Mary Corey March

Binary Experience

Participatory Drawing Installation; pen on paper, questions. Dimensions variable:individual squares are 2.5" x 2.5" the number of squares is dependent on the space and the number of participants. (2013)


This is an exploration of life experience and probabilitity and the inherant trap of the binary black-and-white perceptions of experience whch creates a personal space for wrestling with definitions. Questions asked in the piece are framed for a yes/no response, but beg questions about what they mean which defy a simple binary, creating moments of introspection about those ideas. For example: "Have you ever saved someone's life?" seems straighforward, but immeadiately begs a whole series of questions and produces many memories. Does helping someone who is struggling with drug addiction or depression grapple with those things count as saving a life? Does a cat count as a person? What does saving a life mean?

The manner of asking the questions (a person asking, text only, privacy, no privacy, etc.) can produce very different results, and variants of the piece in different locations or situations could have different approaches to this.


Each participant answers the same list of yes/no questions about life experiences. The questions are made to provoke memories and conjure mental images. Each question corrosponds to a hand-drawn half-inch square within the square paper. The participant chooses from a variety of black pens and fills in the "yes" answers, invariablly producing some individual mark.

The responses are symetrically arranged in the square by four degrees of probability, causing some common patterns to emerge (note center square is always filled, and most of center cross is filled). The papers are added to the wall as they come in, spiraling out in a gradually increasing square or rectangle from the center. They can fill an entire wall or be limited to a square or rectangle of a certain size.