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Starry Night, Gory Night: Jaimie Warren’s House of Horror Sleeps Over at MoMA

Jaimie Warren is the creative force behind some of today’s most playful, beautiful, and viscerally beguiling video, performance, and photography projects. When Adam Parker Smith and I reached out to her last year to come in as a guest artist for our I Am a God: Artists, Obsession & the Cult of Celebrity Culture course, we immediately saw that she was the perfect collaborator and mentor for our community of young artists. Building upon last season’s success, this summer’s Jaimie Warren’s House of Horror course has brought its participants through an array of creative and cringe-inducing experiences, including our first-ever MoMA Teen lock-in event. In this post, Jaimie reflects upon a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

– Calder Zwicky

"Cooking" s'mores around our classroom "campfire." Photo: Jaimie Warren

“Cooking” s’mores around our classroom “campfire.” Photo: Jaimie Warren

When I was asked to teach an In the Making class at The Museum of Modern Art, I could have never guessed that all of my wildest teaching dreams would so quickly come true. In my personal work, I had recently been obsessing over horror movie characters from my childhood and B-horror characters for their ridiculous construction and awful transitions and effects. I was overjoyed at the possibilities and flooding my brain with questions. What would they allow me to do? How far could I take this? Just how gross can we be?!

As the class progressed, our weeks were filled with things like filthy makeover contests judged by Friday the 13th’s Jason. My apprentice educator, Sofie, and I often began classes with brief performances—heartfelt love ballads dressed as twin Freddy Kruegers, or covered in fake blood to teach a fake-blood-making workshop. We viewed artworks from an incredible range of artists such as Nagi Noda, Guy Ben-Ner, Thu Tran, Jean-Paul Goude, Charlie White, and Pee-wee Herman. After hours in the studio making guts, blood, severed limbs, stomachs, and injured hands, all out of simple materials like cardboard and newspaper, we were in need of some serious fun.

Jaimie (as Freddy Kreuger) performs with the teens. Photo: Kaitlyn Stubbs

Jaimie (as Freddy Kreuger) performs with the teens. Photo: Kaitlyn Stubbs

A costume contest gets a visit from guest-judge Jason Voorhees. Photo: Kaitlyn Stubbs

A costume contest gets a visit from guest-judge Jason Voorhees. Photo: Kaitlyn Stubbs

So what are most memorable events from my youth? What brought students together, or made close friends even closer? A lock-in, of course! A giant, fun-filled slumber party!! An all-night horror-movie-marathon! I thought it would never happen in a million years, but I would have regretted it if I hadn’t asked. I’m sure glad I did.

The day started pretty simply: after class we headed out for some fresh air in Central Park, with a giant game of Frisbee that turned into hours of “get the Frisbee out of the tree,” then “get the water bottle and the shoe we used to try to get the Frisbee out of the tree out of the tree,” etc., etc. Heading back, we caught the tail-end of live music in MoMA’s Sculpture Garden, and a giant feast of Chinese food awaited us, which was perfect because we were ravenous.

On the way to Central Park for some pre-sleepover Frisbee. Photo: Jaimie Warren

On the way to Central Park for some pre-sleepover Frisbee. Photo: Jaimie Warren

Suddenly it was nighttime, the once-bustling Sculpture Garden was empty, and the realization that we had the museum to ourselves sunk in. We squealed with delight in preparation for our private tour of the museum in our oversized pajamas and socked feet. Calder Zwicky lead an incredible tour, diving into some of the most important artworks in the world, all for us. In a museum that is usually so full of visitors that you cannot even find the space to stand still, we had complete silence and a single security guard, as we quietly listened to fascinating stories about the artists and strolled around the galleries with all the time and space we needed to really appreciate them. It was so memorable and so beautiful, and we felt like royalty.

The House of Horrors crew poses in front of a Jackson Pollock. Photo: Calder Zwicky. Shown: Jackson Pollock. One: Number 31, 1950. 1950. Oil and enamel paint on canvas, 8' 10" x 17' 5 5/8" (269.5 x 530.8 cm). Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection Fund (by exchange). © 2015 Pollock-Krasner Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The House of Horrors crew poses in front of a Jackson Pollock. Photo: Calder Zwicky. Shown: Jackson Pollock. One: Number 31, 1950. 1950. Oil and enamel paint on canvas, 8′ 10″ x 17′ 5 5/8″ (269.5 x 530.8 cm). Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection Fund (by exchange). © 2015 Pollock-Krasner Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Looking at The Starry Night in our pajamas. Photo: Kaitlyn Stubbs. Shown: Vincent van Gogh. The Starry Night. Saint Rémy, June 1889. Oil on canvas, 29 x 36 1/4" (73.7 x 92.1 cm). Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest

Looking at The Starry Night in our pajamas. Photo: Kaitlyn Stubbs. Shown: Vincent van Gogh. The Starry Night. Saint Rémy, June 1889. Oil on canvas, 29 x 36 1/4″ (73.7 x 92.1 cm). Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest

Upon our return we felt invigorated, and our sense of camaraderie was palpable. The timing was perfect for our next venture, as we created a surprise “campfire” in Classroom A. The space was completely transformed with a roaring youtube fireplace projection, the sounds of crickets and crackling flames, a giant faux fire in the middle of the room made with cardboard logs backlight by clip lamps with red and orange gels. The students hadn’t realized until now that the sticks we collected in Central Park were for “roasting” s’mores (which would later be microwaved) while we took turns telling ghost stories.

We had discussed many ideas on what the activities should be next. Board games? Karaoke? The truth was that the campfire got us settled in and we couldn’t wait to start our movie marathon. Though between A Nightmare on Elm Street and Child’s Play almost all of us needed some candy and an intense round of HedBanz, for the most part the rest of the evening was quiet (besides the occasional blood-curdling screams). By 5:00 a.m. everyone had passed out, and we woke at 8:00 for cereal and goodbyes.

The campfire and marshmallow roast in the MoMA Teen studio space. Photo: Jaimie Warren

The campfire and marshmallow roast in the MoMA Teen studio space. Photo: Jaimie Warren

Freaking out in the elevator, after-hours style. Photo: Kaitlyn Stubbs

Freaking out in the elevator, after-hours style. Photo: Kaitlyn Stubbs

1:00 a.m. and the horror movie marathon has just begun. Photo: Jaimie Warren

1:00 a.m. and the horror movie marathon has just begun. Photo: Jaimie Warren

Since this night, I believe our class has formed an unbreakable bond. I feel as though MoMA has supported something that was not easy to make happen, but they saw it as valid and important and potentially even life-changing. I know that many of these students would never have this sort of opportunity to do something so unique and so special. I truly believe that this support is helping to create a community of people who care about each other, care about what they are making, about how it will change the way they look at art and the art-making process, and about how it will affect their lives beyond this experience. I am so grateful for this opportunity, and so honored to work with the unbelievably dedicated MoMA Education staff.

Special thanks to Jaimie Warren, Sofia Dixon, Kaitlyn Stubbs, Nelson Nieves, LJ Hartman, Christopher Motley, and all of the operations and security department staff who assisted on this program. Final projects from this course, and all of the current In the Making courses, will be on view until September 30th in the Summer 2015 MoMA Teen Art Show. For more information on MoMA Teen programs, please contact teenprograms@moma.org.

Comments

Inquiry as to how my 14 year old children can gain the experience of a sleep over at the museum.

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