PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS POLITICAL PRISONER
BILLY X CURMANO
I have imprisoned myself—masked and anonymous—in a chain link and aluminum performance sculpture for live art interventions at random locations—often in the streets or businesses—randomly selected. “Portrait of the Artist as Political Prisoner” is about the plight of the Unseen—the world’s detainees, refugees, political prisoners, and prisoners of conscience, those who speak out for justice, live alternative lifestyles, or simply become victims of happenstance and are imprisoned. Add to that the children, elderly, and infirm locked away in containment facilities. They have no voice, and so I DO NOT SPEAK.
The audience may be ambushed, surprised, and startled. But still, I DO NOT SPEAK. It became important to add an interpreter to calm hostility and illuminate issues of incarceration. The random appearances evolved to also include interventions by invitation. I was asked to walk the grounds of the Great Dakota Gathering in Winona, MN—the anonymous prisoner is familiar to indigenous history.
The work was intended for “Art in Odd Places 2019: INVISIBLE,” curated by LuLu LoLo. The first interventions were a kind of dry run for three days of performance along 14th Street in New York City. An eXpeditionary Art Adventure Team served as interpreters and support. The prisoner’s lack of voice was highlighted in a staged “Evening News New York” interview with blond-wigged Furusho von Puttkammer as Suzanne Fettuccine. The news anchor fired question after question only to be answered by her own musings. And still,
I DO NOT SPEAK.