On June 25, Eyebeam resident artist Kenseth Armstead will be screening scenes from his feature action/art film Spook 1781: the invisible life of double James using a process he has developed called “Open Source Casting”: allowing the general public to become the stars of his film. For the past five months, over 100 people enacted in HD video, the true story of the double agent/slave-spy James Armistead Lafayette. Viewers were able to select a character, like James, one of his two handlers: the Marquis Lafayette (General, US continental Army) and the Lord Charles Cornwallis (General, British Army); or one of a number of other historical supporting characters involved in the American Revolution.
In the summer of 1781, James Armistead Lafayette was the sneakiest double agent in America. By providing intelligence, James succeeded in liberating our insurgent forefathers from the British Empire. Spook™ is a multimedia installation project based on James’ true story as a double agent for America’s first Director of Central Intelligence, George Washington.
The installation Spook™ mixes elements of HD video production equipment with 18th century documentary imagery, period costumes, forensic drawings, abstract sketches, research documents, and the screenplay of Spook 1781: the invisible life of double James. These media items are staged as a film set with life-sized tableaus that are flexible and extensible, constructed by the artist. It renders an immersive abstraction of the espionage landscape that James had to navigate.
Spook™ is designed to integrate professional actors and the general public into the same cattle-call process involved with commercial film production. It dissolves the American Revolution’s mythology and replaces it with a serial act: hundreds of different people inhabiting James’ peculiar role as an invisible agent in the midst of a bloody insurgency.
About the Artist
Kenseth Armstead’s multimedia works have been exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Studio Museum in Harlem, Brooklyn Museum, and the Bronx Museum of the Arts. His works are in private and public collections including the Centre Pompidou, Paris, and the African American Museum, Dallas. Armstead is an alumnus of the Whitney Independent Study Program. He has earned a Pollock-Krasner Award, NYFA video fellowship, NYSCA individual Artist Grant (film/video,) a Creative Capital Grant and a Bronx Council on the Arts Digital Matrix Commission. Armstead was an artist in residence at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Workspace, and is currently artist in residence at Eyebeam Art + Technology Center where he is producing scenes from his feature length, action/art film Spook 1781. For more information, visit http://www.spook1781.com.