Gray matters

Locals put their heads together for The Crux’s first Chico Mind Map

READING HER MIND<br>Chico musician Gina Violina spills her guts onto the walls of the Crux Artist Collective.

Chico musician Gina Violina spills her guts onto the walls of the Crux Artist Collective.

Photo By Jessica Stevens

“Whenever I’m alone, which is most of the time, I spend hours talking to myself, imagining the conversations I wish I could have, but when I’m around people I become terrified that everything I say will drive them away.”

“9 years, 3 degrees, $75,000 of debt later, I’m done w/ school, am doing nothing with my degrees, and I love my life.”

“I once rolled a joint from a page of Revelations and smoked it. The Bible provides very good rolling papers.”

“Fux all youse guys!”

—Examples of entries from the Chico Mind Map

All of Chico was invited to come down to the Crux Artist Collective this past weekend to take part in “the largest social project for interconnection that Chico has ever seen.” Part confessional, part artistic self-expression, part public-restroom-style graffiti, the Chico Mind Map came into being over the course of two days.

For 10 hours a day March 1 and 2, the Crux was open. Its walls and floor were covered with butcher paper and white cloth for anyone who wanted to come in and write down what was on his or her mind. Black Sharpies were handed out, and people were encouraged to draw a dot and write down a thought—perhaps describe an event in their lives. Others could come in and play off of that thought, or start something new.

People (and a couple of dogs) wandered in and out, but at any one time, about half a dozen people were busy writing and drawing. Everything from profoundly soul-baring to bathroom-stall-rude to outlandish to just plain happy appeared on those blank white canvases. People wrote about friends, imaginary friends, solitude, marriage and the importance of fathers. They wrote about spiders, school, musical scales and saggy balls.

Close-up of one of the walls from the Chico Mind Map.

Photo By Kyle Delmar

Food, sex and drugs were on a lot of people’s minds. One section, which dealt with things that saved people’s lives, evolved. On the list were God, Jesus, music, knitting and Barney the purple dinosaur ("Barney is scary,” added one mind-mapper). Some people opted to draw pictures—eyes, cats, music notes, elaborate paisley designs.

Others came more than once. After spending Saturday evening writing and drawing on the walls and floor, local musician Gina Violina came back the following morning and stayed into the afternoon expressing what was on her mind.

The dark-haired violinist for local group Hibbity Skibbity went to work. She liked the freedom of it, and that it was a “no pressure” situation because of the anonymity.

“You’re not signing what you draw,” Violina said. “And usually you’re not supposed to draw on somebody else’s picture, but here you’re encouraged to.”

Violina was responsible for, among other things, drawing a large set of “bottled” women. Her female figures had heads that looked like bottles—with names like “Barely Repressed Rage” and “99.9% Pure.” She also drew thought balloons above their heads: “99.9% Pure” was thinking, “I’m vegan.”

The Chico Mind Map is the brainchild of 32-year-old Crux co-director Ty Gorton (Gorton is also a CN&R staff designer) and his friend, Butte College student Arielle Mullen. They explained that it was an attempt to map the collective mind of Chico.

Mullen recalled that she and Gorton came up with the idea after having a conversation about things that make Mullen neurotic: “Like street grates and cats.”

“Wouldn’t it be easier,” she thought, “if we had a map of our own neuroses?”

“Wouldn’t it be great if we could map someone’s mind?” added Gorton.

Thus came into existence the idea of mapping out the thoughts—neuroses, likes, dislikes, memories, random thoughts, etc.—of the entire city of Chico, or as close to that as possible.

Gorton described specifically reaching out to diverse cultural groups at Chico State and Butte College, and even folks at a nearby retirement home ("people that wouldn’t necessarily normally come to the Crux") to participate in the experiment. He even persuaded several teachers from both Chico State and Butte to offer extra credit for students participating in the Mind Map.

“It’s an inter-connective thing,” said Gorton. “We all have these experiences. They all have different levels of intensity, but they’re all representative of the human experience.” At tonight’s (March 6) reception, people will even be able to take a piece of Chico’s mind. The Crux will host a “ceremonial destruction” where the public can help take down the Mind Map and take pieces home.