About The Orange Cone Project
The town of Johnson, Vermont, is the site of the Vermont Studio Center. Back in 2008, I arrived for October as a writer. I had spent the previous May in Beijing as a visual artist in residence, and one night of toasting, I became the Appalachian Asian artist Beijing Charlie.
Johnson was a mess. All the streets and sidewalks were under construction, and there were mud puddles and orange cones everywhere guiding pedestrians and cars through this predicament.
Why Stop at One Orange Cone?
More outrageous, the first day across the Lamoille River bridge to my writing office, I spied one of the lost cones in this lovely babbling brook. “Oh, my god! Am I going to have to look at that every day as I cross the bridge?”
Then I paused and took a breath—the one they always tell us to take. My new breath brought an ironic idea to my oxygen-starved brain. “This is a community of creative visual and literary artists. If I conceptualize this god-awful cone as my art installation, it becomes transformed if I claim it as my own—as my art.”
I come for the school of Duchamp’s urinal, and this orange cone is now beautiful. Thus the Cone began its journey of bringing smiles to faces.
But then, a few days later, the Cone disappeared from the creek, and I no longer had a claim to this artistic endeavor. Another breath.
“Why stop at one cone? Johnson has tons of orange cones, barrels, netting, signs, all a particular shade of orange. This art installation is in your face. Big, bold, and loud. Just like contemporary Chinese art. And now it is all mine.“
I started to document this installation the same way I had PUBLIC HANGINGS.
One day the construction foreman stopped me, and he wanted to know why I was taking pictures. I turned and smiled at him and said, “This whole site is my art installation of orange cones, and you as foreman are in charge to see that all is properly cared for.” It was his turn to take a breath, and he did and smiled back.
Taking The Orange Cone Project on the Road
As I drove out of town at the end of my residency, I was not too fond of the idea of leaving The Orange Cone Project behind, but then as I got on Highway 91 driving south, miles of orange cones and barrels lined the highway inundated me. My people were busy creating another installation and bringing miles of smiles to my face, much like Duchamp’s and his Mile of String installation.
I claim all orange cones and objects that shade orange worldwide as an extension of my art installation. Unlike Banksy, who does his art in the middle of the night, I have people working for me 24/7 placing miles of cones flashy or single beat-up cones that you might find in your backyard. Suppose you see a green or yellow cone know that it wants to ripen into orange. My cones will help you become one with the universe.