A Few Months at Watermill with Raymond Roussel
At the Watermill Center, Southampton, Long Island, 2009.
On Saturday June 20, 2009, an immensely talented group of friends worked with me to present an event at Robert Wilson's Watermill Center, based on our residency spanning several months. The work traced connections between Robert Wilson’s secluded artistic laboratory and the labyrinthine writing of Raymond Roussel, a posthumously celebrated French writer of process-generated literature. The Ariadne’s thread that linked Roussel and Wilson passed among disparate agents, including a photo of their mutual admirer, Louis Aragon, and the theatrical reverence that both gentlemen hold for portraiture, extremely durational process and the ritual totems of non-modern cultures.
The collaboration was not without its tensions and ambivalences. To say the least, it was challenging to work within Robert Wilson's highly controlled modernist estate (even the trees are forced to grow at 90-degree angles). Surrounded as we were by the evidence of Wilson's primitivist collecting habits, our group had to negotiate fault lines between creativity and oppression, white and black, colonizer and colonized—a historical dialectic that is part of any engagement with the avant-garde and its inheritors.
These words from Fred Moten's book In the Break describe our residency at its best, I think:
Still, something is given off in these encountering migrations, the gesture in sound or the sound in painting of another liberty awaiting activation, the politico-economic, ontological, and aesthetic surplus. Such production—such radically ensemblic, radically improvisational objection—is the unfinished, continually re-en-gendered, actively re-en-gendering project of the black (and blue and sentimental) avant-garde.
The residency culminated with a day-long summer solstice performance event in which guests had the opportunity to discover the diverse ways that we had superimposed our surplus and sentimental objections onto the Wilsonian-Rousselian parallel universe.
This included a reenactment of Roussel’s daily 20 course meal with a stuffed bunny rabbit; a chance to don costumes, play games and sing songs produced in collaboration with students from the Hayground School and the Girl Scout Brownies of Suffolk County; a yarn-guided tour of Rousselian replicas and reanimated museum objects; and a screening of "Grey Water"—an inspired soap opera parody of the whole residency made by Colin (Emcee C.M.) and Huong.
My collaborators for this project included Elizabeth Adams, Amanda Boekelheide, Ryan Dohoney, Emcee C.M., Master of None, Huong Ngo, Julia Rich and Chris Piuma.
Peripheral Art Fair
At the Scope Art Fair, Miami Beach December 7-10, 2007.
This was a project that I made while on the television series Artstar. For our final project, a group show during ArtBasel Miami, I created a “fake" art fair on the periphery of the “real” one and encouraged a group of local kids to take back their neighborhood from the commercial art world. I printed the performance as a conceptual score left in the Artstar booth, while we went outside to make our art fair with the kids.
We used a nearby basketball court behind the Art Fair tents, and started the project with some basic materials (chalk) to re-define the b-ball courts as numerous galleries filled with art and words. Pretty soon, a dozen or so kids started helping; first by re-copying whatever I wrote, and then eventually by creating their own art.