COCOON is a series of public space sculptures I’m building at sites around the world that have traumatic histories and conflicting narratives.
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.
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 fourth iteration of Cocoon was realized in the Goutte d'Or neighborhood in 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, trying to make it from somewhere else, often Eastern Europe, to other places in Europe or the United States. During the time of Cocoon, sections of the Goutte d’Or were routinely patrolled by national riot police. As in nearby suburbs, the residents and police sporadically clashed in small and occasionally larger confrontations.
I organized in the neighborhood and nearby suburbs for two years, during which time more than 300 people participated in Cocoon workshops, making a personal Cocoon and sharing their histories and dreams. The final build commenced in late September, culminating on October 4, 2014, with the ceremonial procession of the skin and the illumination of the sculpture in Square Leon.
I'm currently working in the Bronx, NY, on the fifth Cocoon.
Since mid-2016 I have been organizing and holding workshops in three neighboring public-housing complexes: Jackson Houses, Melrose Houses, and Morrisania Air Rights. Jackson was completed in the early 1950s, Melrose in the early 1960s and Morriansia in the early 1980s. All together the three complexes account for more than 2,700 apartments in 18 buildings. The final build is scheduled for Spring/Summer 2018.
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.