John Kelly

A few weeks before Queer Voice opened, John Kelly stopped by to see the gallery where the show was being installed—a series of black spaces and rooms that until recently had held Jenelle Porter’s Dance with Camera exhibition. Now the video screens and old-fashioned movie projectors were gone, and the crew was busy moving large scaffoldings around and painting black walls blacker. Kelly, a performance artist, dancer, and vocalist, was getting the tour, and then he and Ingrid Schaffner, Queer Voice’s curator, would discuss the video clips and scripts he’d brought along.

A lot of material got ordered for Queer Voice: records and dolls, a vocoder (the machine Laurie Anderson famously used to alter her voice). Director of Curatorial Affairs Robert Chaney spent a lot of time on the phone ordering things. John Kelly asked for old theater seats and Robert found some on eBay in Youngstown, Ohio. A guy drove them here in a truck that kept breaking down, and Robert had to come in at midnight to help unload. (I happened across them in the dark auditorium when I was looking for a quiet place to write and sat down on them for a while, not knowing they were special.) Ingrid took John Kelly in to see what he thought of the seats, and he liked them. “What year are they from?” he asked, but nobody knew.

“The guy on eBay told me they were historic,” Robert said. “He thought he could make a lot of money selling them to people with home theaters, but they only want big cushy chairs.”

Lucky theater seats! They got loose from their bolts and traveled halfway across the country to become part of this exhibition. Rejected by the wealthy, they have become art.

Queer Voice will be open at ICA through August 1.