C E D A R   L O R C A   N O R D B Y E
Empire Project (Woodcut)Empire Project (Ali Abu Kamal)Empire Project (documentation triptych)
Empire Project
Between 1997 and 2000 I made many images of the Empire State Building in reaction to an incident that occurred in February of 2007 when a Palestinian man, Ali Abu Kamal, shot a number of tourists on the observation deck there. I began to consider a performance project for that site. In February of 2000 I flew to New York with an unstructured plan to carry out a performative “event” in which I would interact with people at the Empire State Building. I had made and distributed announcements, and I had a wooden ball that I planned on kicking around the observation deck on the 86th floor. I also carried in my bag a sheaf of silkscreen prints (depicting a gun) on sheets of tracing paper. The gun image and the wooden ball both arose out of investigations of violence that I had been carrying out in my two-dimensional work. Two days before my “event” I had lunch with an artist friend, Anne Beffel, and we discussed my project. Her encouragement and ideas got my mind racing and the project took a tentative form, some parts of which were still in a state of flux the afternoon of the “performance.”

This loose, “drawing” approach to performance helped me to overcome resistances that I had to the staged and “closed-circuit” of most performance art. It also allowed me to carry out a work, despite the discomfort and hesitancy that came from the fact that I didn’t feel in advance like I knew exactly what I was doing. This indeterminacy has been central to my studio practice and allows for me to engage with complex political topics while avoiding oversimplifying and flat-footed didactic statements. The indeterminacy also leaves an open space for the audience to feel that there is room for their ideas, thus a dialogue is possible.

I entered the Empire State Building at eight in the evening on the third anniversary of the shooting. I set the wooden ball down on the cement pavers and began kicking it along the observation deck. I then kicked it so that it rolled into the feet of a tourist looking out at the view. He turned around suddenly and was tense, confrontational. I said nothing and then gestured to the ball. At this point his body position softened and he smiled and kicked the ball back to me. I kicked it back to him and he laughed and walked away. I kicked the ball on and to another unsuspecting person. It took me about twenty-five minutes to circumnavigate the observation deck. During this time some people ignored me completely. A group of Italian tourists imitated soccer players and started passing the ball between them and doing little soccer tricks and shouting.