The town of Johnson, Vermont is the site of the Vermont Studio Center. Back in 2008, I arrived for the month of October as a writer. I had spent the pervious May in Beijing as a visual artist in residence and one night of toasting I became the Appalachian Asian artist Beijing Charlie.
Johnson was a mess. All the streets and sidewalks were being replaced. There was mud, puddles and orange cones everywhere guiding pedestrians and cars through this quagmire.
More outrageous, the first day across the Lamoille River bridge to my writing office, I spied one of the lost cones in this lovely babbling brook. “Oh, my god! Am I going to have to look at that everyday as I cross the bridge?”
Then I paused and took a breath. The one we are told always to take. My new breath brought an ironic idea to my oxygen-starved brain. “This is a community of creative visual and literary artists. If I conceptualize this god-awful cone as my art installation, If I claim it as my own, it becomes transformed. My art.”
I come for the school of Duchamp’s urinal and this orange cone is now beautiful. Thus the Cone began its journey of bringing smiles to faces.
But then a few days later the Cone disappeared from the creek. I no longer had a claim to this artistic endevior.
“Why stop at one cone? Johnson is filled with tons of orange cones, barrels, netting, signs all a particular shade of orange. This art installation is in your face. Big, bold and loud. Just like current Chinese art. And now it is all mine.“
I started to document this installation the same way I had PUBLIC HANGINGS. One day the construction foreman stopped me. He wanted to know why I was taking pictures. I turned and smiled at him and said, “This whole site is my art installation of orange cones and you as foreman are in charge to see that all is properly cared for.” It was his turn to take a breath. He did and smiled back.
As I drove out of town at the end of my residency, I hated the idea of leaving The Orange Cone Project behind, but then as I got on Highway 91 driving south, miles of orange cones and barrels lining the highway inundated me. My people were busy creating another installation and bringing miles of smiles to my face, much like Duchamp’s and his Mile of String installation.
I claim all orange cones and objects that shade of orange around the world as an extension of my art installation. Unlike Banksy who does his art in the middle of the night, I have people working for me 24/7 placing miles of cones flashy or single beat up cones might be found in your backyard. If you see a green or yellow cone know that it is wanting to ripen into orange. My cones will help you become one with the universe.