Boston’s Elisa H. Hamilton amplifies the stories of 10 unique women in the city with Slideshow, a HUBweek curated talk series.
Elisa H. Hamilton is a space maker. The Boston-based multimedia artist focuses on shared narratives and the inherent joy in the everyday. Her latest project, Slideshow, celebrates ten of the “ordinary extraordinary” women living around the city she calls home. Made for HUBweek 2017 in collaboration with Now + There, a nonprofit dedicated to creating meaningful public art in Greater Boston, Slideshow fuses art and technology in an intimate expression of community.
The ten women will deliver talks and present 25 images representing a week in their lives using a 1970s Kodak Carousel projector inside one of HUBweek’s Immersion shipping containers. Hamilton herself will deliver an opening talk to contextualize the project. Audiences will be able to see and hold copies of the slides outside of the presentations via a communal light table. “The slides become evidence of the moments of these women’s lives that we can hold in our hands and look more closely at,” Hamilton says.
Creating for HUBweek posed an initial challenge to Hamilton, whose work doesn’t typically focus on technology, but developing Slideshow allowed her to draw some broader connections between material and affect. All of the photography was taken digitally and then converted to analog slides afterward, which she sees as important to the way the project facilitates community.
“I wanted to bring it back to this handheld object that we can touch and exchange. And be reminded of these foundational elements of connection that technology does create for us. When we think about the original slideshow, it changed everything about the way we share our stories. I wanted to acknowledge the possibility that exists for technology to be discovered that opens those doors for us.”
None of the women involved knew each other before Slideshow, and Hamilton only knew some of them when she began the project. Among the group is a teacher, a medical interpreter, an immigration attorney, a wellness coach, and only a couple self-identified artists. Hoping to avoid limiting herself to women in her “direct circle,” Hamilton reached out to women in her network to in turn find women in their neighborhoods.
The throughline for Hamilton is that all of the women involved lead “generous lives,” a phrase she “developed to describe folks who are giving something of themselves to their communities, to their families, just putting something out into the world that is generous and not expecting a return.” She says these women “are just representing their own stories; they’re not meant to be representing all stories,” but adds that she sees them “as emblematic of the multitude of stories that exist in our city.”
“This project is not about me. It’s not about my story. It’s about sharing these women’s stories. I make my best work when I put the focus on the participants,” Hamilton says. Her role in Slideshow is ultimately to be a “cheerleader” for this group of women and support them as they embrace the project space to share their complexities.
“We all do many things. These women aren’t just their jobs. They’re also mothers, sisters, neighbors. We all wear so many hats, we all do so many things, and I don’t think we even realize anymore how multifaceted our world requires us to be. I think these slide talks are going to be evidence of that.”