants, a social practice project that publicly investigated desire and loss in real time. Impossible Wants (2013-2015) was an experimental and interdependent exchange among poets, visual artists, the City of St. Louis Street Department, and the public.
Over 50 St. Louis residents responded to the questions: “What do you want that you can’t have?” and “How do you deal with this impossibility?”
A team of poets gathered responses to these questions over many months in various St. Louis neighborhoods. Each response gathered by the poets yielded a poem, or an “answer” to the participant’s impossibility. Using carbon paper, the poets created 3 copies in real time: 1 for the participant, 1 for the poet, and 1 for the project’s archives.
A team of visual artists then created tiles in response to the poems. Finally, the Impossible Wants team went out with the City Street Department to fill potholes with the tiles. Each poem/desire was placed beneath the tile it generated, as a seed.
The project concluded with a poetry reading at the tile sites, offering participants a pilgrimage through the city and the map generated by its wants.
COMMUNITY ENGAGED ART AS PUBLIC RITUAL
Maura Pellettieri and Laurencia Strauss presented their findings on vulnerability, desire, and loss at in two artist talks at Washington University in St. Louis and at the Cleveland Institute of Art as part of “Unruly Engagements: On the Social Turn in Contemporary Art and Design.”
Impossible Wants, “Unruly Engagements: On the Social Turn in
Contemporary Art and Design,” Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, November 7, 2014
Impossible Wants, Hurst Lounge, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, April 20, 2015
Collaborators and CONTRIBUTERS
Creators: Maura Pellettieri and Laurencia Strauss
Poets: Lucy Clark, Aaron Coleman, Patrick Johnson, Maura Pellettieri, and Justin Phillip Reed
Artists: Jennifer Baker, Natalie Baldeon, Lyndon Barrois Jr., Lisa Bulawsky, Lauren Cardenas, Lucy Clark, Addoley Dzegede, Carling Hale, Cassie Jones, Cole Lu, Philip Matthews, Catalina Ouyang, Juliet Simone, Kellie Spano, Emily Squires, Laurencia Strauss
City of St. Louis Street Department: Todd Waelterman, Director; Kent Flake, Commissioner of Streets; Bill Burkhardt, Street Supervisor; Thomas Clemons, Labor Foreman; Chris Walker, Labor Foreman; Louis Butler, Utility Worker; Willy Ligon, Utility Worker; Lawrance Mack, Utility Worker; Keith Wallace, Utility Worker
Thank you to Washington University in St. Louis, the Cleveland Institute of Art, the City of St. Louis Street Department, and the organizers of “Unruly Engagements: On the Social Turn in Contemporary Art and Design.” Much gratitude for the generosity of the poets, artists, and road workers who made this project possible. Finally, thank you to the many St. Louis residents who bravely and vulnerably contributed their desires to fill the roads.