Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Ace Hotel Artist-in-Residency

For Eric Garner
It is now almost a week since I spent an evening (too brief!) and morning as Artist in Residence at the Ace Hotel New York, in Manhattan, courtesy of the Ace and of Word Bookstores in Jersey City and Brooklyn. It was, to sum it up in one word, extraordinary. This residency, which I hadn't heard of before, has been taking place since earlier this year (I believe), and courtesy of Jenn Northington of Word, and Ben Sisto, of Ace, I entered the mix, so I gladly and heartily thank them again for the honor.

Since I've never held an artist-in-residency (visiting professorships don't really count, I think, nor do residencies to artists' colonies, like Yaddo, right?), in any of the artistic genres, this was truly a first for me, and though nervous, I was determined to make use of the time, space and resources, to tackle a few projects. One vow I made was to keep the TV off (except for Homeland and The Comeback, which I ended up watching on my iPad, so I didn't violate that); the other was that I'd only work on school-related projects that were absolutely necessary, so I did read my fiction workshop's final submissions.

The desk area, with some of their
and my materials (cf. the guestbook at center)
Some of the art materials
I had to work with
But I spent the rest of the time drawing, something that I do regularly but not in this sort of concentrated manner. I primarily wanted to draw out my visualizations of textual conceptual/performance scores I'd written up earlier, to see what they might look like if I mapped them, almost like choreographic charts. In addition, I worked a bit on the Emotional Exercises project, tinkering with the card design, and trying to think more carefully about the categories of exercises the cards might contain. I also wanted to let my mind draw from my inner well of creativity, and the murders of, horrendous grand jury verdicts concerning, and ongoing protests on behalf of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, among many other black victims of state violence, provided me with more than enough to think about.

As part of the residency, I had to take two Ace Hotel photo booth strips (I haven't done this in years, and it was fun); make use of some of the materials the hotel provided (paper, pens, a drafting board, etc.); leave some materials I'd worked on; write a message in the residency guest book (mine was a Venn diagram that included a drawing focusing on hypergentrification and artmaking, and of course a thanks to the Ace and Word); and not trash the room or engage in destructive hijinks (no problem there). I also received two drink tickets to the hotel's downstairs bar, the Breslin Bar & Dining Room, which was packed when C and I arrived, and later, around 11, when I took a short break and had a beer, and a gift card to a nearby restaurant, which I didn't use.

C and others I know had been to the Ace for meals and events, but I had only passed the hotel in the past, so it was exciting to have a reason to spend some time there. The room options vary, from bunk beds to loft suites, and the affiliated stores and cafe are pretty high end, as most Manhattan businesses appear to be heading these days (is there anything left for middle class people?). My clean, comfortable (small? mid-sized?) room, which looked out on what I think was steadily gentrifying Broadway was outfitted in vibrant hipster fashion, with modern and retro furniture and artifacts in equal measure.

There was a turntable with a selection of LPs, an industrial looking radio, and a refrigerator that might either vintage or vintage-style, but amply stocked, with $11 water (and up!) and more. The bathroom was small but immaculate, and included a Kennedy half dollar-sized square of black soap, supposedly great for one's complexion, as well as anything else you might want and could have forgotten. (Unfortunately, neither in the bathroom or at the front desk, nor at any neighboring businesses could I find the exact USB scanner cable I'd left at home!) To top it off, the main internal wall was covered with New York Times foolscaps from the 1930s; mine featured a strangely high number of images of Adolf Hitler's and other top Nazis' faces! (Obviously newspapers from that era would be likely to feature this murderous gang, but, uh, to know they're looking at you while you're working and sleeping...hmm....)

That's you know who....
Nazi portraits, page-long accounts of the Great Depression, and reports of the death of the King of the Belgians (yes, he was staring from the wall too!) notwithstanding--which is to say, ironically enough--I had a wonderful, very productive time. Here is the Ace Hotel's Facebook page on my residency. I do hope to perform (or find someone to do so) some of these scores this upcoming summer or at some point in the future, and publicly share the Emotional Exercises cards sooner rather than later. Weather, health and time will determine when and where, I suppose, but in the interim, I can look at these dream maps, as they were, to get a sense of what might be possible.

This upcoming week's Artist in Residence is Deji Bryce Olukotun, the author of Nigerians in Space (Unnamed Press, 2014). Word to Ace and Word, and I'll looking out for what he comes up with.

Some of the score visualizations:

Some of the other drawings:

"I can't breathe" in New York City
Add caption

The desk when I'd begun
packing up

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