In the dark times / will there also be singing? / Yes, there will also be singing. / About the dark times. – B. Brecht
2021 could rightly be labeled catastrophic.
As an Art Professor teaching undergraduates during the Spring 2021 semester, Jenny Drumgoole was tasked with an impossible challenge. How could she engage young minds and encourage their creativity, resilience and growth when the world was falling to shambles? How could she guide their artistic impulses from the siberia of a virtual classroom? Her strategy was to reincarnate a persona that could interrupt the madness with humor, glitter, and a slapstick optimism that only a clown could provide, while interrogating the zoom technology they were required to use in real time, and making the whole premise of the class about relating to the present and each other. “Make and Do with SOXX” was born.
Catastrophe takes many forms. It comes as a furious spectacle. Facepaint covered protestors high on adrenaline and pepper spray scrambling up scaffolds with murderous rage. It comes silent as a ghost, cresting on airborne particles circulating in lungs filled with illness. It steals loved ones while you sleep, ignorant, and leashes your dog to walk it out your door and into an open grave. It splits professional alliances into bitter feuds, fuels derision at faculty lunches. It boxes all of us into psychic coffins devoid of IRL connection, traps us in rectangular mirrors that zoom across wires to phantom touch while paper masks dangle from our left ears like limp flags on a lazy breeze.
It is into this awful 2021 chaos that Soxx wades, spoon in hand, not to simply stir a pot, but rather boil up some stone soup, ladle it into her students’ bowls, and nourish a generation of young artists who’ve literally been thrown to the wolves. Like a psilocybin-laced “Artist’s Way” protocol crossed with an unhinged influencer’s social media feed, “Make & Do with Soxx” is not just a course with syllabus requirements. It is a communal prayer, a collective scream, a willy wonka tour of the shared schizophrenia we’ve all somehow found ourselves in – present day “reality”.
Below is both set and setting for the happenings that occurred over the course of the semester. Class assignments, ephemera and even celebrity cameos are displayed to conjure the magic and madness of this time. Rather than despair, the classes’ acts of making and doing create joy and articulate something beyond the void – a space for possibility, reflection and community. – Brian Bauman
When covid hit, I started stress buying on Amazon…literally EVERYTHING. The boxes went straight to the basement to sit for 3-5 days before touching. The empty boxes then became the backdrop for Soxx’s schoolhouse. For Soxx, Amazon was a place where everyone was gathering. So the review section was important. It was where people talked to each other. Soxx could also use the time she was working on her Amazon reviews in class to bring in guest speakers.
The man in the basement (Wowee Alive Elvis robot #1), 2021
Email from Amazon rejecting Soxx’s product review, 2021
QR linked video:
WATCH Soxx’s amazon review (1:29)
While working on Make & Do with Soxx I started using the online platform Cameo. As a platform Cameo allows anyone to purchase a personalized video message from a celebrity. The celebrities on Cameo range from Snoop Dogg to Snookie’s sister’s ex husband. I got my first Cameo on a whim. Very quickly I realized that I could ask celebrities to serve as narrators for this project. I think of them as the chorus in the chaotic myth we were living through in 2021. Just like everyone else, celebrities were looking for ways to connect with people and make sense of what we were going through. The responses I received speak for themself. So many thanks to @peeweeherman @coxusa @realghostfacekillah @gloriaestefan @itsshangela @theminkstole @jlovett7_ @tawnykitaenofficial @smokeyrobinson @michaelrapaport @icet and more!
Cameo from Paul Rubens (9:23), 2021
Cameo from Brian Cox (1:13), 2021
Cameo from Shaggy 2 Dope from Insane Clown Posse (1:20), 2021
Cameo from Ice T (1:14), 2021
STUDENT WORK – Cee & Noel’s Party Project, inkjet print from 8×10 film negative, 2021
For the third assignment in the class, students were tasked with creating a happening (aka the Party Assignment). Cee & Noel worked together and classmates Ethan, Darien and Giovanna assisted in the production. They selected a remote “blue hole” site in Southern New Jersey to surprise and honor Cee’s mother Maritza. This is documentation of the performance celebration. For many, this was the first time seeing classmates in person once the covid vaccines became available.
QR linked video:
WATCH Martiza’s Wedding (2:44)
WATCH Tribute to Tawny Kitaen, 2021, (2:28)
Click stills below to view STUDENT WORK for Assignment #2 – Find Your Portal Place
Bonus footage before the start of class