Artist Rob Andrews on his plans to kickstart the apocalypse this Sunday
The end of the world as we know it may come quickly. According to performance artist Rob Andrews, the apocalypse might even begin this Sunday. The artist's previous pieces have involved everything from washing people's feet for twelve hours in a marketplace in Macedonia to carrying a door from Coney Island to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and Andrews says it's all been leading up to this. End of Empire, his newest piece, will involve walking with a sculpture he calls the Void Seed from Denver International Airport to Counterpath on the edge of downtown, where the Brooklyn-based artist will bury the Void Seed as part of a ritual aimed to tip civilization toward its end. Members of the community are invited to join Andrews at Xanadu Street and Colfax Avenue between 4 and 5 p.m. on Sunday, September 1, and at Humboldt Street and Colfax between 7 and 8 p.m. that same night, with the burying of the Void Seed and a reception to follow at Counterpath. In advance of End of Empire, we spoke with the possible harbinger of the apocalypse.
Rob Andrews dressed as the minotaur, a recurring character in his performance-art pieces.
Westword: What is End of Empire, and where did the idea come from?
Rob Andrews: I have performance practice that's at this point almost fifteen years old. I studied with this guy William Pope.L up in Maine in the late '90s and he's part of that world of performance art that does things like, he crawls for five miles in a Superman suit. He's about heroic actions or mythology and taking tropes from contemporary culture and human culture and reinventing them and using them for different purposes. The idea for End of Empire really came from taking a breath in my work and saying, what the hell have I been doing all these years? What's the common through-line within my work?
I have a bunch of different bodies of work. I've done work where I have a minotaur persona, where I will chain myself to a telephone pole or I've built myself an environment in a gallery and sort of just exist there, and I'm interested in these ideas of taking these old mythological ideas and sort of planting them in this new, fertile context to see what might grow. End of Empire is this belief I have that as a culture, as a civilization, we're reaching a transitional moment. It doesn't necessarily mean doom and gloom and apocalypse and everyone's gonna die. But I don't know. I'm energized by the idea of the Occupy Movement and that our culture seems really unstable. Art in a white walled space seems too didactic for me, so my approach is to take this work and build a frame inside of a city or a sacred space and then crash it apart and see what happens.
What exactly will you do to tip civilization toward its end on Sunday?
I'm bringing a sculpture to Denver I'm calling the Void Seed. I have a drawing practice and a photography practice and I haven't always been an object maker, but this is an object that's really special to me. A friend of mine cut his hand off while in the wood shop. And I'm sure you have lots of artist friends, but I'm the person that I guess you give your bloody pants to. So I cut the pants into ribbon and created a sack and I put inside the sack a coyote pelt that I used in a piece at the Museum of Modern Art -- I sang to the coyote pelt until I passed out -- and I put my copy of Infinite Jest, one of my favorite books that I fell in love with my wife while reading, a horrible Ronald Reagan mask, and a couple of other things. Certainly pieces of my autobiography but also things that I think have had culturally warm influence. Counterpath reached out to me and said, sort of, we're into this crazy shit that you're doing. Denver, to me, while it's not the geographical center of our country, is close enough.
I decided to take this sculpture which three weeks ago for the Brooklyn International Performance Festival I gathered a group of people who are all incredible performers themselves and we performed a ritual to charge up the Void Seed. What we did is we created a drone choir and we had these crazy drones and we sang to it to impart it with the energy that we think would tip civilization toward its end. I'm gonna arrive in Denver, I'm gonna run a workshop with some artists and we're gonna do sort of a similar ritual as a gallery. But on Sunday the 1st I'm gonna take this sculpture and I'm gonna walk it from Denver International Airport to Counterpath, which is about thirty miles.
Without being too spooky or new age or whatever, I define myself as a storyteller. Most of the stories that I tell involve some sort of journey. Obviously, there's sort of the heavy-handed metaphor that life's a journey, blah blah blah. But I think that you need to work physically and work metaphysically in order to achieve some sort of transformative understanding. I really believe that it's my responsibility as an artist and as a person to sort of remind ourselves as a culture that the void exists. So I'm gonna take the sculpture, I'm gonna take the Void Seed, and I'm gonna walk it, and in Counterpath's back yard I'm gonna bury it. And we'll have a ritual, we'll have a drone choir, and hopefully that seed takes root and something starts changing over time. This is the craziest thing I do, so take it with a grain of salt, because I think that my job as a storyteller is to create these frameworks and this architecture so people can start considering their own lives.
I was really excited when I got the call from Tim [Roberts of Counterpath] because, of course, Denver would be ground zero for the apocalypse! Duh. Especially given all the conspiracy theory shit surrounding Denver International Airport. I'm really compelled by that; I think it's really fascinating. And again, the Illuminati and the Free Masons, that's our mythology. We need that. For some reason culturally we require there to be a shadow government. And maybe it's just that we can't believe that we have fucked this up so much. I don't wanna be blamed for how shitty life is and how badly we treat the poor people in our country, and how badly we treat people that are not like us, so it's definitely someone else's fault. But really, truly, it's the mechanisms of our society and our government that destroy lives and our families. My best skill is writing and my best skill is making art, so I'm gonna use these skills and I'm gonna use this platform in order to try to change the flow. We'll see if it works.
Keep reading for more on End of Empire.