During the summer of 2010, I completed a residency program at Vermont Studio Center, in Johnson Vermont. I was one of approximately 50 artists. Prior to my arrival, I spent a lot of time considering what a residency was and I came to several conclusions. Mainstrean American culture has little tolerance of and appreciation for artists as valued members of its society. I have heard time and time again that we are considered a most selfish breed of human being, as we want to do what we want to do whenever we want to do it. And apparently we don't work very hard, according to commonly held beliefs here in the States. Residencies are places where this kind of behavior comes to a pinnacle: artists are given time, space, and support to indulge their every artistic whim and focus on themselves.
Of Service was a response to this kind of misguided perception of artists. Every morning of the month-long residency, I went to each artist's studio and asked if they needed any help with anything or “How may I be of service to you today?” As a light uniform, I wore an embroidered nametag resembling those worn by mechanics and other service-industry workers. Many artists had trouble asking for assistance and let me go on my way, but several requested a variety of tasks to be performed. I wound up doing at least a little something every day-- from sweeping floors to doing research for a novel to being an artist assistant to collaborating on people's projects with them.
The effect of this project varied from person to person. Some were confused, others touched, and certain people even decided to “pay it forward” and began to spread the help to other people. I decided not to document the performance with typical means of video or photography, as it would shift the mood of each individual interaction. It would also place emphasis on the incorrect aspect of the performance. It was intended to be about giving and receiving asssistance, not about my need to promote myself through the project. Instead of using a physical documentation, I simply made a list every day of what I did and for whom. I do not consider the list a separate piece and I do not want to show it-- it serves me in my memories.