Interview with Caecilia Tripp, Paris-Based Artist

July 2, 2015 | By Dorothée Charles
© Chung-Leng Tran

Caecilia Tripp is a conceptual artist whose primary mediums are video installation, photography and performance. Equipped with a poetic mind, her work shines a light on forms of freedom, utopia and civil disobedience at the crossroads of globalization, where her pieces transcends geographical frontiers. Using forms of “reenactments” and “rehearsals”, Tripp’s work dwells on the collective imagination, which she sees as a space of transgression and innovation, where it is possible to push social and cultural boundaries.

Tripp is invited by the Bronx Museum during the summer 2015 to present her latest film, the second score of Music for (prepared) Bicycles within the framework of the exhibition ¡Presente! The Young Lords in New York. It was produced in New York in collaboration with the Schwinn Bike Club, a Puerto Rican bicycle club. It was co-produced by Quancard Contemporary Art, CaribBEING & Rattapallax Films NY. The project was made possible by an artist residency at Brooklyn College, and with the support of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States.

Caecilia Tripp’s work has been shown internationally in galleries and museums such as MoMA PS1 (New York), Brooklyn Museum (New York), Center Of Contemporary Arts (New Orleans), Palais de Tokyo (Paris, France), Museum of Modern Art (Paris, France), Zacheta Gallery (Warsaw, Poland), De Appel (Amsterdam, Netherlands)...

Dorothée Charles (D.C.): How did the performance/film project Music for (prepared) Bicycles (after John Cage and Marcel Duchamp) come into being?

Caecilia Tripp (C.T.): I always thought it was time to take John Cage to the streets, least but not last for his 100th birthday. As Cage repeatedly claimed himself: the street noise is the real sound, especially in times when we the people need to take the streets again and again to change social conditions and politics. Music for (prepared) Bicycles translates the prepared piano by John Cage into a sonic bicycle, stringed with electronic guitar cords and hit by a play-card, as such to produce a score while on the move, with the on-looker, the passer-by, the city noise being part of it, as a form of collective sounding of a freed geography in between Bombay, NYC and Cape Town.

D.C.: The project is broken into three parts and takes place in three locations: Bombay, New York City and Cape Town. Could you explain your choice to stage the project in these three cities?

C.T.: Music for (prepared) Bicycles takes on the idea of “Free People & Free Sounds” by John Cage, in the form of a trilogy in three scores in Bombay, NYC and Cape Town, cities which all related to the Civil Rights Movements. Score One started in Bombay at Gandhi Freedom Park together with Clark House Initiative. NYC is the home of John Cage as well as the home of global capitalism, a challenging and vibrant place of constant change, of negotiations and struggles for social justice which concern all of us. Cape Town, as one of the signifying places of global colonization and the apartheid system, stays/acts as our jump rope. Nelson Mandela, in his anti-apartheid struggle, was inspired by Gandhi, and Gandhi himself got his wake up call while working as a lawyer in South Africa. Everything is related; Dr. Martin Luther King was inspired by Gandhi while taking on the struggle for freedom in America. But all of these struggles keep coming back to us in different ways, and too often they are the same ways. Music for (prepared) Bicycles is inspired by “Free People & Free Sounds”, something that is not monumental, but rather constantly changing: music made by everyone.

D.C.: In Score Two, you did a performance with a Puerto Rican bicycle club, which involved interviews with former members of the Young Lords, a Puerto Rican civil rights group. Can you tell more about the relation between this performance and the civil rights movement?

C.T.: Music for (prepared) Bicycles / Score Two relates to the civil rights movement of the Young Lords in New York City in the 1970s. The bicycle visits landmarks of the civil rights struggle, such as the First People’s church in Spanish Harlem and Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx, which were occupied by the Young Lords in the 70s.

The bicycle was built in conjunction with the Puerto Rican Schwinn Bike Club. This was the organization that first started a bicycle culture in New York, which was built on the seat of American Schwinn bikes, still found in Puerto Rico today. The Schwinn Bike Club is a kind of public agency, born out of a shared passion. Since its conception, it has evolved into the Puerto Rican day parade, a celebration of the territory’s diasporic culture. The Puerto Rican community is the perfect group with whom to share the Cage-inspired prepared bicycle. Puerto Rico is a place that is still trying to define its identity, having been the first U.S. colony.

I think it is a wonderful idea to revisit history, as the Bronx Museum is doing now with its Young Lords show, and to connect this to the cosmopolitan agency of contemporary art, as a new future to share beyond geographical boundaries. Music for (prepared) Bicycles is about us having fluid identities.

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