Did you hear the one about… ‘Jokes for the Campfire’ Launch Event

On Thursday May 19 Shandaken will launch it’s first publication, Jokes for the Campfire, at Friends and Lovers, Brooklyn.

We hope the conversation and preview below will encourage you to attend the event, purchase this hilarious book, and support Shandaken, the unique residency program for visual artists, dancers, writers, curators, scholars, and musicians founded by Nicholas Weist.


Blonde Art Books: Can you give a brief history of Shandaken?

Nicholas Weist: Shandaken was founded in 2011 by a group of artists and art workers. Since that time we have offered residencies to over 60 cultural practitioners and presented dozens of free public events—including talks, screenings, workshops, exhibitions, and performances. Our signature program, The Shandaken Project at Storm King, takes place on the grounds of the world-renowned sculpture park, Storm King Art Center. This program offers residents the opportunity to live within an outdoor museum while pursuing self-directed goals in the studio. With the belief that time and space are the foremost needs of cultural practitioners who develop transformative ideas, we offer up to six weeks of free room, board, and studio space to important but under-recognized individuals and collaborative teams.

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BABS: Can you say a little about the inspiration for this book?

NW: The house we use for the program accommodates three residents at a time, but about 15 will come through over the course of each summer season…. not to mention dozens more friends and peers who visit for dinners or field trips or what have you. Because these folks overlap in space (and feeling) but not in time, we develop strategies to bring them together in other ways. One was a massive retrospective exhibition we held last year in the East Village—the joke book is the latest effort in this direction. In both of those cases, alumni from different cohorts contributed toward a common goal, and met each other and shared something in the process.

BABS: There are so many aspects of the campfire, as a central space of gathering, that can be explored – how much time is actually spent by the campfire?

NW: The campfire in the title is real—s’mores are a number-one priority for most folks who come to the country from a city—but it’s also a metaphor for the way that Shandaken encourages community generally. One aspect of our program that sets us apart from other residencies is our decision not to offer any professional development. Where other organizations might set up studio visits or other promotional opportunities for their residents, we strongly emphasize informal social exchange, and make hospitality an institutional priority. We’ve found that when you bring a few interesting, curious people together in the countryside, it often results in organically derived professional affiliations down the line. So we work hard to cultivate a household atmosphere, and to make sure that colleagues and alumni pass through to hang out with the current residents. Jokes for the Campfire is a non-narrative, incomplete, non-archival history of all the dinners we’ve ever had and all the parties we’ve ever thrown.

BABS: Did the jokes come about organically or is this an activity that you introduced as, lets say – a release from a long day in the studios, a kind of conversation starter after a day of solitude – a playful gesture to encourage an intimate and more spontaneous exchange…

NW: All of the above! But the project was less about generating new ideas or relationships, and more about summing up a few years of those happening on their own. Of course the tragic thing about a joke book is that humor becomes pretty wan when it’s written down… Imagine reading the words “pause for dramatic effect.” But I think the pale shadow is an honest way to represent any lived history. A compendium that’s funny but sad, because it reflects the past but entombs it as well.

BABS: Will you do a follow up to the book with spooky campfire stories? Or campfire recipes?

NW: I’ve been thinking for years we should do something related to food, since it’s such an important element of the residency. But scary stories sounds great too!


Contributions by residents and friends including: Amelia Bande, Robert Beatty, Phillip Birch, Michael Buhler-Rose, Andrianna Campbell, Sean J Patrick Carney, Ariel Dill, Chris Domenick, Dan Fox, Laura Frantz, Chris G, Elise Gardella, Gabrielle Giattino, Solomon Goldbas, Gordon, Colleen Grennan, Brendan Griffiths, Stefan Gunn, Frank Haines, MacGregor Harp, Terry Hempfling, Mary Hill and Tryn Collins, Christopher Ho, Gloria Holen, Heather Hubbs, Jac and Nora, JPW3, Kathryn Kerr, Lila, Reuben Lorch-Miller and Laura Splan, Weston Lowe, Ryan James MacFarland, Gerard McCarthy, Robbie McDonald, Andrea Merkx, Virginia Lee Montgomery, Ceci Moss, Elizabeth Orr, Whitney Platt, Shellyne Rodriguez, Em Rooney, Brie Ruais, Michael Rudokas, Sven Sachsalber, Carmelle Safdie, Jorge Sanchez, Nolan Simon, Joshua Smith and Liz Hirsch, Michael Stamm, Maureen Sullivan, Lumi Tan, Joey Teeling, Jeff Tranchell, Jonathan VanDyke, Siebren Versteeg, Jacques Louis Vidal, Zola Ray Warsh, Emily Weiner, J. Weist, Ana Wolovick, C. Spencer Yeh, and more; published by Shandaken


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