We Have Mice      


Webcam Display (snapshot highlights)

Pierogi Page with pictures and press release

Video Clip

Press Reviews of "Mice":
@ Art in America
@ Artforum
@ New York Times

left: going around a corner inside the walls.

below: Pierogi Gallery with walls cut away on the last day.


"We have Mice": The Backstory

"We Have Mice" was about how artists work like foragers around the margins of the economy. Despite the centrality, or respectability, of the Institution of Art, the artist works from the edges of the society, scavenging and improvising.

I chose mice as the metaphorical center of this piece because they are the consummate foragers, and thought of as mainly harmless. They live in walls, and if you've ever watched them, they never run through the middle of the space. They always follow the wall around, tracking the periphery.

The walls are the metaphorical periphery in which the marginalized, and particularly the artists, live and work. A number of my projects have had a live-and-work-within-a-grotesque-architecture formula, and this continuity seemed to be a strength.

Thus situated, I intended the show to be a meditation on the functioning of an artist, separated from the object of his interest, sniping at the audience from his hole, trying to communicate through the walls- the interpretive possibilities seemed rich. As a mid-career artist, having given my life to the "trade", I felt I had a lot to say about it. It was a lot about "this is what I wanted, and this is what I got," and revisiting the unstated bargain I made, accepting this marginal status in return for having my sense of self-determination and purposefulness.

Everyday my work was thinking, distilling, and taking action. I made a daily t-shirt slogan which I wore as a kind of psychological weather report (you could see me on TV monitors). The shirts were stored in a closet viewers could access. I cut holes, inserted works into the room, such as signs, dolls, drawings. I made some active interventions: through a hole I shot an arrow across the room with a clothes-line attached, for sending messages. Saw blades might penetrate the walls suddenly, for some purpose. I sent messages with tiny signs in front of hidden video cameras.

But one interpretation of the piece dominated all others. My bad. I wrote the press release.

"We Have Mice": The Press Release

New York City had been illustrating center/periphery dichotomy in a very graphic way, as the rents became exorbitant and the artists, among others, were being pushed to the outer boroughs and beyond. I decided to offer this story as a point of entry to the "Mice" show and began the press release thusly:
Prosperity and development have made things harder for Williamsburg’s hand-to-mouth residents. In need of a new, reliable strategy for survival, Ward Shelley has chosen the mouse for his mentor:
Shelley is living inside the walls of Pierogi Gallery for the length of this exhibition.
Using the mouse as a model, he be will become an unseen full time resident of the gallery architecture, working, sleeping, and eating inside the walls; in effect saying, “I’m here but, I won’t eat much.” The artist will be visible on video camera but will evade direct contact with the gallery staff and the public, only coming out for occasional nocturnal expeditions to forage for food, materials, and mating opportunities. In order to ease his financial burdens, Shelley will sublet his studio.
His daily activity will be to make and add pieces to the exhibition from within the wall hollows and continue to improve his living conditions. On view in the gallery will be multiple channel video, a growing flat file of work made during the show, and episodes of sculptural interventions from within the walls. Other “mouse droppings” will appear around the neighborhood.

This angle turned out to be too catchy and dominated most interpretations of the show.