It’s a little known fact that the North Star that was overhead when the pyramids were built is not the same star as our North Star now (Polaris). And in about a thousand years, a completely different star will be our North Star. Because of a slight wobble in the Earth’s rotation, the pole star position is not fixed. Our “guiding light” changes. Isn’t this amazing? And poetically beautiful? I'm really curious how a transition on the celestial scale would be marked and celebrated here on Earth. And shouldn’t we be planning the party now?
These are three different narrative experiments designed for three different dynamics: for two lovers, for two strangers, and for a group of eight. In each, the participants face each other across a small table, wearing headsets, but hearing different stories.
strangers: You are being asked to conjure something up in your eyes, while your stranger is being asked to search for something else in them.
lovers: You are looking into your future while your lover is looking into your past.
In both the stranger and the lover pieces, you can never really see the disparity in each others' eyes. And all the while, a third person (me, acting like Fate) is putting things in front of you both and taking things away - directing and misdirecting the narrative...
Performed around a circular table, this experience is somewhere between a celestial bed-time story and a séance. Through carefully synchronized headsets, you and eight other players become both quiet listener and stellar performer in a short narrative experiment centered on dramatic changes in our night sky. Sometimes what you hear will apply only to the star that you are. Sometimes all the stars shine our lights into the universe in unison and listen to the sounds of space together.
The Prosthetics of Joy is a live performance where the players, set and costumes are indivisible. During the performance, a photograph I found on Facebook is slowly reconstructed. The photo is of 40+ children at a bar mitzvah party dressed like serious adults, but in the midst of a unanimous and literal jump for joy.
In the re-enactment, adults, who are supported in their exact mid-jump positions by sculptural supports, play the children. The performance culminates in the moment when the scene onstage has unfolded into a precise but jury-rigged recreation of the original photo.
Made possible thanks to the support of the students, faculty and staff at the University of Alabama, especially Lauren Lake, John Fields, Stacey Holloway, Doug Boulos, Gary Chapman, and Sir Jared Ragland.
Plus Rob Clifton, Matt Apker, Lucy Allen, John V., Jacob and Mermer.
Assistant Direction and general life-saving techniques by John Orth.
Live musical ingenuity by Armand Margjeka.
Sponsored in part by the John S. Jemison Fund, College of Arts & Sciences & the Department of Art & Art History at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Original photo courtesy of Cynthia Wolberger by way of Lisa Ferrandi.
Re-enactment shot taken by Jared Ragland.
Video documentation by Ryan A. Meyer.
Research Assistance by Jacob Ferrandi.
Technical Consultation by David “Scout” McQueen.
Additional support provided by Keil Troisi. And Santo.
I ride the NYC subway trains, usually in the evening when the seats are full. I focus on the shape of the space between the person sitting next to me and myself. I attempt to mentally and emotionally re-sculpt that space. In my mind, I reshape it- from the stiff and guarded space between strangers to the soft and yielding space between friends. I direct all my energy to this space between us. When the space palpably changes, and I completely feel like the stranger sitting next to me is my friend, I rest my head on that person's shoulder and see what happens...
All images are stills from IPhone video shot by Angela Gilland-Spiegel.
Drawings for Recalibration is an ongoing series that uses drawing as a functional tool for processing/mapping my experience, organizing/recording my day, and researching/planning the development of new projects (specifically Wayfarers Studio Program).
Wayfarers is a studio program and gallery I've been developing in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. I think of it as a "Curatorial Collaborative." These are projects in which I invite participants to work with me based on some specific qualities that they bring to the table. These co-conspirators aren’t just executing my vision for the project; the project is developed with their contributions in mind, but unified by my aesthetic and/or by my overarching narrative or premise. They are different from pure collaborations, because they aren't so democratic, and different from pure curations, because my role is usually still very much that of maker. They involve a type a vision designed to embrace and incorporate many generous and talented hands and voices.
I set out to design an inventive project at Wayfarers that could incorporate the range of skills and approaches an open call for entries would generate, as well as acknowledge the fact that we were going to demand money (which would be necessary to cover our administrative costs, but still made us uncomfortable). We developed the idea for Ransom - a group show that was open to absolutely anyone who paid the ten bucks for the submission fee. We spread the word about the show and 275 artists from all over the world committed to participate. Based on that number, we wrote a True Story with *275 words, and assigned one word to each of the artists. They were to make their words out of virtually any material and then send them to us so that we could arrange them on the walls of the gallery to spell out the True Story in the style of a giant, three-dimensional ransom note.
*A real life fact changed in the True Story, so we added a footnote, and recruited more word-makers. Then another fact changed (real life is slippery), and we recruited more word-makers for that footnote. The current word count for Ransom is 329 and holding. The story, as of this writing, is still true...
Limited Edition wall installation:
The Way it Feels to Remember (Waipio)
cast plaster, photosensitive paper, sunlight, Pacific Ocean.
$300 unframed $450 framed
Available through Wayfarers Gallery in Brooklyn, NY.
"anybody need anything?" was an online drawing project with seventeen unwitting collaborators. I asked my friends on facebook if anybody needed anything. Seventeen of them responded with requests, and I attempted to give them what they wished for. The particular anybody who needed something is tagged in the drawing on Facebook and the anything they needed is quoted as they posted it below.
(Documentation of a miracle in two minutes.)
"Wherever There Is Water" (April, 2010), an experimental narrative told in the form of a sculptural procession. It was the culmination of a six-month residency working with South Philadelphia residents at Fleisher Art Memorial.
As a restorer of religious statuary, I had been jealous of Catholic processions in Brooklyn, where followers, united by a shared narrative, processed the streets singing and carrying a figurative sculpture as their rallying point. I was interested in generating a secular version of these types of events. I wrote a fictional story about Huberta, an elderly Coney Island woman trying to walk her way back to her old life.
Over several months, I shared the story of Huberta with hundreds of people during paper lantern workshops hosted with Fleisher.
They also shared their own stories with me during a conversational exchange we called Tea for Tales of Adventure. I sketched each person during our chat and folded elements from their stories into an intentional gap within the larger narrative.
With the help of volunteers, we translated objects from the tales from tea into large-scale, lit paper sculptures and light boxes that would unfold the text of the fictional story to the thousands of viewers of the walking narrative.
I worked with choral director, Ian Monroe and a choir of volunteers to sing songs we’d written about Huberta and her illustrious adventures.
On the night of the event, several hundred of us familiar with the story walked the South Philly route carrying the illuminated sculptures and paper lanterns made during workshops hosted at Fleisher, while the ambulant choir sang.
The work in Unsung acknowledges the current international socio-political climate and its paradigm shifts. These pieces incorporate imagery associated with grass roots revolution - toppled statues, felled saints, stacked ammunition and rebel crowds. The physical violence of uprising is relegated safely to the realm of metaphor in these pieces, but their general uneasiness still speaks to a simmering volatility.
There is a failing superhero, ill-equipped for each of the many crises to which he is summoned. (As it turns out, the poor souls need emotional rescues.)
There is his side-kick/assassin/lover, either planning our hero’s surprise party or plotting his demise.
There is a gaggle of ghosts, presumably of failed rescues, all trying to teach this hero the things he can only really learn from their mistakes.
baking soda ≠ baking powder
lust ≠ excuse
almost ≠ destiny
self-doubt = compass
timing = everything
glitter = gold
Something about this is like reading a book and writing it at the same time. (Or maybe hiding money from yourself.)
There is the necessary trust that the reader will make sense of it. (It is, after all, you.) If you edit too soon, there is no vapor—only nothing. Your mistakes are shining coat hooks. Signatures in scar tissue.
There is a necessary fascination with what secrets the writer will tell. (They are, after all, yours.) Don’t let it go on too long. Overwound, it’s a dead watch—no hopes of turning left for another undoing.
The pudding is in the middle . . . in the sparring between these awkward pairings:
logic/secrets . . .
Make the strange mark. Dark, so you have to work hard to erase it. This scrubbing ghost is your own(ed) steam.
Cloud Seeding Circus was a touring performance project produced collaboratively by ten visual artists. A mobile installation, exhibition space and vehicle for performance, the compact caravan lumbered into unsuspecting towns and anticipating art venues, unpacking its wares in the spirit of the best bell-laden gypsies. Drawing inspiration from the lush traditions of buskers, freak shows, and rodeos, CSC operated within the equally compelling traditions of sculpture, video, installation, and performance art.
Cloud Seeding attempted to be Art all the way down. Admission tickets and posters were editioned prints; the elephant was collapsible; the balloon man was an image to behold. Viewers experienced all the magic and mystery of the traditional circus, re-contextualized to anticipate the skepticism of the 21st century. Vignettes referencing historic circus acts conjured them up as metaphors for contemporary issues. The overall performance was self-reflective, exploring the region between backstage and center.
Cloud Seeding Circus toured from 1999-2002. Collaborating artists included Mindy Abovitz, Jesse James Arnold, Kelie Bowman, Alan Calpe, Brody Condon, Leslie Harding, Will Heath, Dave Herman, Stephanie Hutin, Christy Gast, David McQueen, John Orth and myself.
Cloud Seeding Circus is featured in Freaks and Fire: The Underground Reinvention of Circus Arts by J. Dee Hill, published by Soft Skull Press.