After spending two full days enjoying the Joan Mitchell Foundation’s beautifully-lit, organized, and impeccably clean education center, I can only imagine the feelings of confusion and shock the educators felt upon entering that same space on Saturday afternoon. I had the unique privilege of witnessing Jaimie Warren and Matt Roche (the two artists behind Whoop Dee Doo) transform the space from one of organization and clarity, into a chaotic, creative “playground.”
Before Saturday afternoon, the educators had participated in workshops, group brainstorms, artist lectures and debriefs—all extremely intellectually stimulating, but by nature rather stagnant. Compared to the Institute’s previous activities, this event was a sharp turn in the road.
Friday morning, while all the educators were out enjoying museums and speaking with artists like Arlene Schechet, Jaimie, Matt, and I were busy unloading the Whoop Dee Doo van and beginning the transformation. Within thirty minutes, Matt had already covered half of the space in large rolls of paper, obscuring the highly functional moveable cork walls. As I sat making little three dimensional crabs (for a crab toss competition that would take place as a part of the performance), I watched Matt and Jaimie completely alter the environment.
What was once a classroom became the “spooky room,” where the educators would first be ushered into, as loud, “spooky” music was blasting. And the central space, which we were used to seeing crowded with tables, chairs, papers, coffee cups, and half-eaten bagels, became the central set, covered in bright colored paper and fabrics. This main area, although vastly different from its previous professionalized state was somewhat bare, waiting for the educators to participate in a lighting-round decorating session. The transformation was complete after the educators finished their decorating, and the space then hosted a Whoop Dee Doo performance.
The highly participatory experience was essentially a three-hour-long crash course in Whoop Dee Doo philosophy. Which they describe as: “striving to not only break down stereotypes and barriers between age, gender, culture and subculture, but to form and foster unique collaborations between unlikely pairings of community members that ultimately blossom into exceptional and meaningful interactions.”
The event began with a more formal presentation about Jaimie and Matt’s motivations and creative process, then evolved into the speed decoration of large crab legs (which later became the focal point of the set), before expanding into a broader collaborative set assembly, and then to the interactive final show featuring a traditional Indian dancer, finally culminating in a Whoop Dee Doo signature dance party/break-the-set-party. (Whoop Dee Doo sets go up as quickly as the come down—it’s their ritual to blast music at the end of each performance and invite the audience members to help tear the set apart.) The educators, and for that matter, me (who had helped in all of the planning for the event) had no idea what to expect.
All we knew was that Jaimie and Matt were going to come into Joan Mitchell and transform the environment. And that they did. The entire atmosphere of the space was altered and every single person was like a kid in a candy shop, thrilled at every surprising twist Whoop Dee Doo through at us.
Learn more about the ART21 Educators program at art21.org.