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"The Cats head Multi Media Art Events"
Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York
My first introduction to art was in New York City during the early 1990's where I was actively involved with a dynamic group of Brooklyn artists. The central idea of this group was to seek out old industrial spaces and independently organize large-scale multi-media art events.
These shows offered the public the opportunity to explore their own creative abilities and to go further with the scale and abstraction of ideas.
Learning through experimentation and being encouraged by the artists involved I began to build ephemeral installations. Audience participation was always an important part of these early works. Documenting these installations was not a concern at that time since I was more interested with the fire of the moment and not with the remaining ashes (photos, video). The essential aim of these installations was to invite the public to become involved with the artwork in a way which was normally prohibited in traditional exhibition spaces. The spectators were encouraged to touch, manipulate, and tangibly explore the artwork. What I wanted to establish was a test site for the spectator to explore their own creative abilities similar to the process I was experiencing through organizing these events.
The raw industrial atmosphere of these old factories plus the groups refusal to accept precious or unbreakable artworks, as well as encouraging the audience to actively participate in the creative process, produced a provocative, almost chaotic environment, similar to that seen in the Dada and Surrealist events. There was a sense of freedom about these events, a sense of defiance to the way art was being shown, packaged and distributed in the commercial art world.
One of the primary objectives of these shows was to provide an arena where there was a cross pollination of ideas between people coming from different cultural backgrounds. These shows placed a strong emphasis on visual communication. The films, installations, performances and music created a bridge of understanding and knowledge between people from every corner of the world. The group's focus was to promote the exchange of ideas between people, which we considered essential in establishing a condition for understanding humankind and provide lasting co-operation amongst the participants.
The Cats Head shows took months of preparation, involving over one hundred visual artists, musicians, dancers, DJ’s and technical assistants. The attending audiences grew with each event from an initial 700 spectators attending the first show to 4000 at the fifth and final event. The success of these shows was due to the solidarity and strength of the groups’ collective belief in what they were doing. An almost tribal infrastructure was created where the group shared the same dream, enabling them to find solutions to the most difficult problems. Taking into consideration the ephemeral nature of these one-night events one could say that they were in essence large-scale multi-faceted collective performances.
Within the fast-paced nine-to-five money fuelled metropolis of New York City this group of people managed to create a series of moments, which had little to do with money, greed, or aesthetic beauty. Their creed was based more on an archaic set of values, closer to instinctive life, closer to the unconscious, closer to a force which is invisible but which can still be felt.
A lot of importance was placed on the preparatory process leading up to these events. The ultimate orgasm was the show itself, the reaching of the goal. One of the most powerful aspects of these one-night events was the solidarity brought about through the collective sharing of the same goal. Joseph Beuys words seem appropriate in describing the Cats Head credo.
"What we are doing is living and we are not moving toward the goal, but are, so to speak actually at the goal constantly and changing with it, and that art if it is going to do anything useful should open our eyes to it." This brief account indicates the kind of radical atmosphere that became my first introduction to art. This period has continued to influence the evolution of my artistic direction with the underlying provocative atmosphere of these warehouse events frequently reappearing in my performance work today.
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