Why That Statement Works
You can probably see what is happening here. Instead of talking about love, we are talking about our systems or bodies, and using terms like shareware and viruses to talk about our art. We are also not saying exactly why we are giving hugs and foot-washings, other than to remove the viruses in other systems. This is, of course, all a way to say we are trying to make the world a happier place one person at a time through hugs and foot-washings.
Myth Making and Being Sincere
This type of statement is similar to Joseph Beuys’s. It is an analogy for how we work. You could write a statement like this no matter what your technique or medium is. Try using other terminology, like gaming slang, or anything else with its own special vocabulary. What is also interesting is that when a curator reads the statement or prints it for an event, they have to put it in their own words. The next section demon- strates how a curator used our statement to explain our work during our show at the Whitney Museum Biennial.
How a Curator Uses the Statement
The curator Debra Singer wrote the following in the museum catalog:
For the three years, Delia Bajo and Brainard Carey, who form the two-person art and performance collaborative, Praxis, have used their storefront East Village studio in New York City to stage weekly afternoon events. As part of their New Economy project, this husband-and-wife team has offered every Saturday a menu of four free services from which visitors and passersby may choose: foot washes, hugs, Band-Aid applications to help heal visible or non-visible wounds, and gifts of one-dollar bills. Using the rhetoric of systems management, Praxis describes itself as a “software development team” that uses the bodies of Bajo and Carey as hosts to test their operating systems. By receiving the benefits of The New Economy Project, participants become a part of Praxis’s performance, and so choose to “download” the “shareware” created by Bajo and Carey, thereby integrating the altruistic spirit of Praxis into their own “systems.” Though Praxis’s language is contemporary, the character of its project draws on strategies from experimental performance art of the 1960s and ‘70s. Through direct, yet intimate interactions with the public, for example, the New Economy project recalls the activities of Fluxus, the radical network of visionary artists who sought to change political, social, as well as aesthetic perception through performances that were often absurd and shocking in appearance, yet historically pivotal at the same time. It also recalls the ideas of the art- ist and influential teacher Joseph Beuys, whose notion of “social sculpture” substituted the traditional understanding of sculpture, and art more generally, as fixed material objects for the definition of ephemeral actions and processes that could transform everyday lives. In analogous ways, Praxis, through their interactive, nurturing performances, offers alternative modes of economic and social exchange that serve as a comforting antidote to the potentially alienating effects of today’s world that is often dominated by technology and consumerism.
To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here. To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.