The Six Labors of Woodham: An Epic Poem of Human Resources / Christine Licata

Labor I [Prologue]: Artist as Social Scientist (Sociologist)

[Chorus] We find Woodham simultaneously at the beginning and the end of his journey in the laborhood of Jamaica, Queens. Originally named Yameco (beaver) by the Lenape, this commercial district has always been a hub of migration, industry and commerce. We now join him as he leaves the cacophony of the outside world to embark on an equally chaotic, subterranean adventure through JCAL in order to uncover the secrets of its peoples, customs and culture whilst opening a portal to the underworld destined to be the future home to CEAR.

 

Social Scientist

Role: Study and research the link between society and human behavior.

 

Responsibilities: Work in liaison with Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning (JCAL) Staff and Directors. Conduct qualitative research studies on neighborhood and community members. Design data collecting tools e.g., a ten-question survey. Develop the Community Engaged Artist Residency (CEAR) for social justice-based artistic practices in basement of JCAL.

 

Skills: Ability to navigate the Sisyphean aspects of non-profit bureaucracy. Provide institutional critique by examining the role of cultural organizations within communities in terms of diversity and access. A working understanding around the psychology of space that includes the expectations of both audience and artists as well as the socio-political influences of its distribution and placement.

 

Labor II [Parode]: Social Scientist as Trash Collector

[Chorus] The entrance to the underground netherworld is a labyrinth of industrial waste, a hidden repository for years of the discarded bones of administrative and organizational bodies of work. Faced with sweltering heat, lack of air and unforgiving terrain of trash to traverse, our Hero finds out that, although deemed worthless, the debris carries a high price as he begins his descent into the metaphysical and ontological realm within the unwanted and undefined.

Trash Collector

Role: Hands-on and Supervisory role in the removal of refuse and recyclables from a commercial building for further processing and disposal. Transform basement into an environment conducive for artist workspaces over a one-year period.

 

Responsibilities: Separate and clear out all stored objects and papers from all rooms within basement, including but not limited to: office furniture and supplies, paperwork, archives, past exhibition materials, and arts program materials. Work with JCAL Staff and local Sanitation to order and schedule dumpsters, and organize pick-up.

 

Skills: The ability to evaluate the quintessential perceptual sets and intellectual modalities used to understand human consciousness in relation to the natural world such as: states-of-being, matter and spatio-temporal realities. Possess a comprehensive, working knowledge of the basic categories of human behavior and how these phenomena relate to each other. An expertise in taxonomy and reallocation of systems and methods of recycling. Qualified to manage physically demanding aspects of position and exposure to potential physical and psychological occupational hazards.

 

LABORS III & IV [Agôn / Episode 1/2]:  Trash Collector as
Situationist Specialists: Spectacle & Psychogeography

[Chorus] As Woodham’s journey unfolds he descends further into the lower realms where a maze of capitalistic distraction, dysfunction and degradation awaits him. Constructed from calcified and commoditized desires as well as unrequited, utopian promises the cerebral-like folds of these underworld corridors also lure our Hero into the architecture’s collective unconscious. Here the echoes of voices, politics, ideologies and philosophies contained within a domain of allegorically charged objects, false gods, faux art and dead-ends are meticulously manifested.

 

 

 

Situationist: Spectacle Specialist

Role: Reveal the lived reality within fabricated representation.

 

Responsibilities: Reject the idea that Capitalism-based promises of quality of life improvements are worth more than the damage to our sociological environment and cultural capital. Create a critique of Capitalism that defines its role as an inhibitor of social growth by separation via objects.

 

Skills: The ability to recognize the negative correlation between social alienation and commodity fetishism (Capitalism) within the quotidian. Create opportunities that offer authentic, lived experiences over mediated and object-dependent ones.

 

Situationist: Psychogeography Specialist

Role: Study of the effects of the geographical environment on the human psyche.

 

Responsibilities: Create inventive strategies for exploring geographical locations and architectural spaces allowing for unexpected interactions and awareness of the urban landscape. Institute Bachelardian phenomenology and analysis on lived experience of architecture.

 

 

Skills: Possess a Dérive-driven approach to urban environments and spaces. Working knowledge of Dadaist and Surrealist anti-establishment principles. Expertise in conflating art and life as well as overlapping the boundaries between the logical and the irrational. Ability to reinvent new ways of seeing and experiencing familiar places.

 

LABOR V [Parabasis]: Situationist as pataphysician

Faithful Reader, I ask for your patience and understanding as we leave Woodham to his own devices for a spell. At this point our hero has descended into a place beyond nothingness, where existence has no meaning or purpose and therefore every action has now become significantly important. The repetition, monotony and blatancy of creating CEAR have forced him to escape to an artistic pataphysical realm beyond the metaphysical underworld. The search for logical trajectories, organized systems of reason and a determinate reality within the underworld of the illogical and absurd has effectively brought about imaginary, impossible solutions on his part. Even I, as a dedicated omnipotent Chorus member, cannot communicate with him as he constructs his own all-encompassing, Theater of the Absurd environment.

 

 

 

Pataphysician

Role: Pseudo-scientist

 

Responsibilities: Do everything and nothing. See beyond the experiential to the ephemeral.

 

Skills: Unqualified expertise in all things. Hands-on experience with absence, emptiness, nothingness, and unresolved challenges and questions. The ability to both counterbalance or nullify the space between nonsense and no sense.

 

LABOR VI [Exode]: Pataphysicist as Artist

[Chorus] As it was at the start of our journey, we find Woodham simultaneously in two places at once. Except now our Hero is at both the end and the beginning of his adventures. We celebrate the success of his accomplished labors and wait with joyous expectation for the fruition of his sixth and final challenge as it continues to unfold. Now, after embracing multiple metaphoric occupations, the time for his vision of reopening the netherworld as a utopian site of progress has come. Woodham’s trials and triumphs remind us that as both individuals and communities, we breathe life into the buildings we inhabit. The relics we leave behind remain infused with our choices and expectations of them. Once removed, the doors to the creation of tangible aspirations and inclusive, idealized pursuits are opened.

 

Role: Cultural mediator and negotiator

Responsibilities: Launch the CEAR program for socially-engaged artist practices.

 

Skills: The ability to communicate and engage with persons outside JCAL as well as establishing and maintaining interpersonal relationships with the community. Expertise in analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems within an artistic practice. Qualified in interpreting the meaning of information for others and how it can be used.

Christine Licata

Christine Licata is the Director of Performing & Visual Arts at Casita Maria Center for Arts & Education. Her past positions include the Associate Director of Visual Arts at the Boston Center for the Arts and the Associate Curator at Taller Boricua in El Barrio, Spanish Harlem.