This Drawer

Our midterm project for Poetry Everywhere was very open-ended: the assignment was to interpret a poem into a new media format.

Xuedi and I teamed up once again. We chose to make a project in response to Ron Padgett’s poem “Nothing In That Drawer”  because we liked the extreme use of repetition and the mixed feelings of amusement and exasperation that comes along with that repetition. Our initial project ended up splitting into 2 separate pieces, and I’ll talk about them separately below.


This Drawer:

We painted and wired up a 26-compartment storage container so that we could detect when each drawer was opened by a user. We did this by putting copper tape on the back of the bottom of each drawer, and the front of its housing. When a drawer was open, the copper strips would touch, and they would be separated when the drawer is closed. By soldering wires to each of these copper strips, we were able to connect them all to an Arduino Mega and use them as simple switches to detect whether any individual drawer was open or closed.

In our first iteration, we put nothing in most of the drawers, and put stanzas of a response poem that we created (detailed further below) in the remaining drawers. All drawers with nothing in it were set to produce a different audio cue of me saying “nothing in that drawer!” every time they were opened. I tried to make my voice gradually progress from disengaged to distressed over the overall course of the different cues.

We observed people’s reactions to the drawer at the ITP Show, standing nearby but far enough that people wouldn’t assume we were associated with the project. The vast majority of people seemed amused, perplexed, and impatient, which mirrored some of the emotional reactions we had to the poem itself.


In the first iteration, we decided to have 14 empty drawers (a reference to the number of lines in the poem) and 12 drawers filled with different stanzas from our response poem. The class feedback we got seemed to indicate that we should separate the drawers and the poem into two separate pieces. In the second iteration (shown above), all 26 drawers are empty and we made more audio cues to reflect that fact.


Upon Finding Nothing In The Drawer:

This is the response poem that was originally found in the drawers in our first iteration. Our intention for this part of the project was to inflict nothingness upon people, see how they would respond, and compile those responses into a poem. We achieved this by bombarding people we knew (and in a few cases, total strangers) with blank texts and blank emails. We also created a mostly blank website and asked the ITP community for feedback on it. We then curated and grouped the responses we got by general sentiment and created a poem out of them.

The poem is as follows:


Upon Finding Nothing In The Drawer
Compiled by Andrew Cerrito and Xuedi Chen


This is sort of annoying, really.
What are you, a fucking ghost or something?
Fuck, it’s empty. Bastards.
I hope you’re laughing right now.


I’m kind of seeing nothing. Is this art?
You gave me nothing. Is this conceptual?


Are you doing secret lemon-and-a-candle messages?
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet.
I just see bubbles.
Yeah, don’t remind me.


What’s going on? Is everything okay?
Are you hiding something?
What do you want? What’s the big secret?
What are you trying to say?


I looked around more,
but I was still disappointed.
Nothing is working.
This is tearing me apart inside.


I feel partly pleased and partly confused.
But I swear I saw something.
I kind of like that.


(no response to nothing)
(no response to nothing)
(no response to nothing)
(no response to nothing)

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