COCOON is a series of public space sculptures I’m building at sites around the world that have traumatic histories and conflicting narratives. The first Cocoon was created in the Tlatelolco neighborhood of Mexico City in 2010, in the plaza where the Aztec lost their final battle against the Spanish, and government forces massacred a still-unknown number of people at a democracy protest in 1968. I built a COCOON in Greenwood, a small town in the Mississippi Delta that was a cotton capital both before and after the Civil War, and the scene of intense Civil Rights organizing during 1960's. In 2012, I created a COCOON in the state’s capital, Jackson, in the Mississippi Museum of Art’s new public art garden that sits on the site of a former bus station where Freedom Riders were arrested in 1961.
In all the locations I collaborate with local people who, in addition to building the large COCOON, also create a little cocoon from the everyday things that they might find in their purse or pocket. I interview and record each participant about what their cocoon represents. Their recorded testimony is heard inside the finished sculpture. COCOON culminates when participants carry the skin in a ceremonial procession that starts at a historic location, passes communal memory points, and ends at the COCOON site. There participants wrap the COCOON skeleton with the skin completing the sculpture. That same evening COCOON is illuminated and their voices heard.
Support COCOON Goutte d’Or
After two years of field organizing and little cocoon workshops in Goutte d’Or, in which over 300 local people participated, I am now preparing for the artwork’s final phase, the four-week build this fall, and the procession and illumination of the sculpture on October 4, 2014.
COCOON Goutte d’Or is a joint production between COCOON by Kate Browne and GFR - le Collectif, a French association in the neighborhood. Our support comes from foundations, government agencies, neighborhood associations, and the individuals who attended our COCOON benefit. These generous contributions helped fund local field organizers, a youth core build team, workshops, housing, airfares, a South Bronx-Goutte d’Or student exchange, and provided links to hundreds of local residents. There is a list of our funders and local partners below. I am eternally grateful to them all.
Now I need your help. Your contribution to my Kickstarter campaign will make COCOON in Goutte d’Or possible. Your contributions will go towards materials, equipment, security, expenses and to link past COCOONS to present by bringing two people, a core team member and field organizer, from COCOON Jackson to work and have an exchange with local people in building the Goutte d’Or COCOON in Paris.
With your help for a few days and nights COCOON can hold the past, present, and future in one place.
Why the Goutte d'Or?
The Goutte d’Or is located in the 18th arrondissement, just east of Montmartre. The neighborhood has a long history as a destination for immigrants from North and West African nations. Today the neighborhood is also a waypoint for people traveling without papers, trying to make it from somewhere else, often Eastern Europe, to other places in Europe or the United States. Certain parts of the Goutte d’Or are routinely patrolled by national riot police. As in nearby suburbs, the residents and police sporadically clash in small and occasionally larger confrontations. The Goutte d’Or has a vibrant and strong civil society with a powerful network of associations, shops, religious organizations, schools, libraries, cafes and artists.
I have been working with local field organizers, neighborhood associations, and residents in the Goutte d’Or. With their help I have reached out to hundreds of local people through little cocoon workshops.
Building the Large COCOON in Paris
The culmination of COCOON in the Goutte d’Or will take place in fall 2014, with a four-week build in the neighborhood. The COCOON represents the people and the place where it is built. We will build the skeleton of the COCOON using local Ailanthus altissima saplings, an invasive species in France.
The skeleton will be 24 X 10’ (8 X 3m) and look similar to the COCOON skeleton below.
Participants will weave the COCOON skin using Ailanthus altissima branches fastened with African fabric scraps from local tailors and designers.
The Procession: When Skin Walks With Memory
When Skin Walks With Memory is a silent performance where participants can acknowledge and symbolically bring their past, present and future to the artwork. The procession will be free from religious or cultural meanings but scripted to create positive interactions between diverse populations.
I script the procession by creating storyboards.
Each participant wears a light and carries a skin panel to the skeleton in Square Léon. There they will wrap the skeleton with the skin enclosing the little cocoons.
The skin will be carried to the skeleton through the streets of the Goutte d’Or on October 4, 2014. The procession will begin in the early evening at the Charles de Gaulle airport, travel by the RER B train making stops in the Paris suburbs to arrive at Gare du Nord at 7:30pm, then enter the Goutte d’Or neighborhood and end in Square Léon after dark.
What's inside the COCOON?
Little Cocoons and recorded testimony
While the large COCOON serves as a physical representation of the people and place where it is built, I work with participants to create little cocoons that represent the individual voices within the neighborhood. I help sort their everyday objects to find those that are symbolic to them. In this process I take people on a journey through their unconscious enabling them to discover the stories, wishes, dreams and memories their cocoon represents.
Once participants build their own little cocoon, an allegory for revisiting distant memories and defining hopes for the future, I interview and record each person's thoughts on what their cocoon means to them. An example of two participants testimonies can be seen below.
"The cup is in the shape of a home which represents my home in the Dominican Republic, the glass represents my eyes looking through. The candy, my mother's sweetness. The wrapper is bright like she is. She is brilliant. My wish is to live where she is back in the Dominican Republic."
"Yes, the ocean. Oh Lord, the beaches. It's all blue skies, blue water. Algeria. It's in Kabylie. Béjaïa."
As people walk through the illuminated COCOON they pass by hundreds of little cocoons and listen to recorded testimonies from the Goutte d'Or. Following the procession, the COCOON illumination takes place October 4 from 10:00 p.m. (22h) to 2:00 a.m. (2h).
What remains after the COCOON is taken down?
I wish to leave behind a memory of the artwork, the experience and the voices of the participants. I also hope to strengthen the neighborhood's links across cultures, socioeconomics, race and gender.
Portraits by photographer Eric Etheridge
At Échomusée, 320 portraits of participants holding their little cocoon taken by photographer Eric Etheridge, will form a giant mural that offers the public a different view of the Goutte d'Or and its inhabitants. Participants will be given their portrait at the end of the COCOON.
COCOON a public space sculpture in the Goutte d'Or is a co-production between COCOON by Kate Browne and GFR- Le colletif.
Postcard sent from Paris, France
COCOON Goutte d'Or, Paris t-shirt
Party in New York City!!
Croissant, cappuccino and conversation with Kate Browne in New York City!
Risks and challenges
The COCOON sculpture will be in Square Léon, a public park, in the center of a busy urban neighborhood. As with any public artwork there are challenges, such as inclement weather. Yet, I have successfully built four COCOONS in the United States and Mexico and I am confident that I can tack obstacles.
Get a postcard signed and sent from Paris! Receive a postcard of an original storyboard panel from Kate Browne’s “When Skin Walks with Memory” COCOON Goutte d’Or, Paris, with a personal thank you from Kate, sent by her from Paris during the COCOON build.
You will get a 100% cotton, grey, Gildan t-shirt with the COCOON Goutte d'Or, Paris logo on the front as well as a small logo on the back that includes dates and locations of past COCOONS. T-shirts are available in the following sizes: Youth XL, S, M, L and XL.
The package deal! You'll get a COCOON tattoo, the postcard from Kate's Goutte d'Or, Paris storyboard AND a gray Gildan t-shirt with the COCOON Paris logo on the front as well as a small logo on the back that includes dates and locations of past COCOONS, all sent from New York City!
T-shirts are available in the following sizes: Youth XL, S, M, L and XL.
PARTY!!! In mid-November, come celebrate the completion of COCOON Goutte d'Or in New York City. We will announce your name and officially thank you at the celebration as an ORIGINAL PARTY STARTER! COCOON footage from Paris will be featured. (Airfare not included.)
Croissant, cappuccino, and conversation with Kate Browne! Come meet Kate in New York City this fall after the completion of COCOON Goutte d'Or and hear first-hand stories about the experience. (Airfare not included.)
Participate in the Paris build and be listed as an Associate Producer on the website. Revel in building the sculpture or hanging little cocoons. Immerse yourself in the process of creating art in Paris that will leave a lasting impression. (Airfare to Paris not included.)