Artist Jake Fernandez will voluntarily enter a small windowless cell for 7 days and 16 hours to experience the effects of limited sensory deprivation. There will be no human contact, no clock, phone, tv, radio, internet, music, or books, only silence and his own imagination. With no refrigeration, he will take all food and water upon entry. A cot, table, chair, lighting, and a 4'x4' private restroom will be provided. The artist will have paper and pencils to create drawings, or not. This is an experiment, and can be observed from midnight, Saturday March 22 through Sunday, March 30 via live video feed.
There will be a talk and Q and A with the artist about his experience upon his exit at 4:00 on Sunday March 30th at Art and History Museums - Maitland. Open to the public.
SEVEN DAYS and SIXTEEN HOURS in PARCHMAN FARM A Performance - Installation by Jake Fernandez at The Museum of Art and History -Maitland www.artandhistory.org March 23 through March 30, 2014
In the spirit of cooperation and good humor I will do what is fashionable and offer an “explanation” about this work of art. In other words I shall proceed to cut my own throat with the proverbial dull knife (metaphorically speaking of course).
As an artist who deals with perceptual phenomena the idea of working in a closed space, with no human contact for a prolonged period of time, is intriguing to me. For a long time I have had a curiosity about Dr. John C. Lilly's research on the nature of consciousness and sensory deprivation. The idea of being unaware of time and living in total isolation seems like a worthwhile condition to explore, particularly for an artist.
The title Seven Days and 16 hours in Parchman Farm is based on my inexplicable fascination with the infamous Mississippi prison. The seven day time frame was agreed upon by myself and the museum curator. The additional sixteen hours were included in memory of Bucky, a homeless man living in a junkyard in Brooklyn and whose obsession surrounding the number sixteen sparked my imagination.
I seek to shelter and shield myself from an increasingly complex world (even if only temporarily). I like for improbable things to manifest, transpire and take physical form. This is my current and narrow interest in this undefinable field called “art”. The fact that I've never been incarcerated and that I agreed to write this statement is proof positive that rare occurrences are indeed possible.
As to specifics, there will be no visual or spoken contact with anyone. I will not have a window to the outside or a point of reference to time. I will take my own food and water; there will be no refrigeration. I have bathroom facilities and a sink, but no shower; a cot to sleep on, and a table and chair, and electricity for a light. I will not have a cell phone, music, or books. I will have pencils and paper. And silence. The Museum will have a live camera feed of the performance for the duration.
I am approaching this project without fixed expectations. No one can foretell what will take place or materialize during this period of confinement. Like Miles Davis said “You can't play the future”.
I will talk after the project is over, provided I'm mentally and physically able. Please understand that this is about aesthetics; any relation to politics, commerce, or religion are merely coincidental or simply in your imagination. According to Joseph Campbell “the spirit of the sacred place is Shiva dancing, where all responsibility is cast off”, so for 184 hours I'll cast off all responsibility and watch Shiva cut the rug.
Why should criminals and mystics be the only ones to have the privilege to experience the possibilities of solitude?
With Love and Enthusiasm, Jake Fernandez 2014
DURING THE PROJECT:
There were two live video feeds for the 184 hour duration of the Project. They were focused focused on the room and the work table. The Artist had no paint, only paper and pencils, and no specific plan or visual points of reference other than the windowless room and his own imagination.
SCREENSHOT FROM LIVE FEED OF ARTIST'S ISOLATION CELL:
IN CONCLUSION, THE EXPERIENCE:
I considered the experience worthwhile. It was not psychologically stressful, as most predicted, although I had to deal with some practical problems that were not anticipated, like oxygen depletion, non-stop mechanical sounds, and 12 spot lights that were never turned off.
I learned that it’s easy for me to be silent. I learned that I became hyper-sensitive to stimuli under these conditions. I learned the importance of maintaining a positive attitude since my emotional reaction to things also magnified. I learned that in spite of the above practical problems, I was still able to draw. And most importantly, I walked out with a better understanding of what it’s like to be imprisoned and with a heightened sense of empathy and compassion towards (all) my fellow man. I sincerely hope this carries over.
For All to See: The Studio as Solitary Confinement
by Tony Labat Chair, Master of Fine Arts Department, New Genres San Francisco Art Institute
"When the prisoners arrived at Parchman Farm, they were stripped of their clothing, and given a tee shirt and loose-fitting boxer shorts... no more. It was the beginning of many steps to try to intimidate and humiliate the prisoners. They were denied most basic items, such as pencils and paper.”
There’s a long history of artists relocating, transplanting and ultimately re-contextualizing their studio -- occupying, if you will, their use/activity within the institutional art context -- and within this lineage is the new work Seven Days and Sixteen Hours in Parchman Farm by Jake Fernandez. Artists have undertaken this pursuit to various degrees for different reasons and intentions; some seeking to put themselves in a situation for unknown enlightenment and transcendence, to chart unknown territories, to address the political in relation to institutional critique. And sometimes, it is a personal experience totally inaccessible to the viewer, as the experience of the work only belongs to the artist; we are left to be voyeurs and in the process challenged to find our own meaning that may suit our experience of the work, a metaphor, a lesson, a reminder.
In this case, the artist relocates not his physical studio, but the idea of the studio conceptually as a space for incarceration, deprivation, and isolation. It is not the isolation in the romantic sense of the studio, aimed at the production of an object but instead isolation aimed at the production of a transformative experience, void of stimulus, or any kind of external input, a different kind of romance. No phone, media, books, etc., except paper and pencils. There’s no expectation as to what is going to come out in terms of output, the sheets of paper may be blank at the end.
The artist also makes references to incarceration, to solitary confinement, and to a particular Penitentiary in the South. These are not easy dots to connect within the context we are given in the performance. How does this particular place, Parchman Farm, and its history relate to the work? How does solitary confinement, which is used for punishment, transcend into a time and space for reflection and enlightenment? The action is self-imposed. How does penance fit into this equation?
These questions could start to multiply and the attempt at answers may lead us nowhere, as this is a personal and intuitive work that is primarily based on the transformative experience of the artist. This then leads to one of the most interesting aspects of this composition, the live-feed.
I can see people close to the artist being concerned and wanting to keep an eye on him, like a prisoner on suicide watch, but for the rest of us trying to objectively engage and find an entry into the work, it begs the question of why we would want -- or should want -- to participate by watching? What did the artist hope to accomplish by offering this option? He may not have a real/physical window, but he has constructed and made available a virtual window for voyeurs, guards, and peeping toms to participate and join in. This leads to the garment that the artist is planning to wear, made out of vintage cotton sacks. If we see this suit as a costume, it brings into play the theatricality involved in the consideration of the window, the live-feed. It is an acknowledgement of the viewer as audience in the theatrical sense. It is a muddy and muddled intersection between theater and performance, and between private and public. In this reflection of contemporary reality, the narcissistic nature of social media comes to mind. The artist has designed a work that exists within the intersection of art as spiritual pursuit and narcissistic behavior in Internet culture today.
As I write this, Jake has not stepped into the room yet. I can only speculate that when the door opens and he comes out it will be very dramatic, the culmination of a commitment that guaranteed nothing, just the act, but that moment, when he steps outside, may be what it is all about…it all belongs to him. How much he will be willing or able to share with us becomes irrelevant. How many drawings or writings come out from those papers and pencils is also irrelevant. One thing will be for sure, that Jake Fernandez has given us a work of art that has proposed many questions, putting a mirror to the viewer, and inadvertently or not challenged the patronage to reconsider the relationship between what an artist does vs. what an artist makes. As the artist puts it, “I seek to shield myself from an increasingly complex world.” And, after all, it is the role of the artist to make the inexplicable visible.