At the invitation of Mobius’ Director Daniel DeLuca, artist Kevin Clancy embarked on We Are Responsible for Our Dreams, a nomadic three-week residency through Cambridge, Boston, Worcester, Providence, New York and Martha’s Vineyard lasting the month of July. The newest development in Clancy’s work dedicated to portable spaces and utopic visions, We are Responsible for Our Dreams involved a series of events in homes, studios, public spaces, galleries and secret spots facilitated in, on or around a 21’ x 21’ hand-sewn blanket. Each "Dream Session" was conceived in collaboration with a colleague, creating multiple opportunities for participants to consider their relationship to their dreams through conversation, experience or slumber.
Leading up to the residency Clancy, a MassArt alumnus, reached out to his network in search of artistic partners to host Dream Sessions. An energy began to build from even these preliminary conversations, as we discussed our literal dreams, dreams for our future, our friends, our city and society. Clancy’s contact information was passed on among colleagues, the project developing through the influence of a growing number of participants even after he arrived in Boston. The project’s conceptual structure proved to be as flexible as the object itself, allowing the traveling think-space to appear exactly where and when it was needed.
With the majority of events taking place in the Boston-area, the presence and effect of this adaptable new space was especially radiant here. I found myself meeting new people at each happening, while simultaneously having repeated experiences with individuals who attended multiple events. Our conversations were growing from site to site, becoming layered and complex. At its core, We Are Responsible for Our Dreams, was a series of thoughtful opportunities to connect; an informal, yet purposeful format where relationships were sparked, fostered and maintained.
The opening event at Mobius on July 4th operated as an orientation to the new meeting space. The large, quilted fort enveloped most of the gallery’s interior; coming into the gallery space I was met with what would become the common sight of Clancy’s suitcase in which the blanket traveled and a pile of shoes. Conversation flowed easily in the enclosed environment, old friends reconnected and new introductions were made. Artist Danielle Freiman introduced herself to me early on, commenting on how many mutual connections we had and the irony that we hadn’t met sooner-we would meet again multiple times over the course of the residency developing our own friendship. I found myself in a meaningful conversation with MassArt faculty Nance Davies about the nuances of educating college-aged artists, while nibbling on cacao chips brought by performer Zayde Buti. The snack was a reminder for some of Buti’s recent performance at Boston University’s 808 Gallery during the Mobius/808 Infuse Benefit Fundraiser: artist Nathan Mondragon commented on the intoxicating nature of the health shakes that Buti had served during that event. Before I left, Buti and I, who have been friends and colleagues for years now, agreed that we needed to get together more often and made a pact to connect again soon. Clancy’s intentions for the project emerged naturally through conversation, and he gracefully managed a balance between flow and facilitation by observing the energies around him while remaining present, dropping in and out of conversations with ease. Throughout the month we would be both formally and informally reminded of what it was that we were all there to do.
Welcome 2 The Beach, a session hosted by artist Kara Stokowski at her Jamaica Plain residence on July 7th was described as an opportunity for guests to join each other around a bonfire and burn items from the past in order to make space for the dreams of the future. The blanket fort glowed like an enormous lantern in the dimly lit basement, its interior littered with bills, greeting cards and DJ Dayglow set lists from Stokowski’s past. Through a set of cellar doors leading to the backyard Stokowski prepared the fire, sharing stories of her experiences of failed utopias and inviting participants to take her personal items from the blanket fort to the fire had they not brought their own. The event was also meant to ring in a new era for the Centre Street location, formally known as the Bathaus. Former residents and participants of the well-known arthaus reflected quietly on years spent in the space. Artist Maria Molteni, who had been a staple within the Bathaus community, was not able to be in attendance and offered in her absence symbolic candles she had retrieved from the Philippines for three of us to burn. Towards the end of the event songwriter Gina Alibrio threw an unopened copy of her last album in the fire while artist Sydney Kinchen burned page after page of an old sketchbook. Most people went home and a few dreamers called it a night and headed to bed inside the fort.
Is it Possible to be a revolutionary and like flowers?, Rose Kennedy Greenway, July 15, 2014
On July 15th a Dream Session entitled Is it Possible to be a revolutionary and like flowers?: A rush hour picnic was hosted by Maria Molteni in a large swatch of land behind the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy building. Encircled by highways running north and south in the distance, a surreal energy spun around a small group of participants sitting on the large blanket. Molteni offered experiences with activism as a starting point for our conversation, nimbly relating it to her renewed interest with abstraction. We shared our experiences and interests in relation to quotes from Agnes Martin’s The Untroubled Mind, attempting to identify when we are looking in versus looking out in our creative practices. We discussed the relationship between the arts and the Occupy movement, what is politicized about our art and what’s not, wondering if an artist can simply "make art"; we touched on learning, art as therapy and the entrepreneurism of an artful life. In the end, we each held a section of the blanket, threw it up over our heads and circled around. I knew many of the cars stuck in traffic around us were watching, and I would leave that day feeling a renewed perspective on the role of the artist in society.
As the Picó Picante three-year anniversary at The Goodlife came to an end at 2:00AM on July 19th, resident DJ Ultratumba (artist Ethan Kiermaier) hosted EVERYBODY’S LOOKING FOR SOMETHING at Boston’s Long Wharf. The blanket was set down near the water where Kiermaier would live mix the chorus to the Eurythmics "Sweet Dreams" until the sun came up. Participants were encouraged to chant the lyrics together, a microphone passed around to individuals whose voices were altered and looped into the soundscape. Picó Picante’s DJ Riobamba (ethnomusicologist Sara Skolnick) and Tijuana-based musicians Los Macuanos who had closed out the party earlier were in attendance, along with Clancy, Stokowski, Daniel DeLuca, artist Tom Maio and an ebb and flow of others. The environment was both beautiful and alien, facing the harbor the blanket was set up between a gathering of teenagers and a group of individuals hanging out and sleeping underneath a boathouse. A woman who has been in the boathouse joined us: intense but friendly, she was tickled by the experience that was unfolding before her. She took a turn on the mic and created a powerful loop with Kiermaier. Around 6:00AM we cleared off the blanket, again throwing it up in the air, our collaborator from the boathouse joining us again for the closing ceremony.
Later, July 19th, I hosted Being Responsible at my studio in Hyde Park to bring people together in what MC and Community Organizer Mars Jupiter described as a "retreat-like" atmosphere. A group of artists were invited to socialize, dream and write amongst each other, on the theme of personal art histories. Guests arrived around 10:00PM and a beautiful din of conversation and laughter quickly arose among people who were in many cases meeting for the first time. Just before midnight, Clancy and I invited guests inside the fort to say thank you and reintroduce the concept of the event: once we were tired we would sleep underneath the structure and then wake-up to write together. In the morning, beginning with writing prompts and then moving into free writing, participants were encouraged to consider what parts of their artistic story they wanted to make sure the world knew about long after they were gone. While the conversation that followed our hour of writing ranged from professional practice, artistic practice, triumphs, mentors and challenges, many individuals reflected on moments of great connection among peers and the need for that experience today. Guests left looking forward to coming together again, to the opportunity to revisit these new contacts and conversations, an effort that in order to continue, would have to take place without Clancy’s intervention.
We Are Responsible for Our Dreams was a masterfully crafted example of the power of reflection and informality to create space for individuals to learn with and through one another. The conversation and experience-based format was enhanced by repeated encounters with the artistic learning environment of the blanket and its participants, providing an opportunity for deep learning and the development of relationships. If the artist is a learner and the artistic community is a learning community, then being responsible for our dreams means coming together to share knowledge. We should be grateful to Kevin Clancy for initiating so many occasions for us to convene with one another and decide how it is we continue to bring our dreams to reality in the absence of the artist and his mystic blanket fort.