Waif Hill (STOP BEING POOR!)
(Full video available upon request)
metal and lenticular
silicone molds, cement, plastic gourds, inflatable chair
2021 New York Community Trust Van Lier Fellow Jake Brush’s installation envisions Wave Hill as it exists between reality and artifice, where manicured landscapes and idyllic views belie competition, identity, class and power. Video, print media, sound and sculptural works string together overlapping narratives of humor, conspiracy, self-maintenance, isolation and crisis. Referencing conflicting narratives within the American media, Brush's work shifts between the desire to transcend mundanity to reach greatness, and the reality that power can only be maintained if it is not accessible to everyone. The focal point of the exhibition is Brush’s video STOP BEING POOR!, which includes performances by artists David Moses, Candystore and CHRISTEENE, and footage of Wave Hill’s horticulture staff. Brush approaches Wave Hill as a powerful, living creature—a character rather than just a setting. The garden becomes a potential antagonist whose relationship to wealth controls its inhabitants, draws people in, produces life, forces people away and keeps them out beyond visiting hours. The institution’s daily life is interrupted through scattered, stitched-together sequences of investigative journalism, at-home workout videos, promotional content and mockumentary style competitions featuring two members of the same "chosen family" battling it out for an ambiguous top spot as a lifelong resident at “Waif Hill.” Brush leans into his conflicting feelings about Wave Hill’s history as a private residence turned cultivated, public green space. Silicone casts of cement balusters located around the grounds transform these decorative architectural supports into limp, deflated objects that are rendered useless and disfigured, touching on notions of the labor required to maintain appearances. Brush critiques the material culture of the former estate, revealing the prevailing taste and status symbols of the time. In the video, the artist, dressed as a gardener, forces the floppy baluster into place. The result is a playful disruption of what it means to be a beautiful garden with undeniable institutional power.
Video credits: Mike Feswick, assistant director; David Moses, "Winning & Losing" fashion and jewelry design; Timothy Gibbons, custom fashion and costume design; Peter Maturo, voice overs; Lucas Baumgart and Paul Sylvester, original compositions; Jake Brush and Riley Hooker, title graphic.