“The reason why I want to be Pat Sajak is because he has been there a long time. I want to see how it feels to be in his shoes for a day. I don’t want to be a contestant since if I see Vanna White in person, I’d literally pass out and have a heart attack. Sometimes Pat is funny and cocky. I don’t actually like him that much. I want to replace him. I want to tell him, sorry Pat, your time is up. It’s my turn.” —Adam
Riverside Industries is a non-profit organization in Easthampton, MA that supports people with mental and physical disabilities through job training, education, and arts programs. During my yearlong residency there, I worked collaboratively with client Adam Goodwin and the Director of Riverside’s art program, Denise Herzog, to develop a performance project based on Adam’s life long dream. The project began with a question for Adam: Who would you be if nothing stood in your way? He answered immediately that he’d want to be Pat Sajak, host of the Wheel of Fortune.
To make his dream a reality, we held a casting call for Vanna White and auditions for contestants. We built a replica of the Wheel of Fortune set (designed by Adam, built by local woodworker Oliver Hatch and then hand painted by Adam and other Riverside clients). Adam wrote a series of puzzles for the episode and with Riverside staff Halley Phillips, we wrote a script for the show.
On May 18 2014 we staged our episode of the Wheel of Fortune for a live audience in The Eric Carle Museum theatre. Adam played host Pat Sajak. Other Riverside clients paired with staff and outside community members to make up the contestant teams. Celebrity radio announcer Monte Belmonte played announcer Charlie O’Donnell and musician Josef Lincoln performed live sound. Easthampton Community TV filmed the live show and then aired the edited episode multiple times on its public access channel.
Adam’s Wheel of Fortune project places value on the dream of a Riverside artist and offers a rare opportunity to—although temporarily—make his dream come true.
Click here to hear sounds from the show and an interview with Adam.
Live Art Magazine
As producer and editor-in-chief of Live Art Magazine, I curate an annual, one-night-only, art and music performance at the historic Academy of Music in Northampton, MA. Artists, musicians, writers, dancers, risk-takers and others reveal unseen new work and works-in-progress. The evening unfolds within the structure of a magazine. Each issue engages the audience with a selection of readings (poetry, fiction, essay), performances (music, dance, theater), photography, and film. A series of short pieces begin the evening, and set a rolling pace. Longer features follow and dig deeper. Recording, filming and photography are not allowed, as the event strives to create a unique experience that is ephemeral. The only documentation is from a team of illustrators who record each performance with “Live Drawings.”
Issue 1 premiered on November 1 2013. The lineup included poet James Tate, Gary Bernice & one hundred members of the Springfield Sci-Tech Band, artist Wendy Woodson, Matthew Glassman of Double Edge Theatre, photographer Eric Gottesman, local bands Bella’s Bartok and Potty Mouth, writer Nell Lake and many, many more. Issue 2 premiered on October 24 2014. For full lineups, announcements about Issue 3 and more visit: www.liveartmagazine.org.
The Making of Talzar
The Making of Talzar is an in-depth exchange with Saad Muhialdin, an Iraqi living in Sweden who translated his dislocating experience as a refugee into an epic, allegorical science fiction story. Over a period of four years, Muhialdin and I collaborated to create a short film, photographs, hand drawn maps, costumes, and objects from his story, including a prototype of a time travel machine.
Muhialdin escaped Iraq during the first Gulf War and since then has been creating an imaginary world, characters and plots—based on his experiences and dreams—that navigate ideas of exile, war, and the search for peace. The project uses Muhialdin’s fictional universe to examine personal trauma, frustration and loneliness of forced immigration, and to question methods of assimilation for refugees. The film entwines interviews with Muhialdin with found footage, animation, and fantastical scenes from the story itself, filmed on location in Gothenburg (with Saad playing Talzar and amateur actors rounding out the cast). Click here for an interview about the project.
Florence Underground is a photographic essay that explores hidden and unknown sites of the radical abolitionist movement in 19th century Florence, MA.
A House, a Diary, a Secret
"History can be misplaced, half-told, or forgotten. Stories can be hidden behind closed doors, crowded among objects, nailed shut in a box never to be seen or understood. What is missing can be a catalyst to search and discover..." —From the audio tour for Unknown Places in Gothenburg, Göteborg's Stadsmuseum (Gothenburg City Museum), March–April, 2008
Ett hus, en dagbok, en hemlighet is a 17-minute audio tour through back stairways, into closed exhibit rooms, and past hidden objects in Gothenburg's City Museum in western Sweden. It weaves together stories from interviews I conducted with museum staff, area historians, and local residents about unknown—or left out—histories of the city and the museum. It begins with a small model house in a back stairway and ends in a cluttered store room with a blank white screen on the wall. Among a number of scenes, the listener is asked to imagine the building's past when it served as the headquarters of the Swedish East Indian Company, a night of astrological discovery during the company's first trip to China, and a slave auction on St. Bart's. The tour concludes by comparing the museum's empty attic to the lack of information on Gothenburg's newest immigrants and about Sweden's little known involvement in the global slave trade. The tour, both fact and fiction, challenges the listener to consider how history is written, what is left out of national historical narratives and why.
Lost Island explores the intricacies of one family's experience with Hurricane Katrina. I met the Morris' in Oakland, California while doing free family portraits for hurricane evacuees at a relief day in October 2005, a month after Katrina drove them from their home in Chalmette, Louisiana. I established a strong relationship with Tish Morris, a matriarchal figure in the Morris family and we decided to work on a film about her family’s loss and survival. The flooding and failed citywide evacuation in New Orleans left Tish and her family (eleven members aged 4–70) trapped in their apartment. In the film they tell of their escape, forced separation, eventual rescue and long journey to reunite in California. Set in the remains of their New Orleans home and at their present home in Oakland, the film focuses on the residual dreams, memories and trauma of each family member. During the making of the film I asked the Morris' to draw pictures of their most vivid memories, write lists of what they had lost and found, and identify dreams and memories to act out for the camera. My hope is that the creative process of making this film activated a process of remembering, reflection, documentation, and healing. This is a record of one family’s story within a larger story of a population—largely along racial and economic lines – who were left behind during a historic natural disaster. Lost Island is a memorial to the Morris family’s experience.The film was shown in a free neighborhood outdoor screening in Oakland and the project was exhibited at the Patricia Sweetow Gallery in San Francisco, CA.
"Finding Shelter" was a public art installation in a restored 1906 emergency shelter with text, photographs and a free sound-portrait CD take-away. The project began with a free portrait studio I created for families fleeing Hurricane Katrina at a relief center in Oakland, CA. I then recorded interviews with 15 displaced families about the storm and how it changed their lives. The edited sound portraits were given away inside a restored emergency cottage (one of the few remaining from thousands the city of San Francisco built to house residents after the 1906 earthquake). The cottage was placed in downtown San Francisco for the month of April, 2006 and received over 13,000 visitors. The exhibit inside included photos, interviews, and historical data comparing the experiences of survivors from the earthquake with those of Hurricane Katrina.
Retroactive Insurance Co.
I met Anjoli Cooper in October of 2005 in Oakland, California. After fleeing their home in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, Anjoli and her mother were living at the Jack London Inn in downtown Oakland. Over the next year I worked with Anjoli as part of a project about Katrina evacuees. During this time she moved out of the hotel and was placed in an apartment in Oakland. While there her apartment was broken into three times. Anjoli had lost all of her possessions in New Orleans as a result of Katrina and what little she owned in California—primarily donated items—was stolen during the break-ins. I received a $450 Service-Works Grant to establish a one-client only insurance company. The company provided Anjoli with a retroactive renter's insurance policy to replenish what she lost in the storm and multiple robberies. The retroactive policy also provided her with a year's renter's insurance (issued through a slightly more established insurer).
As an artist-in-resident in the San Francisco public schools, I worked with small groups of immigrant students to write and photograph their immigration experience. The work was presented in handmade books.