Posted on September 25, 2017
PSA-MS resident artists Keith Walsh, Samwell Freeman, and Mackenzie Hoffman in front of the McComb Railroad Depot
do it Pike County is organized by the Pike School of Art – Mississippi and the very first presentation of an ICI exhibition in the state of Mississippi. Pike School of Art – Mississippi (PSA-MS) is a space for interdisciplinary creative experimentation where artists and writers with diverse backgrounds and proficiencies come together and interact in a rural setting in America’s Deep South. ICI spoke with Calvin Phelps, Director of PSA-MS to learn more about their plans for this fall.
Do it is fully realized when artist instructions are interpreted, enacted and presented to the public. Who will be enacting and interpreting your selection of instructions for do it Pike County?
We are especially proud that, even in our rural area, our iteration of do it will have participation from a wide demographic swath. PSA-MS has partnered with St. Andrew’s Mission, Jubilee Performing Arts Center (JPAC), Pike County Chamber of Commerce, and the McComb Public Library to ensure the broadest range of participation possible. We expect that people of all ages will participate throughout the run of the exhibition. At the St. Andrew’s Mission Activity Center, for example, mostly adults will interpret instructions, while at JPAC, a K-12 school, do it instructions will be integrated into their art and literary curriculum. There will be several workshops at the public library and a few full days of art making at Percy Quin State Park open to everyone. Completed works will be exhibited at the Chamber, JPAC and the library.
PSA-MS encourages the production of art focusing on the Deep South, including Mississippi’s and Louisiana’s complex histories of conflict and adjustment between different ideologies. Keeping this in mind, how was the selection of do it instructions made?
As a nomadic organization — within southwest Mississippi — we have kept in mind the different spaces to be used for the exhibition as well as the people who use those spaces. The public library, a state park, a performing arts school and a community center patronized mostly by senior citizens: each has a constituency, some of whom might not ever visit — or even be aware of — the others.
One goal of do it is to layer these constituencies and integrate them with each other over the course of the exhibition, in turn creating bonds lasting far into the future. Seniors will visit the state park and eighth-grade actors and musicians will engage with seniors. Our purpose is to nurture participation not only between the public and individual do it instructions but among the observers and participants themselves, across age, racial and sociopolitical divides.
Specifically, some do it instructions were chosen because of their ease of execution while still being conceptually rigorous – Yoko Ono’s Wish Piece and Louise Bourgeois’ Instruction, for instance. Others were selected because of their ability to address the political – Cao Fei ‘s Shoot It and Simone Forti’s “Think about climate change…” instructions are both good examples. I love how Simryn Gill’s instruction asks you to “approach a stranger who you perceive to be somehow different to yourself” and I really hope participants use this work to think deeply about their own differences.
do it Pike County is a P.S. Satellite of Prospect New Orleans’ Prospect.4: The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp taking place in nearby New Orleans. While do it Pike County is a decentralized project, occurring at many sites across the county, how will the relationship with Prospect.4 impact the exhibition?
Our iteration of do it will reflect the distinctive culture and geography of our part of the nation. America’s Deep South attracts visitors from around the world, but most often to larger cities, including New Orleans, Memphis and Atlanta. Our proximity to New Orleans — around two hours by car or Amtrak’s City of New Orleans — will give Prospect attendees an opportunity to experience a less-visited part of the south in a short period of time, simultaneously broadening the size and demographic scope of those interpreting the do it instructions. Also, our status as a satellite of Prospect helped us receive a Visit Mississippi tourism grant from the Mississippi Development Authority that we are using to specifically target and attract Prospect visitors.
Conversely, because PSA-MS offers a residency program, we are inviting resident artists who come to Mississippi during our presentation of do it to participate in the exhibition. And of course, while they are here, we are taking them to New Orleans so they get a chance to experience Prospect.4.
For more information about exhibition related programming, please visit http://www.psa-ms.org/do-it