In the spring of 2011 I was visiting PS 1 in Queens when I was drawn to a corner of the museum where an aged winter mask sat under glass. Below the mask was a brief explanation of how artist Chris Burden - as part of a 1971 performance art piece - wore this very mask for several days in Kansas City without taking it off. Burden called the piece “You’ll Never See My Face in Kansas City.”
I was knocked out by the concept and heard in the title of Burden’s work a song that was in search of a writer. I called my friend Jerry DeCicca of The Black Swans with a challenge: He and I would both write songs with the title “You’ll Never See My Face in Kansas City.”
In homage to Burden’s original work - where anonymity exerts power and mystery - neither of us would be allowed to hear each other’s songs until they were recorded.
Filmmaker Jonathan Dortch heard the songs and offered to direct a video diptych for the project. Concepts were discussed. Storyboards drafted. Jonathan suggested we make a replica mask just for the shoot. Enter Jeni from I Can Knit Anything, who created a stunningly accurate version of Burden’s original mask.
While “You’ll Never See My Face in Kansas City” began as a low-key, friendly song swap between friends, over the course of a year, the project evolved into a full-on music, video and multimedia project that included more than a dozen participants that lead to the creation of a pair of videos, a vinyl single and a limited edition of replica masks.
In revisiting Burden’s haunting original work, The Malefactors of Great Wealth and The Black Swans have forged a new musical and visual genre: Artcore.
-- JP Olsen