member: Pope. L, 1978-2001

Pope.L (American, born 1955). _Thunderbird Immolation a.k.a. Meditation Square Piece, West Broadway, New York_. 1978. Inkjet print, 10 × 15" (25.4 × 38.1 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired in part through the generosity of Jill and Peter Kraus, Anne and Joel S. Ehrenkranz, The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art, The Jill and Peter Kraus Media and Performance Acquisition Fund, and Jill and Peter Kraus in honor of Michael Lynne. © Pope.L, courtesy the artist

Thunderbird Immolation a.k.a. Meditation Square Piece. 1978 342

Pope.L (American, born 1955). Thunderbird Immolation a.k.a. Meditation Square Piece, West Broadway, New York. 1978. Inkjet print, 10 × 15" (25.4 × 38.1 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired in part through the generosity of Jill and Peter Kraus, Anne and Joel S. Ehrenkranz, The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art, The Jill and Peter Kraus Media and Performance Acquisition Fund, and Jill and Peter Kraus in honor of Michael Lynne. © Pope.L, courtesy the artist

Pope.L: Something I learned with Thunderbird Immolation is that you don't have to do much to do something significant. I didn't want to do something where I was calling attention to myself in an obvious way. I wanted it to be something that would happen over time, and that you didn't know exactly what the rhythm was.

And I thought about, “Well, where would I want to do this activity, where I'm going to be centered, I'm going to put myself in a situation that could possibly become violent?” And I thought you know, the art world--or what was the art world at that time, Soho--was a very alien place to someone who grew up the way I did, underclass or working class. And I thought you know, in Soho, people they walk slower, they dress better, but maybe underneath there's some shit going on here, you know, what's going on here? I can't tell. So I decided that it'd be interesting to physically intervene in that space.

I walked up and down the block several times until I found a spot. My back was to the street, I think, and I was facing the building, and then I placed a yellow cloth on the ground and I spelled out a word in matches. I had a bottle of Thunderbird wine. And at times, I would pour it over myself. Just small bits at a time. And it would simply dribble down my body and then I would put it down and then I would sit. Basically like I was meditating.

In that situation, my back is exposed. I have no idea what's going to happen. In many of the cases of those street performances you have to sort of turn off that part of your mind that is concerned about safety.

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