Installation--Action Installations

From David Wojnarowicz Knowledge Base
Jump to: navigation, search

In 1979, Wojnarowicz collaborated with 3 Teens Kill 4 bandmate Julie Hair to plan and construct a series of “action installations,” which he defined as “illegal actions that were an attempt to shake up the notions of ‘art’ and ‘culture’ that most galleries intentionally ignored.” [1] At the time, Wojnarowicz was spray-painting stenciled imagery in the streets of Soho and the Lower East Side, activity that is often included under the rubric “action installations.” Most of the “action installations” with Julie Hair went unrealized—including a plan to stage a firing squad at Macy’s department store and photograph the reactions. One action that was realized was at Leo Castelli Gallery in 1980, where they filled the stairwell with cow bones and spray-painted stenciled imagery on the walls. Wojnarowicz’s unauthorized contribution to PS1’s 1982 Beast: Animal Imagery in Recent Painting, in which he released dozens of live "cockabunnies" (cockroaches with rabbit ears and tails glued to them), was also retroactively labeled an “action installation.” The common thread amongst these works was their status as political gestures aimed squarely at what Wojnarowicz saw as the hypocrisy of the art world at that time.

Media and techniques

The stencils were made out of cut paper. Wojnarowicz used commercial spray-paint in order to quickly apply the stenciled imagery onto surfaces including trashcans, walls, gallery doors, cars, and other street detritus. Wojnarowicz often worked with partner who could serve as lookout. [2]

For Hunger, Hair and Wojnarowicz sourced cow bones from a meatpacker on West 14th Street. Wojnarowicz and Hair then shrink-wrapped the bones at the frame shop where Hair was working at that time. According to Hair, this was to convey “a more sculptural presence.” [3]

For Cockabunnies, Wojnarowicz caught live cockroaches, and affixed a cotton ball tail using a dab of glue, and paper cutout ears using string [4]

Conservation and display

None of the “action installations” have been recreated. Aside from stencils [5] there is no extant material.

Selected works

Hunger, with Julie Hair, 1980, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, NY

Cockabunnies, 1982, P.S. 1, Long Island City, NY