“There is no more light in a genius than in any other honest man, but he has a particular kind of lens to concentrate this light into a burning point.”
“Echelon” is a durational performance in which I applied for and was admitted into a doctoral program in American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that will take five years to complete. While I did not have financial resources to fund this performance, I proceeded nevertheless on the strength of the absurd. The conceptual armature for the work is predicated on an existential observation that people often believe their present condition in life to be eternally fixed and settled, which can lead to despair and apathy without cultural models of development. The dynamics between these people and their fate becomes blocked, as it can be difficult for them to envision a future beyond their present circumstance.
“Echelon” creates conditions of possibility as it appropriates continuity with other performances like: “Man Who Levitated Out of the Ghetto,” in which I worked as a janitor for a year and manage to rise above my physical circumstance through exercising the human will; and “Building Sweeps-Harlem,” in which I swept and mopped an inner-city tenement for one year at no cost to residents, as a cultural example of urban improvement; or “Working Up,” where I got a job as a dishwasher for one year and demonstrated how far it was possible to advance in one through personal effort. The performance began with an idea and then the universe kicked in with opportunities after a first step was made; opportunities that could not have been imagined beforehand showed up in a positive way. I am not altogether sure of “Echelon”’s ultimate meaning, but it seems to appropriate an old saying that mountains can be moved by faith as small as a grain of mustard seed. The American artist David Hammons would say: it is about “Higher Goals.”