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Sarah Edmands Martin | The Birdsell Project

Sarah Edmands Martin


My work is about visual story telling. As part of my process, I collect and curate narrative experiences that interweave multiple perspectives of local mythology, contemporary community identity, and South Bend’s engagement with history. This manifests via dark, sometimes twisted, folk lore vignettes: immersive spaces that suggest that bad things happen to everyone. Within these fragments, themes reveal themselves, while the viewer is also asked to participate in knitting together an overarching narrative.

In Breaking the Magic Spell: Radical Theories in Folk and Fairytale, Jack Zipes defines the mass-mediated fairytale as totalitarian, and unresponsive to an active audience. The folk tale, however, is “cultivated by a narrator and the audience, clarifying and interpreting phenomena in a way that strengthens meaningful social bonds.” Using the model of the curated folk narrative, my research aims to engage the South Bend community, as the wonder and magic of the folk tale may better mediate past atrocities, contentious presents, and future possibilities.

For the Birdsell Mansion Project I constructed a small space of curated folklore-a corner or nook where the remnants of past ghost stories and dark memories converge. Here, one can find the reflection of Birdsell’s history, particularly of its women-a darkly constructed identity that, as we  look back upon it, cants and fades under our gaze.