I Bought a Little City (2012 and ongoing)

This project began while I was participating in a residency in Marfa, Texas during the Summer of 2012. It has been show in unfolding iterations at OUTPOST in Norwich, KW, Berlin and most recently as an installation with a series of printed posters that serve as footnotes at CCA, Glasgow..

Marfa is a remote West Texan town to which the sculpture Donald Judd relocated from New York City in 1972. Over the two decades that followed his move the town grew - thanks to his influence, establishment of the Chinati Foundations and purchase of significant amounts of real estate - into a significant cultural presence with many galleries and venues upon which the global art world certainly has its eye. While in Marfa I happened to read the story by American writer Donald Barthelme (himself a Texan who happened to have moved to New York), published in the New Yorker in 1974, from which this performance takes its title. This short work of fiction is a can be read as a wry, absurdist indictment of proprietorship and urban regeneration that feels strangely resonant in the context of the town.

The peculiar, dissonant collision of these two figures became the beginning for a work that (kind of) takes a format of artist’s talk haunted by history’s apparent authority and awkward, unruly legacies. A collage of short, quasi-fictions performed as monologues and collaboratively produced videos propose wayward negotiations of cities and failed attempts at producing artworks therein.

I performed the Barthelme Story in Marfa as a kind of town meeting in the cupola of the Presidio County Courthouse and made a pair of videos (one in Marfa, one in Berlin) that deal with the weight of history or canonical figures on urban spaces. When I've screened them I've punctuated them with short performances that describe (semi-fictionalised) failed attempts to make artworks.

The videos that accompany the Marfa and Berlin iterations of the work were made in collaboration with John White and Adela Yawitz respectively.

I Bought a Little City by Donald Barthelme (PDF)