Left: The tank dress Thomas Chen and Adele Röder created for Emmanuelle’s Spring 2012 collection. Right: Adele Röder (for DAS INSTITUT), COMCORRÖDER, 2011, digital file.

As one half of the collective DAS INSTITUT, Adele Röder has often employed printed textiles in the multimedia exhibitions she stages with Kerstin Brätsch. Thomas Chen, designer of the women’s clothing label Emmanuelle, developed his own line after working for a number of other designers, including Thakoon; his designs are currently stocked at Creatures of Comfort in New York and Colette in Paris, among other stores. Röder and Chen recently decided to collaborate on a print for Emmanuelle’s Spring 2012 collection. Here, they talk about the process that led them to the final product.

OUR IDEA was to pick out prints from Adele’s archive, to find something that already had an existence of its own. A few of her prints really jumped out at us, and that’s how our work together organically began. Although Adele’s prints had been used in fabrics before, more often than not they had been shown in combination with Kerstin’s paintings, and always in an art context. So it was really exciting to see them shifted into a fashion context—to see them being turned into something that could be worn.

Early Emmanuelle prints primarily showed continuous, repeating patterns such as stripes. We were drawn to Adele’s prints that depict floating objects, but we realized that if we used them we’d have to figure out how these forms could be positioned on the clothing—that is, how could the print be seen fully on the sleeve of a blouse. Previously, Thomas’s prints were engineered with placement cutting, so as to make interesting geometric patterns. We realized this project would take that idea even further. We wondered: How do you take apart the fabric but not destroy the integrity of the print at the same time? We narrowed our selections down to two colorful prints with gradated stripes. And then we thought very hard about our printing process. We decided that instead of screenprinting, we’d use digital printing, which easily allows for gradations, brilliant color reproduction, and a seamless ombré effect.

We began by producing the patterns on huge black-and-white printouts, and then we held those prints against our bodies to see what worked best. The most difficult thing to deal with was the ratio of the scale of the design against the body. If you blow it up too big, you can only see parts of the print, and if you make it too small, then it’s too much about the print itself. In both cases, the print starts looking decorative. We finally decided to use a specific scale––Adele’s body, if only because she was at hand and more up for the performative aspect of the task. We made a digital dummy of Adele, and then we applied the different scaled prints on her digitally. It was very efficient to work this way.

Adele’s prints have a very futuristic look to them, with sharply defined shapes gleaming in their perfect gradations, and yet we didn’t want the outcome to look too slick. So as we tried to pick the specific four or five colors for the printing process, Thomas kept saying: “Picture Venice—the faded, decrepit look of it, as a mural once considered futuristic but a thousand years later we have come back to it . . . picture it on a foggy morning, when it’s misty out there in front of the ocean.” The names of the Pantone colors were very suggestive as well, “Sirocco” and “Provincial Blue.” But as it turns out, the machination of the digital printer had its own ideas of what colors it preferred. Our whole process was very much about eliminating things. We had originally planned on printing on two fabrics—a voile and a charmeuse—and when the tests came back, we decided to scrap the charmeuse because it looked too shiny and grandmotherly. But with the matte sheerness of voile, you see it but you don’t, so it becomes almost like a tattoo when you put it over your skin.

Finally, it was Thomas’s responsibility to work out the placement of the prints on the garment; the ball was in his hands. We were also running out of time, so we thought, “OK, let’s just do the best we can and God help us with whatever we get at the end!” Throughout the process of working together Adele would sometimes say, “You’re very Zen, always accepting of things as they come!” Thomas’s reply? “Well, if only I had another choice.”

— As told to Dawn Chan

Left: Cally Spooner, A Solo Event for Thinking, Version 4, 2011. Performance View, David Roberts Art Foundation, London, 2011. The Actress (Dulcie Lewis). Photo: Cally Spooner. Right: Cally Spooner, Poster for The Erotics of Public Possibility, 2011.

Cally Spooner’s latest project involves a new body of writing that she is producing over a period of eight months at International Project Space. Titled Collapsing in Parts, the piece also includes a series of events that act as footnotes to the evolving text, which is being published online as it is written; these events will take a variety of forms, including performance, a radio broadcast, and a printed poster. Spooner’s work for IPS continues until March 2012.

AT THE HEART OF MY WORK LIES AN ANXIETY over finding something to say. This anxiety plays out in my theater, film, and writing work, in which I am always looking to achieve an act of live thinking by shifting from an individual or private space into a collective one. Hannah Arendt is central to my research for Collapsing in Parts. In her 1958 book The Human Condition, she explored ideas of publicness and action in public by addressing different thinkers’ historical ideas about whether it may only be possible to perform and achieve excellence in a public sphere.

For Collapsing in Parts, I’m publishing eight parts of writing online, almost monthly, and this public pressure is helping me write. I’m not sure it would be possible to develop this writing in private, so the text goes out whether or not it’s any good. I know it’s a pretty narcissistic endeavor, but I’m interested in the possibility of constant revision, as well as reception in real time, and this seems like the best way of achieving it. This project is about making progress accessible through the idea of having to perform or deliver in front of an audience, while drawing parallels between the pressure to deliver within the workplace and the pressure to do so in the cultural sector, or the world of sports. Various popular and literary characters, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tiger Woods, and President Ronald Reagan, who have had to negotiate the space between private and public life, have all become case studies for my research and appear as characters in the writing.

Human communication today can be very poor in performance spaces such as the workplace, the boardroom, or the classroom, where emphasis can fall on progress based on results, rather than on discourse and speaking. In this project I’m trying to find sites in which to perform the problems surrounding this. Open-form musical scores from the 1950s, by the composer Earle Brown, for example, have been an important point of reference. Even though his works are improvisational, they depend on fixed structures as notated in his scores; this stable framework can provoke countless variations and possibilities. Through these structures, I’ve been thinking about alternative models of organization that have been tailored to heighten creative aptitude and production. In the case of Collapsing in Parts, my stable score is The Human Condition. It provides a textual framework in which a number of people, including actors and friends, can perform and deliver different pieces of work relating to my understanding and application of Arendt’s ideas.

Collapsing in Parts catalyzes thought into action through a kind of double narrative. On the one hand, the project is a catalogue of live footnote events, while on the other hand, these events are simply a subtext to the evolution of the eight parts of writing. The project frames permutations of various movements and conversations as they solidify into work. For instance, the first footnote was a theater piece, the second a printed poster, and the third an exhibition of new work curated through conversation. Footnote four will be a film screening investigating performance, exhaustion, and productivity. When this entire system of research is over, I think the whole project will culminate in a silent film that relies on gestural communication to convey the dynamics of the last eight months.

— As told to James Eischen

Outfits from Vivan Sundaram’s “GAGAWAKA: Making Strange,” 2011.

For veteran installation artist Vivan Sundaram, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. His latest show, “GAGAWAKA: Making Strange” at Lalit Kala Akademi in Delhi, argues Sundaram’s case with forty-five elaborate “wearable sculptures” made in collaboration with designer Pratima Pandey. “GAGAWAKA” is on view December 21–27.

THE PHRASE “MAKING STRANGE” is a quote from Bertolt Brecht, which alludes to distanciation and alienation in contemporary times. But I think my title works even if you don’t know that reference: I use ordinary, everyday materials––plastic cups, sanitary napkins, bras––to make unusual garments. I am literally making the familiar strange. Obviously, the title is also a play on pop culture: “Gagawaka” nods to Lady Gaga and the FIFA World Cup song “Waka Waka.” Sure, it’s Dada-esque but it is also connected to fashion, since the title sounds like a brand name. The invitation to this exhibition clearly indicates this: I say “GAGAWAKA presents . . . ” as if it were a company doing the presenting rather than me. Fashion is a commodity, but these are sculptural garments, so they cannot be commodified in the same way. They were produced to be looked at––and maybe to be worn once in a while. They maintain a tension between art and design, evoking multidisciplinary elements that are central to my practice.

Notions of recycling, skill, craft, and the Duchampian readymade have always interested me. In the 2008 mixed-media installation Trash, for example, I dealt with the underbelly of the urban, which is continuously being destroyed and marginalized in “New India.” Yet despite this assault by so-called city development, the city re-creates itself. Delhi is the metropolis of the twenty-first century––Calcutta and Bombay were the cities of the nineteenth and twentieth century. But what happens to those who live outside the developmental agency of capitalism and power? In “GAGAWAKA,” I reuse trash by making garments out of objects that people usually throw away.

On December 18, a fashion show in the gallery displayed thirty garments during an hour-long program for 225 invited guests. Santanu Bose, who teaches at the National School of Drama in Delhi, directed it. The show involved dancers, models, and performers walking on a ramp eighty feet in length and seven feet in width. Since this was a narrow area for the performance to occupy, the audience felt like they were part of the experience. A private performance also took place in the gallery with my works from the past twenty years placed on a hundred-foot-long “wall.” From 1998’s House/Boat, for instance, I reused the boat, which is now very fragile, while parts of the prow from 1996’s Carrier appeared too. The rubber flooring from 2004’s New New Delhi, an installation of a bed and a room, was also included. Yet only very observant viewers recognized them. Of course, in that context, my previous installations weren’t the same anymore––they were transformed into props.

When the show opens on December 21, the “wall” will have been dismantled and the works will be interspersed with the garments. Visitors will hopefully wonder where “fashion” ends and “art” begins. In India, there is little discussion about this overlap. But elsewhere fashion is entering a new phase. Alexander McQueen’s retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum in New York this year attracted large crowds. Why? I find the idea that garments can be bought to be collected, rather than to be worn, intriguing. It means they can be seen in the same context as art objects––the museum. Perhaps collectors used to think that clothes were too fragile to buy. But these days, art is fragile too. McQueen’s seashell constructions remind me of Arte Povera works made from perishable materials and fabric. McQueen was a master craftsman; I don’t have his skills, but I think that my “moving sculptures” are both monumental and fragile at the same time––like a dress made out of paper cups or a flowing assemblage of two hundred red bras, beautifully stitched with lace. It is mad, but so spectacular!

— As told to Zehra Jumabhoy

Mark Lewis


Mark Lewis, Black Mirror at the National Gallery, 2011, still from a 4k 35 mm film transferred to 2k 35 mm film, 7 minutes 21 seconds.

Mark Lewis is a Canadian artist and filmmaker based in London. In 2009, he represented Canada at the Venice Biennale. Here he discusses the relationship the camera has to composition in his 2011 film Black Mirror at the National Gallery, which has screened at the Venice, Toronto, and Vancouver Film Festivals, and is currently featured in “No More Drawing” at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. The show is on view until January 2.

I’VE ALWAYS LOVED the following haiku by Garry Winogrand. When he was asked, “Why do you take the pictures of the things you do?” He said, “Simply to see what they look like as pictures.” That’s what I try to do, and that’s how I understand my way of working. I make work to see what happens when I do it. I know that seems unbelievably banal, but for me it’s the only way I can work. Even if I have an idea of a good composition, I want the machine—and in Black Mirror at the National Gallery this means the camera, the mirror, the apparatus that carries the mirror and moves it through the space, and even the space itself—to come up with a composition through a collaborative exercise. The idea that the machine already has these possibilities programmed inside of it is something that feels right to me.

The film deals with a black mirror designed by Martin Szekely, and it literally plots the movement of this mirror as it travels through three of the small galleries in London’s National Gallery, in the rooms devoted to Dutch landscapes. The black mirror is mounted on a large cinematographic motion control machine, and the camera is mounted on a similar machine. These two machines have a balletic pas de deux in the galleries as they move. The mirror eventually finds an image of interest, and that picture, like the mirror itself, is circular. In a way, I thought of that work—Hendrick Avercamp’s 1608–1609 A Winter Scene with Skaters near a Castle—as the mirror’s doppelgänger, that in this picture it might find something of itself.

In general, we share a sense of what a good composition might look like. For Black Mirror, I thought of the historical relationship the idea of the “good composition” has to the Claude glass. The Claude glass was an instrument that was supposed to reveal a good composition out of a mass of detail. Painters in the nineteenth century were advised to hold this black glass up to a landscape and the condensed, reflected image would reveal whether or not you had a good composition. The point is that the mirror reduced the image.

When we started to shoot at the National Gallery, I wasn’t absolutely sure how the film was going to play out. I knew what the ending was going to be, and I knew more or less what the beginning was, and then I wanted to see what would happen when the mirror and camera started to move around. I did a lot of articulations and feints and eventually settled on the camera move that you see. I tried to imagine that if the mirror—and it’s very similar to the things I’ve imagined for previous films—if the mirror had a kind of consciousness, or a kind of sense of itself in relationship to other things, what would it look at? And I guess that it would skirt over most of the paintings, because it didn’t recognize them or had no interest in them or whatever. The mirror looks at the Vermeer for a while, and it looks at one or two of the other paintings, but in the end the only one it really looks at is Avercamp’s. In fact, what I think it does in the end is make a new composition out of that work and of the two other paintings that are on either side. It creates a kind of pictorial coherence that it didn’t know it was going to find.

— As told to Aaron Peck

Left: Jonathan Lasker, Idiot Savant (detail), 1983, oil on canvas, 78 1/3 x 53 1/2“. Right: Jonathan Lasker, Heavy Mental, 1985, oil on canvas, 71 x 71”.

For the past thirty years, Jonathan Lasker has been committed to producing bold and enigmatic abstract paintings. His current show at Timothy Taylor Gallery in London, which he discusses here, presents a gathering of his works from the 1980s. The show is on view until December 23.

LOOKING OVER THE EIGHT WORKS IN THIS SHOW, I found myself reflecting on who I was both as a person and as a painter between 1983 and 1992 and also thinking about what the surrounding context was like when I made them. Trying to assess that period of time gives me an unsettling feeling of reinhabiting my own past self, as well as the historical past.

In retrospect, I realize that many of the paintings in the show either became seminal for me or they were made in the early stages of one breakthrough or another in my work. Idiot Savant, for example, was one of the first paintings in which I conflated Pop imagery with gestural painting elements. Blobscape comes forward as the picture in which I first used scribbling as a background motif, which is something I have done in many subsequent pictures. Both of these paintings were important to me at the time, in helping to expand the discursive nature of my work.

In an archaeological sense, seeing Heavy Mental again also helped me to find my buried past self as a painter. This painting has rectilinear bars, which were thickly painted with a palette knife, in its background motif. Upon close inspection I noticed traces of maroon paint on the edges of these bars. That was part of an underpainting on the ground of the painting around the bars. On top of this I added silver paint, which was scumbled over with isolated brushstrokes of gold. The traces of maroon hue were intended to be evidence of painting process. In the intervening years I had almost forgotten that this is something I had done in many of my paintings. I experienced it as an intriguing atavism, which remains in the genes of my work.

I also realized how truly experimental this thing we call “context” really is. For instance, Idiot Savant has had a very checkered contextual biography. It was first exhibited in 1984 at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery in New York in a three-person group exhibition titled “Fact and Fiction.” The other artists in the show were Thomas Nozkowski and Gary Stephan. This exhibition was involved with the dichotomy between pictorial and material space in painting—in other words, between fact and fiction. In 1987, however, an image of this painting was published in “NY Art Now: the Saatchi Collection.” Some of the artists in this grouping were Jeff Koons, Allan McCollum, Peter Halley, Haim Steinbach, and Philip Taaffe. The discourse applied to that group of artists involved issues such as consumer culture, appropriation, and signification. In between these two exhibitions Idiot Savant was also exhibited in my first solo exhibition at Michael Werner’s gallery in Cologne in 1986. Werner was best known as the dealer who developed the careers of Georg Baselitz, Jörg Immendorff, Markus Lüpertz, etc, who were considered to be neo-expressionists. This third context did not shape the reception of my work, nor was it intended to. If anything, it enhanced the sense of otherness of my work. But to this day, my work continues to have the odd distinction of being contextualized in two discourses that normally function in mutual exclusion of one another in art, namely the discourse that involves space in painting and the one involving signification in visual art.

— As told to Sherman Sam

Helene Winer


William Wegman's untitled photographs of Helene Winer in his San Pedro studio with still life props from the California State University, Long Beach, art department, 1970. Courtesy of Helene Winer.

From 1970 to 1972, Helene Winer directed the Pomona College Museum of Art, organizing Jack Goldstein’s and William Wegman’s first solo shows, among other important exhibitions. With Janelle Reiring, Winer opened Metro Pictures gallery in 1980. “It Happened at Pomona: Part Two, Helene Winer at Pomona” is the second exhibition in a series of three about the museum; the first illuminated Hal Glicksman’s curatorial work in the late 1960s. The show, sponsored in part by the Getty’s “Pacific Standard Time” initiative, closes on February 19.

FOR THE EXHIBITIONS AT POMONA, I was primarily looking for new work that reflected my own interest in the Conceptual art I had become acquainted with while living in London, where I was assistant director of Whitechapel Gallery. Before leaving Los Angeles and after two years as a curatorial assistant at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, I was most familiar with the generation of artists now identified as being part of Light and Space, or Cool School, as well as with the concurrent, funky assemblage works of the Topanga artists: George Herms, Wallace Berman, and Ed Kienholz. The subsequent generation of artists I showed at Pomona included Allen Ruppersberg, William Leavitt, and Bas Jan Ader, along with John Baldessari and the artists and students associated with him at CalArts, like Jack Goldstein and Wolfgang Stoerchle, and others such as Chris Burden and William Wegman. But I also curated shows with Joe Goode’s staircases and John McCracken’s wall planks, which represented to me the preceding artists whose work I remained attached to.

There is an element present in all of their works that became indicative of a hybrid Los Angeles Conceptualism that made use of prominent and quirky visual material, theatricality, and humor. These artists strayed from the tightly scripted parameters of the New York Conceptualists, and without declaration they adapted the intellectual and cultural environment of the area.

There isn’t another art center that has a more exaggerated fictional identity and seductive romanticized environment than Los Angeles. Ed Ruscha in many ways exemplifies the direction that subsequent artists would take. His treatment of text as graphic design on neutral-surfaced paintings, in addition to his books, photographs, and films—combined with his glamorous persona—lent attitude and stance to the image of an artist, one decidedly not from New York or Europe. In an interesting evolutionary path, Ruscha’s artist persona along with Billy Al Bengston’s and Larry Bell’s, contributed to the expanded vocabulary of the Conceptual artists who came after.

Recent discussions generated by “Pacific Standard Time” have focused on the Light and Space artists, who supposedly drew from new materials of the local aerospace industry and car culture, as well as the city’s characteristic luminosity and environment. At the same time, there is little made of the intellectual presence of writers—European postwar immigrants, authors, detective writers, the technical expertise of the film and television communities. This aspect of the city contributed to the more entertaining Conceptualism of the artists I worked with and it aligns with my own experience of growing up there. My most memorable childhood outings involved visits to Western movie towns open to the public, convincing my parents to drive to Culver City studios to look for the enormous painted skies used as film backdrops, or parking alongside the El Segundo dunes to watch Ben Hur’s chariot races being filmed. In fact, I scheduled an exhibition at Pomona of California landscape painters from the 1920s, all of whom had jobs painting backdrops for Hollywood studios. The announcement card showed just that.

— As told to Lauren O’Neill-Butler

Left: Tania BrugueraAwareness Ribbon for Immigrant Respect Campaign, 2011. Right: First public reading of the Migrant Manifesto at the United Nations Student Conference on Human Rights, December 2, 2011.

Tania Bruguera is an artist whose work explores the role art can play in daily political life. For the past year she has worked with Creative Time and the Queens Museum of Art on her project Immigrant Movement International, which seeks to redefine the immigrant as a global citizen and to stimulate artists to create work that can be actively implemented into social, political, and scientific issues. As part of her project, Bruguera has planned a worldwide open call for artists’ actions to take place at 2 PM on December 18th, designated International Migrants Day by the United Nations.

WHEN DREAMS ARE CAST ASIDE AS IMPOSSIBLE, when social promises become utopia, when equality is co-opted, this is the point at which my art begins. By creating a parallel universe where daily affairs can unfold differently, my work functions as an exercise in accountability—people are forced to confront the “what if” moment. Behavior is the way through which my work communicates, and facts are my metaphors. Art becomes political when it achieves actual results: Politics are not a subject in my work but the material I use to create. As reality functions as my field of action, I employ art institutions as spaces from which to propose models of civil society—a place of education, where people can allow themselves the room to think and consider a different future. In my work, education is the process of learning how to redirect failure and frustration back into society: Failure is an operative and tactical element that has to be repurposed.

IM International began when I was living in Paris in 2005. It was clear to me then (and now) that the ability to move freely between nations is a hallmark of progress; however, it is treated like a special right available only to privileged few. Those in power have degraded human existence by enforcing laws that obstruct the movement of immigrants—laws that run counter to the ideals of an enlightened society. In Paris the outcome of the riots in that year was too intense for me to seclude myself in a purely fictitious dream space where this was not happening. Reality and dreams had to work for each other: Art for me has to be able to implement dreams. It was at this time that I first identified as an immigrant. I felt impotent and realized I had no other resource but art to address this situation; therefore, art had to be useful.

I decided then to create the Party of Migrant People, now IM International. Immigrant rights is for the twenty-first century what civil rights was for the twentieth century and what slavery’s abolition was for the nineteenth century—a means of eliminating an obsolete irrationality. For me, political art is working with the consequences: This project explores the way art can be part of the decision-making process in politics and operate in the realm of the political present tense instead of acting as commentator after the fact—as the news does, for instance. A vast majority of artists are immigrants themselves, and artists have a better networking support system than most immigrant groups. Thus on December 18, we are calling for artists who are not from the place where they live to identify themselves as immigrants and demonstrate with a simple action the need to respect immigrants and defend immigrant rights. People must do what their governments are not doing. My aspiration for this project is to exceed the art context and act as an exercise in civil society. My aspiration is not for everybody to become an artist but that all artists use the powerful tools they have to become responsible citizens. Herein, I am not an author or an artist but an initiator, commencing a project with the hope that it will become common property, and incorporating the creative process to advance the chances that immigration will become a collective, inalienable right.

— As told to Zachary Cahill

From left: Lydia, Lovey Guerrero as Santa, and Ann Liv Young as Sherry. (Photo: Michael A. Guerrero)

Since graduating from Hollins University’s dance program in 2003, Ann Liv Young has riled and thrilled audiences with her performances. Integrating music, movement, and direct engagement, in recent years Young has begun to make work that leans more toward improvisation than choreography. Here the artist discusses her alter ego Sherry, the subject of a “mid-career retrospective” (in Young’s first solo gallery exhibition). “Sherry Is Present” opens at Louis B. James in New York on December 7.

“SHERRY” IS A TOOL that I made when I was pregnant. I thought, “How am I going to make art and support a child?” I decided that if I made something indestructible then I could do it. And it really is working, which is amazing. Sherry is indestructible. Her show cannot be ruined. There’s this idea in theater that we have to impress the journalists and that people have to like the performance. And Sherry’s just like, “Fuck all of you. This is my show.”

Sherry is clear and direct. She acts like a mirror to whoever she’s looking at and she wakes people up. If I were to go out onstage as myself and try to do what Sherry does, I don’t think it would work. I’ve learned how to communicate by pretending to be this other person. She’s a sculpture. And she’s so kinesthetic. She reels people in with her costume and movements. I studied dance for a long time, so I’m hyperaware of where I am in space—where my head is, where my pelvis is. I’m very particular about Sherry’s mannerisms. It’s not so much that I can’t say what I need to say as myself; it’s that I need Sherry to make people listen to what I have to say.

During my show at the “Politics in Free Theater” festival in Dresden in October, there was a woman who looked angry and totally put off. I asked her, “What’s wrong with you?” and her response to me was: “I feel sorry for you.”

“Oh, do you really?” I said. “I feel sorry for you. Why don’t you leave if you hate this show so much?”

“I have to be here for my job,” she said. “You need me.”

It turned out she was hinting that she was a juror for a contest I didn’t even know about, that awarded fifteen thousand euros to three of the sixteen artists in the festival. Had I known about the contest I definitely would have said I didn’t want to be part of it.

She became the crux of the show and I was really hard on her. The other jurors told me later that they were considering me for the prize until I pissed her off so much. But it was so important for Sherry to be able to speak directly to this woman and say, “What is wrong with this picture that you think that I need you? You need me, because I am helping you so much more than you’ll ever help me.” The art world is full of people that think that they have the authority to say, “This is good, this is bad. This is art, this is not. This is worth fifty thousand dollars, this is worth nothing.” Sherry goes deep into those problems and tries to tear them apart.

I used to make work that was so rehearsed I wasn’t living my life. My performances were so much about perfection and everything was choreographed, down to the blinking of the eyes. I would have dreams that the blinks would be off and I would flip out on the dancers. I realized that was not OK. So I started going in a different direction. I wanted to make a show that I didn’t have to rehearse, with no preparation other than me living in the world. And I’ve lived in the world long enough to know what I want to say. So all of the Sherry shows are pretty much improvised.

Sherry is a good person with good intentions. A big part of her work is helping people, and at Louis B. James she’ll be doing one-on-one and couples therapy. She’s throwing a tree-trimming party for old people, where Sherry will teach them how to trim their bush. And she’s doing a Christmas lecture and a post-Christmas performance dealing with holiday stress. If you didn’t get what you wanted you can bring in those gifts and exchange them for things that Sherry has, or for other people’s things. She’s also having a bake sale in front of the gallery where she’ll sell her homemade lattés and cakes.

Mostly she’ll be selling her sculptures, which consist of her used items—wigs, heels, nails, and tampons—in Plexiglas boxes. Sherry believes these objects are good for people. She gives people specific, personal instructions, like, “Take the top off of the box at 6 PM every night and smell the object. This will enlighten you to become a better person.” In some ways she’s like a traveling salesman, because she is a bit of a swindler. But she also really believes that her sculptures are tools to help people become better. They’re mementos of their experience with her and they’re her way of saying, “This experience is never going to leave you. I’m so important to you, whether you know it right now or not.” Because that’s the thing: Even when people hate the work, it still changes their lives. It’s direct and potent and like something they’ve never experienced, no matter how much they try to get away from it.

— As told to Miriam Katz