For his first solo museum show, Jay Heikes will produce a unique installation on view September 7–December 16, 2007, in the Project Space, which may include the following elements: a cement and brass “bed of nails,” a digital cuckoo clock, a freezer wall, drawings, and a stylized rat trap. These elements are among the “props” used to activate stories, puns, and a kind of deadpan humor that have appeared in past iterations of an ongoing work inspired by a rather arcane joke.
For the past couple of years, Heikes has been telling a joke—the same joke—over and over. The joke is about an impatient pirate and a smart-alecky parrot: “So there’s this pirate…” it begins. Early in the process, Heikes performed the joke, videotaped it, and from there, employed an approach to transform the joke into a formal element in his drawings, sculpture, and installation work. Over time, the joke has become a generative device, distilled in its visual components, which in turn have become Heikes’s aesthetic language. The artist says: “By telling the same joke over and over, I’ve realized its rigid structure allows me to find totally new directions every time I make this delivery—like splats and circles that relate to the art movements such as Pop Art and Expressionism. Eventually I imagine the narrative of the joke to be totally irrelevant and the stills to exist as a kind of green screen—a forum where any abstraction of the narrative exists as a collage within it.” At ICA, he will present what is the eighth retelling of the joke, now bordering on complete independence from the original narrative.
Jay HeikesWarhol Blouse