Sweet Child Solos is a performance/installation inspired by a radiophonic anomaly that I experienced while driving on a hilly highway in 2005. On the hilltops, my car radio picked up a distant news station on which I heard a story about Cindy Sheehan, the mother of an American soldier who was killed in Iraq. Sheehan was protesting the war by camping outside President George W. Bush’s Texas ranch. In the valleys, I heard a local college radio station that was playing an a capella cover of “Sweet Child O' Mine,” a romantic ballad by Guns N' Roses. Since then, whenever I hear that song, I think of the soldiers and civilians killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Sweet Child Solos began as an evening event at LACE, a nonprofit gallery on a seedy stretch of Hollywood Boulevard, during which several guitarists performed instrumental covers of the song "Sweet Child O' Mine" by Guns N' Roses. Their performances were videotaped in front of a green screen wall painting. The gallery floor was covered with paper confetti.
Two days later, video of the performances was projected on two screens. On one screen, the guitarist was superimposed over a still from a video of returning U.S. military caskets--the ﬁrst such video released by the military since 1991--depicting a truck onto which the ﬂag-draped caskets were loaded after being removed from an airplane arriving from Afghanistan. On the other screen, the background image was a video-still of the site of a US airstrike that killed 76 Afghan civilians.
In this performance/installation, as in the Port Huron Project reenactments and the conflicts depicted in The Dystopia Files, the production of archival material plays an important and visible role in the event itself—documentation is an integral part of the spectacle it records. Staging musical performances at the site of the installation formalizes this reflexivity.
Sweet Child Solos at LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions)
Performance: January 19, 2010
Installation: January 21 - 31, 2010
Text cobbled together for the invitation:
"I am me and you are you and we are we and we are all together. Corporation t-shirts, stupid bloody Tuesday, see how they run? Coming back from Kabul laying in a casket, see how they fly? Something's wrong. The more I want to be me, the more I feel empty. The more I express myself, the more I am drained. The more I run after myself, the tireder I get. Meanwhile, we manage. We blog, we rent apartments, the latest fashionable crap, relationship dramas, who's hooking up with whom, whatever it takes to hold on. All the existential crutches that allow us to keep dragging on, the dependencies we've contracted as the price of identity. Where do we go, sweet child, where do we go? Where do we go now?" *
Special thanks to:
Josh Aster, Andy Robert Crouch, Terri Dewhurst, Josh Gerowitz, Davin Givhan, Michael Grodsky, Sho Halajian, Liz King, Sulinh Lafontaine, Andy Manoushagian, Mike Rios, Marc Scarpa, Sarah G. Sharp, Geneva Skeen, Carol Stakenas, Jennifer Sternad, Paul Wallace.
In the press
Hyperallergic: "A video projection focused on a single woodland scene for 24 hours shows undulating patterns of light formed by shadows of the trees. A leaf meanders its way to the ground; an insect buzzes by. A small pool of water shimmers and trickles, but not much else happens. When we come upon a scene like this in nature, we might stop for a photo, perhaps force ourselves to meditate for a moment, searching for peace and a spiritual connection, before quickly moving on. Mark Tribe’s “Balsam Lake Mountain Wild Forest, Ulster County, New York,” from the series New Nature (2016–17), allows us to linger more than we might in the wild, where fellow hikers, inclement weather, or mosquitoes compel us to be on our way. It allows us to enjoy the scene. According to a wall text accompanying this piece, we are more likely to experience nature on a digital screen than in an immersive setting. “In an age of virtual reality and inescapable human impact, is nature as real as it used to be?” asks Tribe. “And how could we use technologies of simulation (including relatively straightforward ones, like video) to preserve the experience of a vanishing wilderness?” By providing a voyeuristic view, the artist awakens us to a primal urge to get outside, to smell the moss, to feel the ferns and rocks, to listen to the water." Ilene Dube, "Artists Urge Us to Get Outside and Smell the Moss"