Word on the Street [Spring Edition]

Laurie Anderson, House of Trees, Naomi Shihab Nye, Tania Bruguera, A.M. Homes

The Watermill Center

House of Trees arts collective is dedicated to the transformative effects of contemporary art through the creation and production of dynamic, site-specific, public art projects. Each project incorporates a variety of artistic practices, including installation, textile art, sculpture, video, and performance art, among others. House of Trees seeks to create work that is part of our personal and political conversations nationwide and internationally, bringing together artists and institutions to collectively explore and expose deeper ways of connecting through artmaking.

"We originally created the project Word on the Street as a series of protest banners used in the Women's March 2017, responding to the tumultuous political climate. We use the form of the protest banner as a platform for poetic language and imagery that exists both as an institutional art and a resistance object in the streets. We are working to collapse space between the institution and the street, breaking down the invisible societal wall between politics and art. This project in Times Square was a chance to challenge commercial culture with its own weapons, through co-opting public advertising space to install the imagery and language of resistance. We are waking up to the truth that all expression, choice, action or lack of action is an act of politics." 

- House of Trees

For Word on the Street [Spring Edition], renowned female artists and writers collaborate to put artistry into action, addressing urgent political concerns using poetic banners and signage. Each original artwork is fabricated in felt in collaboration with female refugees based in Texas, then photographed and printed for outdoor installation on street-pole banners and “Bigbelly” solar-powered receptacles in Times Square. The signs constitute a series of poetic, political works that speak directly to the moment. Because the banners across all iterations of the project are made at different times, they take on an archival quality, responding to and capturing their own particular political junctures.

"Thoughts, fleeting and fragmentary - slogans, catch-phrases and images give us pause, prompt us to think (differently), re-frame the moment. These banners raise questions, entertain, provoke, they ask those passing by to engage, to respond, to stay active." 

- A.M. Homes

The project's deployment throughout Times Square seeks to create a network of visually disseminated texts that help articulate, support, and empower positive responses to the ever-changing social and political landscape.

“It’s important to sum things up sometimes.
And it’s hard to do that succinctly - to create
something challenging using very few words.
And it’s easy to fall into the style of ads and
slogans that only ask you to agree with them.

The banner project is an ambitious program that will hopefully
inspire the people who just happen to pass by and look up.” 

- Laurie Anderson

Word on the Street [Spring Edition] is part of a yearlong collaboration between Times Square Arts and House of Trees, and a larger Word on the Street project with recent iterations at Socrates Sculpture Park and The Watermill Center. From August 2017 to February 2018, the Word on the Street {Fall Edition] exhibited works in Times Square by Anne Carson + Amy Khoshbin, Carrie Mae Weems, and Wangechi Mutu. Other events in the series include opportunities for public participation - Workshop on the Street and Workshop on the Street: May Day - and an artist talk - Artists Take the Street! – featuring Tania Bruguera, A.M. Homes and Amy Khoshbin.

In association with Times Square Arts and House of Trees, Word on the Street at The Watermill Center will be the first viewing of all original refugee-fabricated banners by Word on the Stre et collaborators. The exhibition will open during the Hampton Arts Network's inaugural THAW Fest March 23rd - 25th and remain on view through April 17th, 2018; and will feature performances by Inga Maren Otto Fellows Anne Carson and Tania Bruguera, as well as a banner-making workshop led by House of Trees.

"Given the times in which we live it is important that institutions stand up and support one another, ultimately to collaborate with individuals who are not afraid to speak truth to power, not afraid to fight for themselves or others that has been mistreated, oppressed, marginalized, or forgotten. The artists, refugees and producers collaborating on Word on the Street are the voices we should be listening to as a way forward, especially at this moment." 

- Noah Khoshbin, Curator, The Watermill Center

Laurie Anderson (b. 1947, lives and works in New York, NY) is one of America’s most renowned - and daring - creative pioneers. She is best known for her multimedia presentations and innovative use of technology. As writer, director, visual artist and vocalist she has created groundbreaking works that span the worlds of art, theater, and experimental music.

Tania Bruguera (b. 1968. lives and works in Havana, Cuba  and New York, NY) is an installation and performance artist. Bruguera has participated in numerous international exhibitions. Her work is also in the permanent collections of many institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Bronx Museum of the Arts a and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana.

A.M. Homes (b. 1961, lives and works in New York City) is the author of 12 books, among them the novels This Book Will Save Your Life, Music For Torching, and The End of Alice, as well as the short story collections Things You Should Know and The Safety of Objects and the best-selling memoir The Mistress's Daughter. DAYS OF AWE a new book of stories is forthcoming in June 2018. Her work appears frequently in Art Forum, Harpers, Granta, McSweeney’s, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Zoetrope. She is a Contributing Editor to Vanity Fair, Bomb, and Blind Spot. Homes often collaborates on book projects with artists—among them Eric Fischl, Rachel Whiteread, Cecily Brown, Bill Owens, Julie Speed, Michal Chelbin, Petah Coyne, Carroll Dunham, Catherine Opie and Todd Hido. She has also created original television pilots for HBO, FX and CBS, was a writer/producer of the Showtime series The L Word, and most recently was Co-Executive Producer and Writer of the USA series Falling Water and the Stephen King/David Kelly TV Series, Mr. Mercedes. A.M. Homes has been the recipient of numerous awards including Fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, NYFA, and The Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at The New York Public Library, Poets and Writers For Writers, Guild Hall Lifetime Achievement. In addition she is Co–Chair of the Board of Directors of Yaddo, and serves on the boards of Poets And Writers and previously on The Boards of New York Foundation for The Arts, Pen American Center, and The Fine Arts Work Center In Provincetown. A.M. Homes teaches writing at in the Lewis Center For The Arts at Princeton University and lives in New York City.

Naomi Shihab Nye (b. 1952, lives and works in San Antonio, Texas) was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Her father was a Palestinian refugee and her mother an American of German and Swiss descent, and Nye spent her adolescence in both Jerusalem and San Antonio. Nye is the author of numerous books of poems, including Transfer; You and Yours, which received the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award; 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East; and Fuel. Her honors include awards from the International Poetry Forum and the Texas Institute of Letters, and four Pushcart Prizes. She has been a Lannan Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Witter Bynner Fellow, and received The Academy of American Poets’ Lavan Award, selected by W. S. Merwin. She has been featured on two PBS poetry specials including The Language of Life with Bill Moyers and also appeared on NOW with Bill Moyers. She has been poetry editor at The Texas Observer for 20 years. She is also laureate of the 2013 NSK Neustadt Award for Children’s Literature; and in 2017 the American Library Association presented her with the 2018 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award.

House of Trees (founded 2014). Each HOT project enlists a variety of talent from collaborating artists and institutional partners to create and produce dynamic, site-specific, public art projects. House of Trees Projects include: Luminaria Arts Festival, San Antonio, TX; Word Around Town, San Antonio, TX; Basco Vazko Mural at Hotel Tropicano, San Antonio, TX; Word On the Street in collaboration with Times Square Arts, NYC; and I PLEDGE at NYU Kimmel Gallery. Members of HOT arts collective have exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the United States, including Leila Heller Gallery and Socrates Sculpture Park; and published widely including Newsweek, Readymade, House Beautiful, Glamour, HGTV, Spaces and six different art books. HOT members have shown at festivals including River to River and South by Southwest; received residencies including The Watermill Center, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Anderson Ranch, and Banff Centre for the Arts; and have collaborated with Karen Finley, Tina Barney and John Phillip Santos, among others.

The Watermill Center (founded 1992) by avant-garde visionary and theater director Robert Wilson, is an interdisciplinary laboratory for the arts and humanities located on Long Island’s East End. With an emphasis on creativity and collaboration, Watermill integrates performing arts practice with resources from the humanities, research from the sciences and inspiration from the visual arts. The Center is unique within the global landscape of experimental artistic practice and regularly convenes the brightest minds from across disciplines to do, in Wilson’s words, “what no one else is doing.”

Photographs courtesy of Maria Baranova.