In 2018 and 2019 I skirted the line between curating and performing (curforming?) at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. In August 2018 I worked with a group called the Obvious Agency to create interactive tours of the Barnes Collection called Barnes Jawn(t)s (“jawn(t)” being another portmanteau of the Philadelphian pronoun “jawn” and the standard English verb “jaunt”). In these Jawn(t)s I led small groups through the Collection’s galleries, where we created dialogues based on the art and examined incidental art objects like thermostats and exit signs. We looked at each gallery’s contents through many imagined lenses: that of the artists who’d made the art, that of Dr. Albert Barnes who’d assembled the collection and curated each gallery, and that of ourselves as viewers and the way we interpret the intentions of both creators and curators.
In May of 2019 I created “P is for Picture Theatre” inspired by storytelling art objects in the Barnes Collection, including hieroglyphic tablets from Egypt, painted urns from Greece, and carved wooden headboards from Madagascar.For this event shadow artists Dirk Joseph and Erik Ruin presented a pair of scrolling crankies, polka musician Dan Nosheny sang a German Schnitzelbank, the Bread & Puppet Theater performed a cantastoria created for anti-war demonstrations, and I made a kamishibai-style history of picture theatre traditions to put the whole event into context. (See my own essay about picture performance here.)