2008 : AWGTHTGTWTA (Are We Going to Have to Go Through with This Again?)
Tony Oursler worked with students from Liberty High School and Clinton Middle School to produce a collaborative video with real time scrolling text messaging display to be projected in the Fulton Houses playground.
"When MoreArt approached me with the possibility of doing a project with young people in the public schools of Chelsea, I thought it was interesting that a school so close to the hot New York gallery scene had difficulty with their Arts program. This, of course, is not limited to that neighborhood of New York, but is in fact a widespread problem in the cities across America. School Arts programs are the first to suffer when the budget axe is wielded. Even though, statistically, it's proven that activities in the arts contribute profoundly to a child's development. Moreover, it's cited time and time again that the benefits of creative thinking are not exclusive to the arts.
As a media artist, I have been fascinated with the battle between the spectacle and the viewer. I see this struggle as one of our societal identity in the future. Simply put: Are we going to consume or make? This question is particularly relevant for young people and is also at the heart of this project.
When thinking about the project at the Chelsea schools, the artist wanted to do something collaborative with the young people, which involved performance, language and sound. This culminated in a video chorus, titled "AWGTHTGTTA." Initially, they started out with a creative writing assignment, which unbeknown to the students, was to become the foundation for their involvement in the chorus. It was a simple assignment aimed at defining and loosely encapsulating the students notions of an idealized future and charged the project optimistically. Then, the artist produced a poetic text related to contemporary communications (for example, cell phone acronyms and electronic gaming culture) with the idea that this text would eventually be performed in a group at the school. Oursler then went to the school and recorded each student reading their own text. These stories produced by the students were fascinating and moving and excerpts of these were represented in the final edit. Many of these texts were written and spoken by students whose grasp of English was marginal, as they are part of a special ESL program at Liberty High. Their heavy accents are a wonderful reminder that New York is a world city and that language is a fugitive and living fabric here, which seems to change from block to block. Serendipitously, the group Oursler was able to work with at the Clinton Middle School had just finished working on a musical project together and were used to performing as a group. So, when the cameras rolled they were able to transform the text in ways we had never imagined. All of these elements came together, when finally the work was projected onto a generic New York brick wall, on a playground near a basketball hoop, after the sun went down - in a neighborhood where those young performers live."
AWGTHTGTWTA (Are We Going to Have to Go Through with This Again?) was exhibited in the basketball court of the Fulton Houses, on 17th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues for four weeks in 2008. The video was exhibited again at the Chelsea Art Museum in 2010.Funding for this project has been provided in part by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, The NYC Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts. Assistance provided by the Fulton Houses, and NYCHA.