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Stealth Art

first performed on October 4, 2012
5th Avenue near 14th Street, New York, NY
performed seven times in 2012


Michelle Jaffé, Alison Rose, and anonymous volunteers

New York, NY

“I dreamed I was a butterfly, flitting around in the sky; then I awoke. Now I wonder: Am I a man who dreamt of being a butterfly, or am I a butterfly dreaming that I am a man?” —Chuang Tzu (389-286 BC)

In “REM Map,” a “homeless” person walked along the Diller Scofidio + Renfro-designed High Line in West Chelsea, NYC, amongst hundreds of tourists on a sunny October Sunday. Her identity was concealed under scruffy clothes and a large blanket. At one of the High Line’s most populated locations, she took the blanket from around her shoulders, shook it open and laid it out on the concrete. She removed her coat, folded it into a pillow, and lay down to “sleep.” People passed by, some stared and some took photographs.

In a few moments, she tossed and turned and awoke: “What am I doing here?” she silently asked herself. “I am not a homeless person, I am a super-model!” She stood up assertively, removed her outer layer of clothes revealing sleek pencil pants, a spaghetti-strap camisole and long flowing hair. She gracefully walked around the edges of the blanket, posing at each corner with the confidence of a runway model. Passersby wondered at the transformation, “D’où Venons Nous / Que Sommes Nous / Où Allons Nous.”

But soon, her confidence floated away, she curled inward, lay down and cocooned herself to sleep under the blanket. Hundreds more passed by, stared and shot the homeless person with their cameras, some using telephoto lenses. After a while, a High Line security guard approached and asked her to leave. She put on her scruffy clothes, wrapped the blanket around her shoulders and shuffled away into the anonymous city.

The High Line is a semi-public place that showcases carefully curated art projects. “REM Map” raised a number of inquiries: Can you share the space of dreams? Can you dream in public? What defines public space? Who governs it? Who governs dreams? In the US, approximately 643,000 people per year have experienced the nightmare of homelessness, but homelessness is not dreamlessness. Dreams are sometimes the only means of escape, bestowing safety and dignity, even if only in the imagination.

Stealth Art creates international networking projects that involve clandestine interventions and expansive exhibitions. We employ transpersonal encounters to disrupt people’s split-second attention span and trigger intellectual workouts for the imagination. We launch work into the hyper-speedy museum of the metropolis, causing ripples in the social kaleidoscope and injecting a poetic critique of urban space.