Mining the Garden, 2008
Acrylic, epoxy putty, glue, Oneida flatware, Oneida jump traps, silk thread, steel.
From the 1820’s to 1860’s thousands of Americans and Western Europeans joined utopian communist and religious separatist communities in what is known as the Second Great Awakening, a period of fervent religious revival. The most successful of these communities is commonly known as the Oneida Community.
Founded by John Humphrey Noyes, a preacher who soon after the end of his seminary concluded that the Second Coming of Christ had occurred in 70 AD allowing for Earthly men to become perfect and without sin. That is exactly what he professed to have accomplished on February 20th, 1834. Noyes' pre-millennial beliefs required the perfection of human societies on Earth before God would come and reinstate his heavenly kingdom.
Noyes established separatist communes in Vermont, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Ontario.
His societies were based upon ideas of communal ownership of all properties, shared child-rearing, complex marriage (where all people of opposite sex were married to each other), freedom to work when and where one pleased, group meetings for the purpose of mutual criticism, ascending fellowship based on spiritual perfection, and stirpiculture (a form of eugenics).
The Oneida community lasted longer than any other group of its type and was successful in manufacturing silk thread, animal traps, flatware, and canning fruits and vegetables for sale to the general public.
Like so many other separatist groups the Oneidans became a cult of personality with Noyes as their inerrant leader. Along with Noyes' failing health and legal entanglements, the group's beliefs regarding sexual practices (older men initiating young women and postmenopausal women initiating young boys) and family structures (special bonds between any two people were strictly prohibited) eventually caused the social implosion of their society.