Idle Hands - interactive installation

Have you heard the legend of Sadako Sasaki? In 1955, when Sadako was not yet two years old, a nuclear bomb exploded a mile from her home over Hiroshima, Japan. When she was twelve, Sadako developed leukemia as a result of being drenched by the radioactive black rain that fell over Hiroshima that day.

“Tsuru,” the crane, is an ancient Japanese symbol of long-life, hope, good luck and happiness. It is said that if you fold a thousand paper cranes, they will protect you from illness. Sadako said of the cranes, “I will write peace on your wings and you will fly all over the world.” At only twelve, Sadako died but her life and her cranes became an international symbol of the movement for nuclear disarmament.

At the outset of the United States’ war on Iraq in 2003, I was nervous. I had been convinced that Saddam Hussein DID hold weapons of mass destruction, and that as U.S. troops advanced on Banghdad, we would be cornered into unleashing a world-full of destruction. Before my eyes, with unprecedented embedded news coverage, U.S. military action switched from cave hunting al Qaeda in Afghanistan to toppling the government of Iraq.

Endowed with nervous energy, I’ve always needed something to do with my hands. Often a favorite office-supply fetish, tool and toy, paperclips became my crane. In the face of world events and personal trauma, I molded paperclips with my hands into figurative shapes. As I created them, I laid my wish for peace on each one. From large fears, it is my tiny personal action for peace. The paper clips are vinyl covered in bright plastic colors, mass-produced for eye catching, color-coded organization. I have unhinged their purpose for organization and turned each one into the messy twisted mess of humanity. The pieces move from abstract human-like forms, to isolated gestures, to fully realized figures. Piled up, the pieces invoke images of mass graves. Hung, the pieces invoke images of humanity clinging to one another and individually they act as fragile one-of-a-kind personal sculptures.

Jennifer Idle Hands


“Idle Hands” is an interactive installation. Prior to public viewing, a system of hanging plastic line (with loops) and plastic netting is installed. The locations of the loops and shape of the netting make for an outline to the shape of the structure. Viewers create the sculpture itself throughout the run of the exhibit by hanging individual pieces within the netting system, by loops, or by hanging pieces from pieces all ready hanging. The sculpture is completed at the end of the exhibit. It is crucial that the installation be away from any walls of the exhibition area so that viewers may gather at all sides. The community that is established around the piece is important. Lit brightly and colorful, the piece will hopefully engage and draw viewers closer. Two signs on either side are hung and read “Pick your favorite. Take one and hang many!”  Viewers are encouraged to build the installation and pick a favorite one for themselves.