Harry Smith Was So Skinny… a Janks Archive: Ben Kinsley, Jerstin Crosby, Jessica Langley
Harry Smith Was So Skinny… a Janks Archive
A project by: Jerstin Crosby, Ben Kinsley & Jessica Langley
We take aim the eccentric collector, ethnomusicologist, experimental filmmaker, artist, bohemian and mystic as the Janks Archive is directly influenced by one of his home recordings. In 2004 Ben Kinsley interned for the “Save Our Sounds Project” at Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage at the Smithsonian Institution where he helped to digitize a number of reel-to-reel recordings in the collection. One day he stumbled upon a series of unmarked canisters which turned out to be tapes made by Smith in his room at the Hotel Chelsea around 1972. These recordings were part of a project titled Materials for the Study of Relation and Culture in the Lower East Side, late XX century New York City. The majority of these recordings were of folk singers singing their original music. One tape in particular stood out and consisted of the poet and actor, Peter Orlovsky, singing dirty schoolyard songs from memory. The audio of Orlovsky singing/remembering these songs is both a record of collective memory and a highly personal and vulnerable account of the act of remembering something naughty, grotesque, or malicious:
Walking down Canal Street, knocking on every door
Listening to this song together triggered memories of dirty jokes long forgotten and led to
“yo-mama” joke slinging between Jerstin Crosby and Jessica Langley. Not only were new jokes learned, but in the process Kinsley and Langley (both northerners) discovered a new word.
The term janks is a colloquialism that describes a style of tongue-in-cheek gibes, cut-downs, or comebacks and was common to the part of southeastern Alabama where Crosby grew up.
For the archive, janks is an obscure title, used loosely to collect a wide variety of culturally and, perhaps, geographically specific quips, however lewd, crass, or innocent. The Janks Archive is an exercise of remembering as much as it is a process of documenting these verbal offenses which exist in collective consciousness. Our ultimate goal is to amass a collection of videos capturing people from around the world telling their best janks. The project at Practice Gallery will be our first collection and will mark the beginning of The Janks Archive.
YOU ARE HEREBY INVITED TO BE PART OF THE ARCHIVE!
A participatory event on opening night (7-11pm, Dec 7th, 2012) will involve crowd sourcing and video recording gallery goers telling put-downs, comebacks, “yo mama” jokes, or any other form of janks from memory. So get out your old yearbooks, call your older brother, ponder past nemeses, rekindle forgotten rivalries, and give that jerk a piece of your mind the way you wish you could have at the time!
Ben Kinsley’s projects have ranged from choreographing a neighborhood intervention into Google Street View, directing surprise theatrical performances inside the homes of strangers, organizing a paranormal concert series, staging a royal protest, investigating feline utopia, and planting a buried treasure in the streets of Mexico City (yet to be found). His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at venues such as the Cleveland Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Cleveland; Bureau for Open Culture, Columbus; the Mattress Factory Museum, Pittsburgh; Flux Space, Philadelphia; Green on Red Gallery, Dublin; Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina, Florence, and La Galeria de Comercia, Mexico City.
Jessica Langley is an American artist currently based in Washington D.C. Her work explores notions of place, landscape and the environment through image based work, installation, and video. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally in such places as New York, LA, New Orleans, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Columbus, Reykjavik, and Santa Cruz, Bolivia. She spent 2008-2009 living and working in Iceland as a Fulbright grantee and a Leifur Eiriksson Foundation scholar, has been artist-in-residence at SPACES gallery in Cleveland and Askeaton Contemporary Arts in Ireland, and is currently working on a major public art installation through the Regional Transit Authority in Cleveland, Ohio.
Jerstin Crosby is a New York-based artist working on a broad range of projects. His work has been screened and exhibited nationally and internationally. He has exhibited at the Mattress Factory, the 9th Shanghai Biennial (Brooklyn Pavilion), Exit Art, Cell Project Space, the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Good Citizen Gallery, and Lump. His work has been reviewed in Time Out London, Art Papers, and Art Forum. Since 2008, he has produced Acid Rain, a monthly series of curated moving images which are broadcast on television in Manhattan, in North Carolina, and on the internet.