Post-Apocalyptic Variety Show, Camp CARPA @ Joshua Tree, CA


In the Spring of 2013 I asked three other artists to help put together a show of video, performance, cocktail tips, and joy. They contributed work and I served as the evening’s host. The host I play is a tattooed, sometimes sober version of Bob Hope for artists. CARPA allowed me to take an art gallery road show and reimagine it for a war torn, post zombie future, with real big problems and limited resources. Problems like how does one design a Karaoke machine that does not use electricity? (The answer is with salvage Ikea Kid’s furniture). American has faced many apocalypses like Katrina, AIDS, the economic downturn. America exports culture regardless of the crisis at hand. I wondered if this tradition would continue after the fall. I asked Theo Knox and Jordon Long separately to join me in imagining work for this future.

IMG_6892Long used a cement power counterweight spread on plywood to stand in for his own weight. He brought members of the conference to hold this weight as long as they could. They strained to keep the heavy powder up because underneath it Long and a group of volunteers had build a village of hollow plaster squares. Long coached his participants the craft of working through the physical strain. A skill he perfected in overcoming injuries sustained while working at a small zoo. People shared the weight for 8 hours before the last person bearing the cement, stood up and let the chain go. This crushed the plaster village and signaled the start of the show.

Theo Knox imagines connecting deeply with nature as a tool for healing. He brings the crowd through a nonlinear funnel of dream stories. He holds them and moves them around with him in this story. Blindfolded in the darkness Knox provided a post-apocalyptic Blockbuster for CARPA.

There were not just hit stories but also hit songs in our low-tech variety show. Members of the audience joined our cast to sing, “My Body’s Zombie for You.” A song written by Ryan Gosling that conveys the joy of loving someone so much that you actually want to eat them. – Steven Frost

It was amazing for my practice. I’ve been wanting to try a different type of performance for a while but haven’t felt comfortable in the places I’ve been showing. Carpa created an environment that allowed me to experiment and take my work into a space it hasn’t been before. My piece needed participants and Carpa was full of a diverse group of people to test out my work on. Because of this i’ll be continuing to explore what I began at Carpa and hopefully bring a whole new conversation to my work.  -Jordan Long

Under the premise a zombie apocalypse had finally happened, I wanted to know how we would entertain ourselves after we brought our own species to the edge of extinction? It occurred to me it would probably be doing what we have since our start:  tell stories and sing songs in front of an evening fire.  Essentially this act should be entertaining, maybe ridiculous, but also transmit some shard of knowledge, a history, information about the landscape, a belief system, or the human experience.

I decided to tell a story and sing a song about the place we were living during the Camp CARPA residency, the desert.  The story came from a dream I had a few weeks previous and the song was a prayer of salvation.

The structure and location of Camp CARPA provided the opportunity to explore my question with a captive audience. With our feet in the dirt of the Mojave beside a real campfire burning under the stars, these elements believable in our narrative, it was enough to tip the senses giving my mind permission to pretend I was in an imagined, desolate future.   -Theo Knox