In Slaves and Indians I collaborate with performance and sound artist Lisa Harris to create a guerrilla performance piece and video installation. The work reflects on the institutionalization of art in America as juxtaposed with the historic connection (or lack there of) to the land. I create different structural forms to present this work by using different representations of cross cultural phenomena. The work began as with while I was teaching at the MOMA. They had a retrospective of some of Yoko Ono’s work, and on the mezzanine there was a microphone set up. Standing alone. I never saw anyone speak on it. It was art to be interacted with, but no one did. I began to think about what it means to have this platform in a place of conforming. A big white cube of squares (frames), a place where the art is boxed. I talked to Lisa about it and we came up with the phrase, “Slaves and Indians. I wish I had roots, I wish I had roots.”
We began filming slaves and indians in institutions and art spaces, places we collaborated in. And some we didn’t…
Lisa and I participated in a pop up performance series on the Montrose Blvd. medians called Interruptions. Lisa had the idea to be elevated in some sort of bodice. Fellow artist, Patrick Renner, was installing a huge sculpture called the Funnel Tunnel, I asked him for left over frame from the enormous structure and decided to build something that would communicate with Renner’s work. I had the idea to have Lisa as a Victorian mime. Almost like in Alice in Wonderland. I draped the sculpture in white and made a Victorian collar for Lisa to perform in.
Lisa performed 3 days in a row.
Day 1: with a bullhorn.
Day 2: Breaking into Radio Feed.
Day 3: Loud Speakers and Microphone.
In residence in Montreal, I started really paying attention to totems I was seeing, which I also remembered seeing in Africa. Totems are the oldest cross cultural phenomena. This and other reflections led me to install the video work of Slaves and Indians into a totem pole of TVs. Lisa found a old colonial costume and we went to different landmarks in Montreal filming her perform the song. We also set up a workshop in which we asked participants to sing the first song they remember being sung to or sang themselves. And to respond to a number of sounds from gregorian chants to cuban bembe rituals layered together. Footage of the participants was mixed with Lisa’s performances and clips of rituals from around the world that use music as a means of connecting to the spirit. In this we used sound in a physical style of the totem as a “healing” from the institutional constraints of Art in America…
For it’s next presentation, I am designing a bottle tree (believed to be originally a tradition in Congo area of Africa in the 9th Century A.D. and that the practice was brought over by slaves who hung blue bottles from trees and huts as talismans to ward off evil spirits) The tree will be made of bottles from commercial products and iPhones and iPods to screen Lisa in performance around the area. This is a variant of the TV totem created in Montreal.