COCOON is a series of public space sculptures I’m building at sites around the world that have traumatic histories and conflicting narratives.
In all locations I collaborate with local people who, in addition to building the large Cocoon, also create a little Cocoon from the everyday things that they might find in their purse or pocket. I interview and record each participant about what their cocoon represents. Their recorded testimony is heard inside the finished sculpture. Each participant poses for a portrait with their individual cocoon.
The project culminates in a ceremonial procession: Participants carry sections of the skin from an historic location, past communal memory points, ending at the Cocoon site. There people wrap the skeleton with the skin, completing the sculpture. That same evening the sculpture is illuminated and voices of its builders heard.
The first Cocoon was created in the Tlatelolco neighborhood of Mexico City in 2010, in the plaza where the Aztec lost their final battle against the Spanish, and where in 1968 government forces massacred a still-unknown number of people at a democracy protest.
Later that year I built a Cocoon in Greenwood, a small town in the Mississippi Delta that was a cotton capital both before and after the Civil War, and the scene of intense Civil Rights organizing in the 1960s. In 2012, I created a Cocoon in the state’s capital, Jackson, in the Mississippi Museum of Art’s new public art garden that sits on the site of a former bus station, where Freedom Riders were arrested in 1961.
The fourth iteration of Cocoon was realized in the Goutte d'Or neighborhood of Paris in 2014. The Goutte d’Or is located in the 18th arrondissement, just east of Montmartre. The neighborhood has a long history as a destination for immigrants from France's colonies in north and west Africa. Today the neighborhood is also a waypoint for people traveling without papers.
Bronx NYC 2018
The fifth Cocoon was realized in May 2018 in three neighboring public-housing complexes in the South Bronx: Andrew Jackson Houses, Melrose Houses, and Morrisania Air Rights. In all locations, the stories shared by Cocoon participants tend to cohere around the neighborhood's dominant historical narratives. But nowhere that I've worked has the community spoken so consistently around one single topic as these people did about gun violence.
I am an artist, writer and director.
I began incorporating large-scale public-space sculptures into my theater with the COCOON prototype in 2008. When completed, the Cocoon project will span more a dozen sites around the world.
My theatrical productions include: MOTHS, a co-creation with lighting designer Alison Brummer (2008); Animal Within (P.S. 122, NYC, 2003); reworkingCassandra (Gateway Theatre NY, Edinburgh Fringe, 2001); Needles (New York Performance Works, NYC, 1999); The Lost Tensions (Rose Art Museum, Boston, 1998);The Cassandra Project (Blue Print Series at Ontological-Hysteric Theater, NYC, 1996), andThe Big Window (Women’s Project, NYC, 1995; Theatre Workshop, Edinburgh Fringe, 1994).
Thanks to ongoing and past support from Open Society, the US Embassy in Paris, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Mississippi Museum of Art, Yaddo, the Rose Art Museum, and the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Art.
I grew up in rural Pennsylvania, graduated from Hampshire College, and now live in New York City with my husband and daughter.