What brings a community together? Over pizza and beers, the dedicated crew behind Whoop Dee Doo—artist Matt Roche & Jaimie Warren’s traveling kids variety show—discuss the artistic and emotional pull of their uniquely collaborative community art project. Modelled on the punchy humor and DIY aesthetic of classic kids television shows like Pee-wee’s Playhouse, Whoop Dee Doo relies on local youth groups, friends, and word of mouth to supply the ever-evolving network of artists who create the project’s elaborate costumes, sets, and props. For artist Michael O’Malley—an arts educator who has worked on over a dozen shows all over the country since 2011—the project provides a necessary release. “If you’re an artist or a creator, there’s a lot of time spent thinking and talking how we should talk about art. And finally to go into a space where it was like, all of those things matter, but we’re not gonna focus on that, we’re gonna focus on what we make, is refreshing.”
Artist Monika Uchiyama describes what she thinks drives the intense, all-nighter production pace. “I feel like it’s not a responsibility to myself to complete this crazy sculpture, but rather a responsibility to everyone because I know that it’s this collective experience.” Weaving in and out of the conversation are select scenes from the latest Whoop Dee Doo production, Make It Wild (2016) staged on the High Line in Chelsea, that culminate in one of the project’s signature moments, the destruction of the set at the end of a show. “I do think that the fact that everything is gonna get destroyed so quickly, that’s part of the reason why solo studio artist types enjoy working on this project when they do,” says co-director Matt Roche. “I think it connects you to why you would’ve originally thought you wanted to be an artist, the times when you were younger and you were making stuff that people weren’t gonna see.” Featuring the New York City performance groups Aalokam, Dance Adventure, and Half Moon Sword.
CREDITS | Art21 New York Close Up Created: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Director & Producer: Nick Ravich. Editor: Andrea B. Scott. Cinematography: Don Downie, Amitabh Joshi, Bernard McWilliams & Rafael Salazar. Sound: Mike Keenan, Nick Ravich & Ava Wiland. Additional Camera: Semir Hot. Design & Graphics: Open & Uros Perisic. Artwork Courtesy: Whoop Dee Doo. Music Courtesy: Matt Roche. Thanks: Aalokam Dance Company, Lydia Austin, Danny Crump, Sarah Dahlinger, Dance Adventure, Mya Edwards, Rebecca Fayemi, Friends of the High Line, Half Moon Sword, Rachael Harris, Katie Henry, Sarah Henry, Xiaoyang Jin, Michael O’Malley, Justin Oswald, Josh Pavlick, Bharathi Penneswaran, Anna Platt, Ashley Richards, Erin Sheehy, Jaime Sunwoo, Monika Uchiyama & Westbeth Artists Community. An Art21 Production. © Art21, Inc. 2016. All rights reserved.
Art21 New York Close Up is supported, in part, by The Lambent Foundation; public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; VIA Art Fund; Lévy Gorvy; and by individual contributors.