These works range from performance to preliminary responses to my subject matter that enable me, in various stages of thinking, to imagine what the relationships might be between my subject matter, myself, and various publics. I consider this practice both serious and playful. Image production is always a part of my process.
Sumptuary was a large-scale take over of the MINT Gallery. My piece, info:burn, a performance of research and the willful destruction of information, took place on March 24, April 7, and April 21, 2014 from 7:30pm to 10:30pm. Guests were invited to submit requests for information that the researcher might be legally prohibited from sharing. Information was burned as it was acquired, producing an archive of ashes.
In November 1984 at the first Hacker’s Conference, Stewart Brand, founder of The Whole Earth Catalogue, coined the phrase: “information wants to be free.” But these stakes can be high. After downloading and making publicly available information from a subscription-only academic archive, young programmer Aaron Swartz faced a 13-count federal indictment. In January 2013, 26-year old Swartz committed suicide with some attributing his demise to the crushing threat of a potential 35 years in prison and one million dollars in fines. And this is just one instance in a flood of current events about who may access information for what purposes. In this performance of research and the willful destruction of information, guests are invited to submit their own requests for information. The researcher, who may be legally prohibited from sharing his access to information, will burn the results of his research as it is acquired and preserve the ashes over the run of the exhibition.
MIDNIGHT BILL This was a broadcast collaboration with Chris Campbell on Georgia Tech’s WREK, 91.1 FM December 18-21, 2011. The project was conceived as a radio program memorial that explored connections between archived letters, music, sound, and personal narrative. Hacking Radio Data Systems technology enabled the use of scrolling text to underscore the audio broadcast with historical information and questions arising from theories of memory and forgetting. Read about it in Creative Loafing, Radio World, or look further into the project at AlwaysMyLove. Brief video documentation of RDS live broadcast below (19:13):
RESEARCH AND DESIRE This project was a collaboration between Cyon Flare/Robert Mitchell and me. As a way of acknowledging the limited agency of my subjects within the context of my own research and cultural production, I tried to similarly locate myself for this presentation. Since Bill and Jack, the subjects of my research at the time, met cruising, I went to Boystown in Chicago cruising once a week. When I found someone with whom there was mutual attraction, I asked if this person would be willing to present my work at the Alogon Gallery exhibition, Discipline Problems, curated by Joseph Grigely. He knew very little about me other than a brief overview of my research project and whatever information he personally requested. The information was presented in my own absence, and the manner in which my project was framed and presented was completely out of my control.
IDIOLECT This is a sound project funded by the Visual and Critical Studies department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. During the summer of 2007, I worked with a voice coach and speech pathologist–beginning with a recording of myself as a kid in 1974–to teach me the dialect I might have spoken had there not been clear cultural and educational pressures to erase regional influences. An impossible task, of course, the resulting sound piece asks questions about how a quality of voice might inform my own sense of a shifting temporality. LISTEN HERE. Read the script HERE. This work has been exhibited once in 2010 for the exhibit Southern Art? curated by Teresa Bramlette Reeves and Ben Goldman for Georgia State University’s Ernest G. Welch Gallery in downtown Atlanta.
PREVIEWS This sketch imagines a connection to the subjects of my research, beginning with an archived letter between two lovers in the early to mid-1950s, Jack Strouss and William Deveaux Wilson. Bill, living and working at the time in California, writes back to Jack about his loneliness. While working in the Warner Brothers Beverly Hills theater, he writes: “Sometimes when I’m up in the balcony, watching the theatre operate, there in the dark, while the drama and sadness of ‘Country Girl’ spreads across the theatre, I wander to thoughts of you, and before long I am crying again.”
Based on the trailer for Country Girl (Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby, William Holden), this clip brings the affair between two men in the 1950s into a fictional realm in which Bill’s unpublished novel, September Venus, has achieved the status its author sought. It also acknowledges a creative and fictionalized relationship between researcher and historical subjects, while playing with the idea of melodrama as a historical trope.
Palimpsest series. After Wojnarowicz’s Rimbaud in New York series, these images complicate archived letters with portraits of both my historical subjects and my partner. This work has been exhibited in the 2008 MOCA GA Art Gala and as part of E.G. Crichton’s Wandering Archives project in the exhibition, Nothing to Declare, at the Vargas Museum, Quezon City, Phillipines in 2011.
Do Your Stuff is a series that refers to the old Dentyne chewing gum commercials (“Alright, Dentyne. Do your stuff!”). My maternal grandfather loved Dentyne. He would say that line before popping a piece in his mouth, but then he would act surprised and pretend that there was a story on the back of the wrapper. He would make these stories up and twist the wrapper all around and squint, as if trying to read the tiny print. My grandfather was also a baptist minister, and we have pictures from my mom’s baptism. I always disliked this one picture where all of the boys who were baptized were gathered around my grandfather, but his daughter, who had also just been baptized, was standing alone to the far left of the picture. I began to think about this baptism as my mother’s induction into a world of patriarchal religious structures. This is the picture and one of the images from the series I reworked in response. Our stories are all inventions, to one degree or another.
These images, also originally done for the Dentyne series, take old found photographs and accentuate a homosocial detail.