Jasper Johns: Watchman/Decoy (2008)

Created by: Sean Kelley-Pegg, June 2008
Performers: Monique Benson, Charles Campbell

One of three panels of Jasper Johns, a study in performance triggered by the works of the landmark American painter, in June 2008.

Notes on Jasper Johns: WatchmanDecoy

These projects are the result of a long fascination I’ve had with the concept of translation. My script was a series of “Target” paintings Johns executed early in his career. My assignment, as I saw it, was to make a loose translation of these paintings to a time-based format, trying to capture the spirit of the originals while allowing the new work to have a life of its own.

These works are a group of paintings created in the early 1960’s that make use of a familiar set of concentric rings to represent a target – something used for shooting practice.  The paintings from this series are usually executed with pigmented wax over newspaper, and are generally presented without a frame. In some cases, objects have been added to the paintings, such as wooden boxes with lids, provoking the viewer to touch the work and thereby inviting an active relationship with the canvas. They are simultaneously paintings of targets, and targets themselves.

These Targets exist as icons, but do not tell a story, so the biggest challenge was to resist plot as much as possible. I approached the idea of “shooting” a “target” as a metaphor for the process of seeing through a camera. The simple act of watching, and being watched – and how they can be turned on their heads.