Vermont artist, locals pay homage to iconic filing cabinet
BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A man stood in a light drizzle Friday evening in a parking lot on Flynn Avenue, delivering what he called a sermon in the shadow of a 50-foot-high filing-cabinet sculpture.
“None of us is the pinnacle of organization,” said the makeshift minister, Griffin Jones, wearing a sleeveless, reflective top as his vestments. “I myself wake up late sometimes and fail to write in my journal.” The crowd of about a dozen people booed and hissed.
“Yes, I feel the shame within, stronger than you could ever tell me,” Jones continued.
“Confess, brother!” a crowd member yelled.
“I confess my disorganization unto you,” Jones said. “And who do I look upon for relief?”
“Who?” the crowd asked in unison. “Tell us!”
“The filing cabinet. Yeah, the filing cabinet,” Jones responded. “The world’s tallest filing cabinet, I want you to know, brothers and sisters, will not give you more than you can handle. If you ever feel there is too much to handle and your life is disorganized because you have too much stuff, you may look to false prophets like Marie Kondo asking you to throw it away.”
“Nay!” the crowd yelled.
“But no, don’t throw it away!” Jones exclaimed. “File it!” The crowd yelled in approval. “Put your excess into the cabinet!” With that, Jones raced through a minor swamp to stand on the tower’s concrete platform. He stuck a crumpled file folder into one of the cabinet’s accepting drawers.
The origins of the cabinet
The Facebook notification for the event indicated it would be hosted by Very Cool, an organization I had never heard of. My research into the event raised questions as to whether the corroding tower in the South End of Burlington can safely lay claim to the title of “The World’s Tallest Filing Cabinet.”
“Built in 2002 by local artist Bren Alvarez, the filing cabinet . is made up of 38 drawers, each one representing the number of years of paperwork that Alvarez accumulated while working on the project,” according to Atlas Obscura, a website calling itself the “definitive guidebook and friendly tour-guide to the world’s most wondrous places.” ″While Alvarez’s piece proudly claims to be the tallest filing cabinet on Earth, it’s unclear if that is actually the case, since other works of art also claim the same title.”
Atlas Obscura goes on to say that “Alvarez built the tower - titled ‘File Under File Under So. Co., Waiting for .’ — as a comment on bureaucratic delays building the ‘Southern Connector,’ a roadway intended to connect Interstate 89 to downtown Burlington. Officials originally proposed the road spur in 1965, but it was never built.” The project, in fact, remains on the table in Burlington’s city government.
Easter, Passover and a filing cabinet
Hints of decaf and blasphemy filled the air on Good Friday and the eve of Passover. (Jones and fellow organizer Mariel DiMidio of Very Cool said they didn’t realize the religious significance of the weekend when they chose the date for “Worshipping the World’s Tallest Filing Cabinet.”) A dozen or so people warmed themselves with coffee and noshed on pizza and doughnuts as Jones commenced the ceremony.
I recognized several members of the Burlington arts community when I arrived for the 6:40 p.m. event, including musicians Jeremy Mendicino, Addie Herbert and Kevin Bloom. Congregants sometimes interjected their own testifying into the ceremony. Bloom produced a file folder for the crowd, with his dramatic reveal leading to the discovery of the folder’s contents: nothing.
“The point is that it’s empty. Just like life,” Bloom told the congregation. “We are all the file, and the filing cabinet. Praise the file cabinet!”
“For the cabinet is infinite,” Mendicino added.
“Praise to the cabinet!” Bloom said.
Cash (or Venmo) for the filing cabinet
Jones was ready to wrap up the ceremony around 7:15 when others started showing up in the parking lot. Some brought offerings, ranging from a pencil to root vegetables and bagels.
The crowd more than doubled, encouraging Jones to resume his sermons.
“We all need a little ‘me’ time. If you follow these words, then I am happy to tell you the world’s tallest filing cabinet will make you incredibly rich!” Jones told the crowd, which responded with big cheers. “That’s what we’re all here for today - money, money, money! So who’s got some money? I will happily take your money and put in the cabinet as an offering! Cash only. I will take Venmo. I will have to cash it out later and put it in the cabinet.”
No parishioners came forward. “That’s fine,” Jones told them, “you don’t have to give today.”
Later, Bloom led the congregation in a song, the gist of which was “We are all cabinets/Inside.” By 8:15 p.m., the soggy congregants started to break up and resume their lives out of sight of the looming tower.
What’s next for the worshipers
What, you may have asked long before now, was the point of all this? Alvarez’s sculpture protests bureaucracy and development; “Worshipping the World’s Tallest Filing Cabinet” was performance art in celebration of a work of art protesting bureaucracy and development. In the process, the group skewered unbridled capitalism and the fattening of religious organization’s coffers in God’s name.
It was also just a fun, weird way to begin a weekend where many of us went on to celebrate traditions of a much more longstanding nature.
Very Cool — an acronym for “Volunteer Events Reterritorializing Your Community’s Oft Overlooked Locales” — isn’t done. Jones noted at the end of Friday’s ceremony that Very Cool’s next activity will be an “open up the pit” event May 1 at the big downtown lot that used to be the Burlington Town Center mall and is now the oft-delayed CityPlace Burlington project.
He doesn’t expect that event to be as successful as Friday’s filing-cabinet ceremony.
“Truly, I don’t know how this event became so popular,” Jones told the crowd as the service concluded. The congregation knew exactly why so many people came out for the event. It was, they told him, all because of organization.
Information from: The Burlington Free Press, http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com