On Thursday, July 7th, The Standard and art collective/free art school Bruce High Quality Foundation University will host Listening Club: A Night of Sound Art, Music, and Performance in the Penthouse of The Standard, East Village.
It promises to be quite an evening, with works from four artists who make use of sound in some form of their work: experimental poetry by Yanyi Luo, an interactive sound performance by Benjamin Santiago, a live performance by Jaimie Warren, and a set from DJ George Costanza. Sound, it seems, is as malleable a medium as paint, and for these four artists, it is just one in their arsenals.
A perfect example is the performance artist Jaimie Warren, who cut her teeth in Kansas City before making the move to New York three years ago. Her work draws deep from the well of American pop, blending horror movies, drag culture, Broadway musicals, and Renaissance paintings into a kind of mash up fever dream.
Bruce High Quality spoke with Jaimie to get a sense for what we can expect when she performs in the Penthouse.
JAIMIE: Summer has been nuts. But in the best way! We're doing a full summer series of Whoop Dee Doo shows (whoopdeedoo.tv) on the High Line (thehighline.org) every 4th Saturday, where for each show we're working with school groups and tons of amazing performers. For our last one, the NYCHA youth choir were babies and we made a giant fake nursery for them to sing the '50s song “Baby Love” in. It was equally bizarre and adorable! We also worked with an incredible Greek dance group – the Academy of Hellenic Paideia, and a local dance team called “The Brandon Project.” A giant turtle sang “White Rabbit” in slow motion, which was slightly terrifying, and we had a slow-dancing competition for four year olds! Whew!
Beyond that, I have a huge photo/video project that I'm finishing as a collaboration with some incredible teens that will come out in the Vice Photo Issue, and Viceland is doing a short doc on the process. We are also teaching at MoMA this summer and collaborating with a K-Pop boy band named EXP and a traditional Serbian singing group named Rosa. So much good stuff!
JAIMIE: That piece was a recreation of the painting “Saints Cosmas and Damian” by Matteo di Pacino (1350-75). The painting is a document of a body being dug from a grave, and a group of priests performing an amputation and limb-swap to try and save another priest from death by the bubonic plague. I worked with three high school students to sort of reimagine what the painting represented, and turn it into a music video by using our own pop culture heroes and favorite moments from pop culture history. The base concept was that it was my personal tribute to Freddy Mercury (my idols are sort of tied between Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Freddy), but the students added a lot of content from there.
In our story, the main priest transforms into Freddy Mercury, who falls deeply in love with the amputated leg. (A modern-day love story, if you will.) The students’ ideas and artistic contributions to this piece were incredible. There are cameos by Gucci Mane, Lil Kim, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, and more! And, like all the works in this series, it ends in a very “We Are the World” sort of moment, showing, of course, that love will always prevail, and Freddy and this leg belong together, forever. There’s a pretty great little Art21 short doc on the process.
JAIMIE: A truly heartfelt dedication to my pop culture icons. A bit of a weird time-warp mash-up. A person with mediocre talent who is really giving it their all, backed up by some amazing friends who are willing to go bonkers with me. Hmmm… also some smashing and splattering and some glass-breaking, milk-curdling singing–cartoon-style.
BRUCE: What’s up with Kansas City?
JAIMIE: Kansas City is the best! It’s a sort of mediocre Midwestern city filled with the most amazing people in the world who work tirelessly to make it weird and fun! I have officially been gone for about 3 years, but I am so incredibly grateful to have had over a decade of incredible experiences and collaborations with dozens of wonderful artists–such as Erin Zona, Lindsey Griffith, Lynus Young, Anthony Baab, and a bunch more. The incredible drag scene there paired with a community that helps make everyone’s dreams come true were huge points of inspiration for me, and I am so insanely appreciative of this extremely generous, genuine, and hard-working community.
JAIMIE: An incredible singer! [Laughs.] Are you sure you’ve seen me perform? Really it’s all about the nostalgic love ballads, essentially reliving my childhood over and over. I am so passionate about these musicians, but it’s also about my own invented mash-ups of characters that are being plucked from so many different facets of American culture and various eras of entertainment history–from horror movie stars to drag culture to Broadway musicals to characters from renaissance paintings, etc. Working with teens and other collaborators to sort of mash together so many different characters is really where all the magic happens. When Roseanne and GG are together, what happens? What does a tap dance by Fred Astaire and the Elephant man look like? Would Prince, Joan Rivers, Bob Ross, Left Eye, Heath Ledger, Jim Henson, Marlon Brando, Nina Simone, and Selena mourn each other at their own giant group funeral? (Hint: that’s a current one). I truly care very deeply about these questions, and it’s the crux of my challenges when creating this work, which is unbelievably fun.
BRUCE: What else influences your art? Your work is so multi-faceted that we imagine that you’re drawing from all types of different sources.
JAIMIE: Well, thank you so much! I always answer this one in a giant list, so I would love to just focus on what I'm sort of obsessing with currently, which includes:
Artist Nagi Noda
The Punky Brewster episode “The Perils of Punky”
Elton john’s 1982 visual album Visions
Tim Vurry as the devil in the movie Legend
The Elvira reality show The Search for the Next Elvira
Salvador Dali paintings warping to Pink Floyd soundtracks
Jenna Maroney from 30 Rock
Charlie White’s photography series Understanding Joshua
Jean Paul Goude’s video portfolio So Far, So Goude
The Bachelor (every season)
Homemade costumes of families as The Simpsons characters