Zefrey Throwell is a very exciting artist that lives in the New York City area (a different borough per month) that makes photos, runs a couple of different galleries, does solo public interventions and organizes collaborative performances that challenge social and political boundaries.
He most recently received global media attention with his performance ‘Ocularpation: Wall Street’ in which more than 50 people documented and performed a survey of jobs done everyday on Wall Street in the nude. During the performance 3 people were arrested.
Hello Mr. Throwell.
Q: What are you wearing right now?
A: I am wearing hot pink lederhosen with black silk garters underneath and a double-pump sweat stained bustier, big green and gold Reeboks, a turquoise bolo tie complete with hair in disarray and pipe aflaming.
Q: What is your first memory of standing back from something you made in awe?
A: I won my first grade Christmas drawing contest in Alaska and they gave me a plastic candy-cane filled with MM’s and I remember feeling like the world was on fire with golden light. I remember looking over my drawing of Santa in a sleigh talking to my mom and throwing presents at my house while the sun was shining and thinking, “Goddamn it, this is a great way to get candy!” I then hid the candy-cane from my mom so I could gorge on it later.
Q: Do you believe that audacity is a fundamental trait that all artists have? Do you think it is important to be audacious as an artist?
A: I have always liked the word audacious, it reminds me of an old world magician, something pre-Houdini, where they specialize in sleight of hand for the colonel’s dinner party and end up stealing the silver cutlery and fucking the maid in the pantry during the madcap evening. I certainly try and bring this enterprise and zest to my own endeavors. My father is dead with dreams unfulfilled, my aunt just died 2 months ago, she was young with thoughts on her lips. Hell, we just don’t have time to fuck around and make more boring art projects that are only written about and cared about by the hyper-insular elite of ‘art’, the kind that are stillborn before they even see the light of day. We’ve got to get this out before we die! The time is now my friends!
Q: Your projects are often “in your face” in that they are in public space. What do you think is so vital about the struggle over public and private space?
A: This is OUR country. This city belongs to US! We live here, we pay for it, our city is OURS and then we allow ourselves to act like we are subletting from an angry old white man who is renting to us as a favor and could kick us out at any moment on a whim. I love my country, I love my city, I am a part of this, the whole damn thing, part and parcel. I refuse to let a corporation tell me the rules I should follow in my city, we are renting to THEM. We give tax breaks and other favors to corporations so that they will build public spaces for us. The corporations then turn around and treat these spaces like private property, enforcing arbitrary rules about who can be there, when they can be there and what they can do while they are there. This makes me furious. I’ll fight this as long as there is spit left in my mouth.
Q: You often invite people to perform along side you in the pieces that you do making the work collaborative. What is important about having others there with you? Where does Zefrey Throwell fit into the spirit of collaboration? What collaborative dreams do you have for the future?
A: Most of my ideas are larger than one person could ever materialize by themselves. I love the concept that no one person makes something happen, that it is the infinitely fluxing combinations that create the piece. I am also fond of the projects that are too big to witness as one person, but rather are complete only afterwards when groups get together and share stories about what they saw and heard. This secondary completion of the piece I call the Fireside Method and it makes me absolutely giddy even to think about it. A motto I live by is, Trust Chaos. When I’m on the edge of a new project and it’s about to launch, I often repeat this to myself and then I start smiling and then… the project is over.
Q: Your freedom and the freedom of your collaborators is at stake in some of the performances you have done in that you could be arrested. Could you talk a little about what is at stake for you in your work?
A: It’s weird, there’s this wall in the United States where people act like getting arrested is the worst thing that could possibly happen to them, as if they will be cast out of the country club and all their dreams will be dashed upon the rocky shores of poverty and disgrace if they happen to get arrested. I’ve learned that if your doing the right thing, if you’re on-point, then getting arrested means you’re probably on the right track.
Q:How does your work mesh with your life? Can you tell us a little about your project ‘Why Not Take All of Me NYC?”
A: I found myself after almost three years of living in the most diverse town on the globe,
stuck in a mind numbing ritual of commuting in a giant U. Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Lower Eastside, Midtown, the Museums and back. A giant horseshoe of comfort lulling me into making the same things by thinking the same things over and over and over again.
I am a firm believer in the ideas of John Cage. One of the platforms that I’ve tried to build my practice around is his idea that comfort is not your friend. Good taste makes for great interior design, but it is the pitched fulcrum that is keeping people, me, from making truly new art. The choices that I am making that keep me in line with the easier route, the way that I am used to, the worn path, these are the choices that feel like mamas tit, but are in fact the conventional fangs of mediocrity!
Using the classic song, ‘All of Me’ by Gerald Marks and Seymour Simons (I am fond of the classic Billie Holiday version, but Louie Armstrong does an impressive rendition, and while I am a fan of Ol’ Blue Eyes, Sinatra’s cover is trash) as a springboard, I decided to try and shake up my cozy feeling a bit and see what new ideas would fall out in the process.
I believe that location does matter. Context influences content. Sometimes it outright dictates it, but at the very least it has a heavy hand in skewing the dice. So it stands to reason, that if one was willing to spin the wheel of where one lays their head, then consequently the ideas inside that head would spin as well. And hence, I begin this project.
I made three ground rules, to be followed as sign posts rather than mandates,
to help with determining the parameters of this intentionally disorienting project.
I am moving each month to a different location in a different borough.
(I split NYC up into 6 boroughs. Manhattan was cut in half at a 110th street
due to the extremely disparate character of these two halves)
I am looking for neighborhoods people haven’t heard of or if they have,
they say something along the lines of,
“Hey, seriously Zefrey, don’t go there man!”
The place should be on average more than a 10 minute trek to a train line.
Each of these conditions was specifically designed to get me outside of my routine and farther from the ideals of middle class stationary ladder climbing static mobility and the art it inspires and values. My aim is to become without a look, without a favorite, without a neighborhood and to realize my favorite lyric from the namesake song of the project,
“You took the best, now take the rest… Why not take all of me?”