For Cast Studio you enlisted your family [Abe and Bea Houseago] and your friends [the artists Karon Davis, David Hockney, J.P. Gonçalves de Lima, Lorna Simpson, Marco Perego, the filmmaker Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, the curators and museum directors Caroline Bourgeois, Fabrice Hergott, Olivia Gaultier-Jeanroy, Michael Govan, the musicians Flea, Kamasi and Rickey Washington, Arrietta Woods, the actors Brad Pitt, Zoe Saldana, Julian Sands, the poet Robin Coste Lewis, the lawyer Christiane Asschenfeldt] to respond to the piece.
Pretty quickly, as I progressed with Muna open-endedly photographing and filming, I started to review the photographs, and I saw that those images were powerful and had so many references and so much resonance. And so the images began to push and lead the piece, and I began to act, sometimes in ways where I was responding to the images that Muna had made. There were times when Muna was directing me, and there were times when I was directing Muna to photograph me a certain way. It started to become clear that all these roles – artist and model, director and actor, viewer and viewed, moments of real intimacy and moments of conscious acting, moments of labor (the literal physical action of making the piece) were part of the work itself. Once that started to happen, I began to realize that, yes my body was really important, and, yes the actions I was doing were central to it, but the piece began, in a weird way, to take over. That really started when Karon Davis came by with her son, Moses, and Moses intuitively and impulsively jumped into the piece and began to do a lot of the things I had been doing earlier in the making of it. He wanted to bury himself. He wanted to leap off the stage. That I think represented the full crossover moment when I understood that the piece would become more than me just acting in it, and more than just my body, and more than just my dynamic with Muna. So at that moment, I slowly began to move away from the notion of being the sole author, the sole performer. Earlier that year I’d had this image where the one person I really imagined acting in the piece was Julian [Sands]. I’d been struck by Julian in a film about Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty [a piece of land art from 1970], where he’s reading and walking on it. I also like Julian’s physicality and his being a Yorkshire man, like me – he comes from a similar place, but his creative energy flows in a different way. Once my friend’s son had “performed” in the piece, I quickly moved to wanting Julian to come in, and once that had happened, I realized that that performer, the person who comes in, transforms, changes, leaves an impression on, or affects the meaning of, the work, and there was something unbelievably moving about that idea – the sculpture could be more than just this object, more than just Muna’s film or photographs, and expand out into being the studio – our friends, people that performed. I wanted to show that sculpture, music, poetry, performance and all these different things could align, and that they could embrace one another, in a sense, to become something rich and, in a certain way, unique.
Thomas Houseago, Almost Human, until July 14, musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, France.