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About confidence and No Confidence


Candida Pagan
Candida Pagan, at her No Confidence Party HQ at PIFAS last Sunday. She’ll be having office hours M-F this week from 6-10 PM.

One of Philly’s hotbeds of art, music, pedagogy and collaboration — PIFAS — had an opening Sunday for its two current artists in residence, Candida Pagan and Sophia Wang.

Pagan, on leave from UArts MFA program for a whirlwind year of art and music activities** concocted an installation called the No Confidence Party, something that looks like a political office and feels like …well it does feel a little like a political campaign office. (If you’ve ever worked in one, you’ll know that they’re chaotic places, usually set up quickly in ad hoc office spaces off the beaten path. There’s always a coffee maker and usually a xerox machine. And most of all, there’s paper everywhere — brochures, pamphlets, leaflets, cardboard yard signs, buttons and bumper stickers). Pagan’s got the coffee maker, the water cooler, the desk and papers and bulletin board. In addition, she’s made a psychedelic red-striped floor, and for a bit of surreal delight, she’s got a typewriter set up next to her laptop computer and she’s typing away–questions to research and answers she’s found online. The typed material is posted on the walls.

The trippy paper tile floor of the No Confidence Party HQ.  Jim Lambie anyone?
The trippy paper tile floor of the No Confidence Party HQ.  Jim Lambie anyone?

Candida Pagan, typewriter and computer
Typewriter and computer, side by side.

Candida Pagan, No Confidence Party
El Pico coffee!! (Used to be my house brand until Acme stopped carrying it — Pagan says Pathmark has it. We both like it for the label as much as for the cheap price and the product inside.)

The ideas behind the project are various. There’s the first and ostensible one: writing “No Confidence Party” on the ballot instead of voting for another candidate or party. Pagan says she’s not even sure she’d do that but she’s putting it out there as an idea. What the artist is really doing at her desk in the small space is facilitating conversation about politics and the electoral process. She’s got a stack of voter registration forms and when I was there she was doing a brisk business in those–telling people how to fill them out, accepting the filled out ones (which she will presumably deliver to the proper authorities), and telling people how to change their address so they can vote in their new district.

I love this project. It’s cheerfully asking you to take time out and think about democracy and actually participate. It’s important for young people, old people, everyone to turn out in numbers and vote. This year we have an opportunity to stop the madness and correct the wrong-headed direction the country is going in. Projects like this can only help create awareness and buzz. And if they foster voter registration and actually help get people to the polls thereby, that is noble activist art.

Candida Pagan, Ben Remsen
Pagan and Ben Remsen. They were talking about some political fine points but my camera distracted them. Here’s Remsen showing off one of the No Confidence Party campaign buttons.

Wearing a red power suit accessorized with blue and white, the artist looked the part of a politico. And lest you think this is all show, she is researching questions that come up in discussions. Like, what is a super delegate? etc. When I was there many people were crammed into the space and there were several interesting discussions going on, not all about politics. (Ramsey Arnaoot and Ben Remsen got into an open source/open systems/closed systems discussion in front of the water cooler, which, when they realized they were having a suitable office “water cooler” discussion, made them both laugh.

Sophia Wang at PIFAS
Sophia Wang’s installation in a small box below the floor level in the Gallery below the stairs.

While Pagan’s installation takes up almost the whole room, do not overlook Sophia Wang‘s tiny shoebox installation tucked beneath the loft ladder and actually sunk in a box below floor level. Wang has made a mini sculptural tableau of some of Philadelphia’s favorite (or not so favorite but surely recognizable) icons — the Cira Center, the Zoo balloon, sneakers over the wires and two white passport-photo trucks like the ones in back of the Free Library.

More photos at flickr.

PIFAS is at 1712 N. 2nd St. (at Cecil B. Moore) and here’s the google directions.

**Here’s Pagan’s itinerary now through the summer: Mardi Gras float-making in North Carolina; New Orleans for Mardi Gras; Minneapolis to work on a dance/music thing and then Maine for friends and to play music…and maybe, just maybe Honduras for a gig teaching at a Magic Village where they make paper.