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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 



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.


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.


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.

SWEARLINE, (2002-2003)

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

1224 W Loyola Ave, Chicago, IL 60626



“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 alternatives.


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.


Opening Reception

Saturday, June 10

6:00 - 8:00 PM


Join Lucky Pierre as we collectively add entries to the evolving timeline installed at Roman Susan. There will be art supplies available for protest sign making and  CEW (Creatively Empowered Women) Design Studio will also be on site with a Pop-Up Store. CEW Design Studio is a local project that serves Bosnian and South Asian immigrant women, through art therapy and social enterprise. 


The Reading Project with Judith Brotman

Sunday, June 25

3:00 - 5:00 PM


Join Judith Brotman and six invited guests who will 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 juxtapositions, and textual interconnections. Each guest will read for 10 minutes. Conversation and cake will follow.


Judith Brotman is an artist and educator from Chicago. Her work has included mixed media installations and theatrical immersive environments which occupy a space between sculpture and drawing. Recent work also includes language/text based conceptual projects which are meditations on the possibility of transformation. The Reading Project stems from her interests in the impact of the written and spoken word, and the complex nature of human motivations.


Closing Event

Friday, June 30

6:00 - 9:00 PM


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.


Brian Holmes is a cultural critic and an artist-cartographer, a member of the Compass Group and of Deep Time Chicago. A polyglot and a prolific essayist with a focus on art and political economy, he has spoken and published around the world, especially in Europe and Latin America. His most recent visual work can be seen at


Hoda Katebi is a sarcastic (& angry) Muslim-Iranian writer, photographer, and activist living in Chicago, and is the founder of JooJoo Azad, a radical anti-capitalist, intersectional feminist, and body-positive activist fashion blog.