Art student Greene turns quad into stage for performance art

Roxana Pop | Staff Photographer
Brandon Greene, sculpture student at the School of Art, paints a prop in the Arts Quadrangle in preparation for his performance of “Race Riot Rally.”

The seven-week season for School of Art students came to an end Friday, Aug. 9, with a final cleanup of the Arts Quadrangle. Among the final items removed were two black planks suspended with fishing wire and a linked chain — both hanging from a tree.

Brandon Greene, a recent Vassar College graduate who entered the School of Art as a sculpture student, used the chain in the tree to hang himself by his wrists. Lights at the ends of the planks cast dramatic shadows while Greene delivered a monologue about slavery and the fate of young black men in urban America. He spent the last two weeks of his time at Chautauqua Institution perfecting his final piece.

“It’s the culmination of my work here,” Greene said. “It was called ‘Race Riot Rally,’ but you wouldn’t know that by the posters.”

His friend Gus Wheeler, also a Vassar College graduate and a painter at the School of Art, came up with phrases such as “Reifying Roger Rabbit” and “Remembering Ronald Reagan” for the black-and-white posters hung around the Arts Quad. The students intended to be subtle in how they presented the art to viewers.

The first of Greene’s two performances took place after dark during Week Six. He wore a white sheet around his neck and a hairnet puffed out like an exaggerated afro. Fellow School of Art students Bomi Kim, Daniel A. Mendoza and Tabitha Barnes cloaked themselves in black sheets and moved through the audience like ghosts. Wheeler sat in the tree coordinating the music behind Greene’s monologue.

“Welcome to art school,” painting student Teto Elsiddique said.

Elsiddique was responsible for filming the second performance of Greene’s “Race Riot Rally,” which took place in the Arts Quad a few nights before the art students moved out at the end of Week Seven. It took three tries for Greene to comfortably suspend himself in the chains, but he was ultimately pleased with the caliber of the performance on film. He said it was one of his larger pieces of performance art to date.

“I have a few narrative seeds in most of my performances,” Greene said. “I know what I’ll be doing, but not necessarily every word I’ll say. But this time, with so many people and lighting cues involved, I had to have a script somewhat etched out.”

Now that he has finished his time at Chautauqua Institution, Greene plans to move to New York City to pursue his art career.

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