“‘Ecstatic Decrepitude’ is presented on two stories,” Bread and Puppet Theater founder Peter Schumann writes of his exhibition at ArtYard in Frenchtown, New Jersey, from April 30 to July 31, 2022. “Bulky, big, oppressed and oppressive decrepitude obviously belongs upstairs, way above ecstasy, which hides in book pages and requires diligent reading on the first floor. The faces, idols, agitators and sufferers of the Naked Humanity Republic get entertained by Father Time who strikes the clock for them relentlessly.”
“Ecstatic Decrepitude” features masks, puppets, giant books, papier-mâché reliefs, prints and paintings associated with the progressive activist Bread and Puppet Theater, which Schumann founded on New York City’s Lower East Side in 1963, organizing performances on the streets and in lofts and in churches and creating giant puppets and masks that they marched in protests. The company has toured their pageants and plays and circuses internationally and become one of the iconic experimental theaters of the era. Bread and Puppet has been based in Vermont since it was in residence at Goddard College in Plainfield in 1970, then at their farm in Glover since 1975. This exhibition was curated by Clare Dolan, a longtime performer with Bread and Puppet and founder of The Museum of Everyday Life in Glover, Vermont, with assistance from Teresa Camou, Michael Dennison and Sam Wilson.
Schumann wrote on the gallery wall: “This exhibition includes at least 55 gratitudes to the air & its accompanying elements that house us & make us blossom & wilt together with our brothers the worms & our sisters the birds plus the clouds & populations of the whole thing & tell our eyes to go to & for & then obey by our ears & listen to the slogans delivered with the metronome’s eternal click till reality is achieved & till the nothing stops our everything & we dance the exhibition-attendance dance & digest the knotty nutty texts & our tongue helps yelling adequate responses & and our muscles get ready for action to underthrow the established overthrowers & immediately invent a better humanity system in which the nonsense overrules the failed sense of the arrogant suffering empire.”
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