Erga Topika: Works on Site  (Topical Works)

October, 2005 – April, 2006, Thomas Jefferson School, St. Louis, MO

Craig Pleasants


On the first day of classes, I sent to Mr. William Rowe, Head of Thomas Jefferson School, eighty-eight grave markers, one for each student at Thomas Jefferson School, plus one for artist-in-residence Greg Edmondson and one for myself. These markers were distributed to each student by the Head of School and the artist-in-residence. The students, aged 14 – 18, were asked to find the name of an Iraqi civilian who had been killed during the fighting of the previous three years and write that person’s name on the grave marker.  If possible, students should select someone of about his or her own age and gender, and someone whose name begins with the same letter as his or her own name.

The TJS participant was told that he or she could inscribe anything else on the grave marker that felt fitting. Each person at TJS was then to plant his or her grave marker within a pre-selected eighty-eight-foot diameter circle on the grounds of Thomas Jefferson School some time before October 7, 2005.By selecting a visible spot on the campus of Thomas Jefferson School, and using an eighty-eight foot circle, I prescribed both the size of the overall piece and the density of the markers. One marker per foot of circumference yielded spacing of approximately six foot intervals –that of a human body.  By producing markers of a single color and a limited range of sizes and shapes, and by allowing students to place the markers as they saw fit, I incorporated the rhythm and repetition of similarity as well as the beauty and power of randomness.  On several of the markers, including the one I myself produced, I inscribed the Arabic word “Beloved” in black India ink.