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The Things We Carry Carry Us is a project about scars and the stories of their origin. It’s an interactive VR documentary, a participatory art project, an ethnography of the body. Scars are markers that contain some of the most intimate, vulnerable stories about moments in our lives when we’re changed in some way, big or small. Their physical properties, and the stories attached to them, are singular to the individual. And yet, we have them, we all carry them everywhere we go.

In many ways, this project found me. My art practice often involves collecting things, and a few years ago I was collecting small objects that had somehow ended up in people’s junk drawers. I was looking to uncover the stories of these once-important, yet forgotten items. A friend brought a box of strange looking screws to the studio one day and explained they had once been implanted in her body, holding her knee back together as she healed from a bike accident. She pulled back her shirt to reveal one of the many scars from that event and told the full story. Within a few minutes, a group of people had gathered around the table and started rolling up their sleeves and pant-legs to reveal their scars and related stories. This scenario has played out organically since that day. It turns out, many people feel compelled to share these stories, whether it’s with close friends or strangers.

I’ve discovered an interesting theme in this growing collection of scar stories—every single one of them is compelling. By nature, the stories contain stakes, emotional content, a moment of change and an element of reflection on that change. I found that, in collecting scar stories of my close friends, I was learning about aspects of their lives, their psyche, their relationships that I had never known and perhaps would otherwise never know. And among the strangers I’ve spoken to, I’ve been continuously surprised at their immediate willingness to reveal such intimate details about themselves.

Scars offer a reminder that we’re mortal, that we have the ability to be changed. As the collection of scar stories expands and becomes more diverse, the project gets richer. And because of that, the piece is amorphous and will continue to grow.