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Lucky Pierre is a collaborative group founded by Mary Zerkel and Michael Thomas in 1995, and (loosely) directed by Michael Thomas. They work in writing, performance, education, activism and visual forms.
Lucky Pierre creates structures for engagement with various publics. In these forms, we explore complex issues and ideas (political, aesthetic, social) in ways that accommodate a wide range of experience, styles and approaches. The open structure allows collaborators and viewers to define their own participation; helping to create the meaning, and determine the final form and outcome of the work.
WE ARE: Kevin Kaempf, Holly Abney, Mary Zerkel, Michael Thomas, Bill Talsma, Heather Lindahl, Matthew Nicholas
SELECT PAST PROJECTS
An ongoing project. Recreations of the final meals of Texas death row inmates. Community meals. Chicago, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Detroit, Berlin, New York, Hamburg, Portland.
Actions for Chicago Torture Justice is an accumulating archive of actions created by both Lucky Pierre and the public in response to the Chicago police torture cases. The torture, inflicted by the Chicago Police from 1972 to 1992, involved over 110 victims – all African Americans from Chicago’s south side. The piece is a part of The Chicago Torture Justice Memorial Project for speculative monument proposals to memorialize the Chicago police torture cases.
A CONTINUOUS 12-HOUR CONVERSATION / PRESENTATION ABOUT THE U.S. CONSTITUTION ON ELECTION DAY, 2012 America/n was presented on Presidential Election Day, November 6th 2012, during polling hours (6:00 am to 7:00 pm) at Defibrillator Gallery. Lucky Pierre and 24 guest presenters worked through the American project as defined by the United States Constitution
Each presenter was invited to research, interpret, rewrite or otherwise respond to a pre-selected section of the US Constitution. Each had 20-minutes to report their “findings” in whatever form they chose (discussions / songs / performances / polemics/ lectures). The daylong event was free and open to all, creating a public space to collectively learn, have fun, argue, discuss, and reflect.
Michael Thomas of Lucky Pierre walks across a city in a 24-hour period. At some point the he pauses to deliver his lecture SELF RELIANCE based on Ralph Waldo Emerson's lecture of the same name. During the presentation, the lecturer discusses aesthetics, walking, Sylvester, drone strikes, Afghan war dead, attractive young people; and Mr. Emerson tells us: “this new molecular philosophy goes to show that there are astronomical interspaces betwixt atom and atom; that the world is all outside: it has no inside.” Following the lecture the walk continues with lecture attendees. At some point we get tired and go into a bar and drink and talk. Emerson Takes a Walk has been walked and talked in Chicago, London, Budapest and Brooklyn. Written and performed by Michael Thomas with Kevin Kaempf and Mark Caffrey
Based on the epic Longfellow poem Evangeline and the films Easy Rider and Woodstock, the 36-Hour Evangeline Trilogy was a trio of 12-hour durational events that was created and performed by over 150 guest performers and collaborators. Created by: Holly Abney, Sheri Doyle, Richard Fox, Jason Greenberg, Jeff Kowalkowski, Danielle Malkoff, Tyler B. Myers, Jacob Ross, Bill Talsma, Michael Thomas, Vicki Walden, Mary Zerkel.
A performance. "It was a day we'll always remember, we were all beautifully, simply happy." Richard Nixon remembers his daughter Trisha's wedding day. Michael Jordan is the happiest man in the world because he can jump so high. Everyone hangs from the ceiling in a sky blue room. Then we dance in bear costumes and eat Wheaties. We think it's all very funny. Critics respond: "Happiness seems very sad indeed." Created by: Vincent Dermody, Noah Loesberg, Michael Thomas, Mary Zerkel. Directed by: Michael Thomas.
How to Manage Fear is a performance recreating: car chase from the Steve McQueen film Bullitt, Milton's Paradise Lost and the dancing Backstreet Boys in post-9/11 America. How to Manage Fear was featured at the Eurokaz International Theatre Festival in Zagreb, Croatia; the Kana Nahk Festival in Rakvere Estonia; the Belluard Bollwerk International in Fribourg Switzerland; and the PAC/edge Festival in Chicago. Created by: Holly Abney, Jeff Kowalkowski, Tyler B. Myers, Bill Talsma, Michael Thomas, Mary Zerkel. Directed by: Michael Thomas.
Loosely based on the biography of Sarah Josephine Marcus Earp. Lucky Pierre stages the events leading to the showdown at the OK Corral to the music of the Jacksons—Janet and Michael. Rope dancing, telegraph messages, the railway crosses the nation, and Mary is gunned down in a hail of bullets. Vince cries. Noah is stoic. A lone vertical breaks the horizon and Doc Holiday drinks himself to death. A list of words never spoken by Wyatt Earp is recited. Rosalind Krauss' grid appears on the prairie. Created by: Vincent Dermody, Noah Loesberg, Joseph Silovsky, Michael Thomas, Mary Zerkel. Directed by: Michael Thomas.
Lucky Pierre's first performance. Using language from a transcribed episode of the TV show COPS, we explored aggressive deployment of language as power ("Do you speak English? Does she speak English?"). During a meal, at dining room table, we defined and displayed the self as a function of appetite. A stock photo "American Landscape" becomes our substitute home and our destination. Created by: Vincent Dermody, Noah Loesberg, Michael Thomas, Mary Zerkel. Directed by: Michael Thomas.
Photo: Ginger Gene
Lucky Pierre as Lucky Pierre Free University directed the collaborative seminar The Sky Is Falling. The Money's All Gone. Over a period of 10 weeks LPFU facilitators and participants have together developed creative responses to themes of environmental and economic fragility. The concluding event, Works Against Despair, featured presentations, performances, and gallery works displayed in the Propeller Fund Project Space at Mana Contemporary.
A six-month collaboration and conversation between artists in the UK and the US which culminated on November 30, 2013 in concurrent daylong events in London and Chicago. Through presentations, conversation and video, the 10-hour event featured artists, activists, scholars, and volunteers who researched, dissected, explored, discussed, protested, celebrated, and argued about the United States.
Who's funding your work? What are those corporate foundations getting in return? How self-righteous are we? A raucous beer-fueled resurrection of long-dead AC/DC front man Bon Scott at the Hideout—one of Chicago’s favorite bars and music venues. There are ghosts and guitar solos and dancing. There is talk about Chicago arts funding and the Boeing Corporation’s ties to illegal rendition flights. Lucky Pierre bites the hand that feeds us. Created by: Karen Christopher, Jeff Kowalkowski, Tyler B. Myers, Michael Thomas, Mary Zerkel. Directed by: Michael Thomas.
URBAN FORMAT RADIO, (2002)
Lucky Pierre and over 40 guest performers, artists, friends, and colleagues gathered at a sound studio where radio station B-96 (96.3 FM) “Chicago’s Dance Beat,” was re-recorded live for 24 hours. Listening through headphones, guest performers repeated/interpreted the radio station’s words, music, commercials and DJ banter—all of which were recorded onto CD. At the end of the 24 hours, a 24-volume CD set had accumulated. Portions of this piece have been re-broadcast throughout the United States and Europe. Created by: Jeff Kowalkowski, Tyler B. Myers, Bill Talsma, Michael Thomas, Mary Zerkel, and 40 volunteers. Recorded and Engineered by Jacob Ross.
From Labor Day 2002 until Labor Day 2003 the Swearline invited participants to call and record their interpretation of swearing. The over 100 hours of filth was digitized, transcribed and catalogued. The piece was featured on NPR—courted then ignored by Harper's Magazine and ridiculed by CNN, MSNBC, and news outlets worldwide. Created by: Jeff Kowalkowski, Tyler B. Myers, Bill Talsma, Michael Thomas, Mary Zerkel, and hundreds of callers.
What is Ronald Reagan thinking about right now? 10 seconds in the brain of the late president. A female Eddie Murphy taunts the audience during her comedy monologue. Ron and Eddie star in a 1940's film as American expats languish in the tropics. A volcano erupts; then it rains on stage. The American Empire remains for the moment. Created by: Holly Abney, Jason Greenberg, Becky Phillips, Michael Thomas, Vicki Walden, Mary Zerkel. Directed by: Michael Thomas.
A decade into America’s war in Afghanistan, we realized we knew little about the war, we didn’t talk about it—we had made no sacrifices for it. The piece organized and hosted by Lucky Pierre, was created by 24 guest presenters who researched about the war and the country and presented their “findings” to the public for 12 hours—free of charge—on the 10th anniversary of the Afghan conflict. Presenters included artists, activists, historians, researchers, veterans, and soldiers currently serving in Afghanistan. Created by: Holly Abney, Kevin Kaempf, Jeff Kowalkowski, Bill Talsma, Michael Thomas, Mary Zerkel.
the old is dying and the new cannot be born a project by Lucky Pierre
June 10 - 30, 2017
Roman Susan Gallery, Chicago, IL
“The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear."
—Antonio Gramsci, The Prison Notebooks (1929 - 1935)
In a moment awash in militarized violence, white supremacy, and nationalism, the only schemes being offered by the dominant powers are the continued expansion of global capitalism, the overthrow of democratic ideals, and an embrace of authoritarianism and populism. Our recently elected chief executive and his administration are happily embracing these strategies. In contrast, people at the grassroots level are activated to resist, imagine, and create dynamic alternative.
Central to Lucky Pierre’s project at Roman Susan is a participatory timeline capturing the first 100 days of the Trump administration. This living graph collectively charts the social, economic, and cultural forces currently at play. Typically, a timeline is a tool created from a historical and emotional distance used to make connections between the past and the present. At this time of profound conjuncture, can we collectively interpret history as it is happening? This impulse to decode current events can serve as a catalyst for conversation, an opportunity for co-learning, a counter-moment of hope—and perhaps an antidote.
The Reading Project with Judith Brotman
Join Judith Brotman and six invited guests who read aloud from literature, nonfiction, poetry, and criticism. Readers will choose a personally meaningful text responding to our current historical moment. The selected texts will be revealed as read by each guest, creating impromptu jjuxtapositions, and textual interconnections. Each guest will read for 10 minutes. Conversation and cake will follow
At our closing event Brian Holmes and Hoda Katebi will lead a discussion addressing the question, “What does the moment in between the old dying off and the new creating itself have to offer?” Music and cookout will follow the heady discussion.
A Thing of Great Power and Size Has Gone Missing (2001-Present)
project by Lucky Pierre
October 7 to October 29, 2017
2579 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago,
In the name of the " Global War on Terror," the U.S. has initiated and sustained military action in Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond. After sixteen years of armed conflict, war has become normalized in the U.S., constant but distant. Now with the nation’s focus on the increasingly possible failure of the U.S. government, these conflicts have become even more invisible.
At the Comfort Station during October, 2010, Lucky Pierre will present A Thing of Great Power and Size has Gone Missing (October 7, 2001 - Present). The project will feature an extensive timeline citing historical, political, and social events occurring during the U.S. led war on terror, including the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. The focus will be on the human body and its destruction and exploitation during the time of these conflicts (the collective body, individual soldiers, civilian casualties and, enemy combatants held against international law). The timeline acts as a visual marker and memorial to the many bodies now disappeared due to these ongoing conflicts.
A Thing of Great Power and Size has Gone Missing (October 7, 2001 - Present) contrasts the disappearance of those bodies in the collective consciousness with the cultural saturation of the idealized bodies of popular films that act as a distraction. These movies, corresponding to the 16 years of war, will act as source material for the opening event “lectures,” and re-edited versions screened for final event. By using the highest-grossing domestic films from the war years, we will explore the interconnectedness of American values, cultural production, national/military policy, as well as official and alternative methods of historicizing.
Opening Event: 16 Lectures Concerning 16 War Years
Saturday, October 7
6:00 PM - 9:00 PM
On the 16th anniversary of the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom the U.S invasion of Afghanistan, Lucky Pierre invites 16 guests to give 10 minute presentations on one of the years corresponding to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Closing Event: 38-Hour Screening
Friday, October 27, 8:00 AM to Saturday, October 28, 10:00 PM
Lucky Pierre will screen for 38 hours the highest grossing films for each of the war years. The films have been re-edited to remove human bodies while maintaining the original runtimes - condensing and measuring 16 years of war into 2,280 minutes of now altered entertainment product. While each of the films is being screened, timeline entries correlating to the year of that film are removed from the gallery wall. At the end of the screening all timeline entries will have been removed leaving the gallery space empty.