On October 26, teens hustled from their schools to the Whitney Museum for a night of frightening fun. Youth Insights Leaders had spent the month preparing for what we expected to be a typical Halloween themed event, so we planned for squishy eye balls, ghost costumes, strange noises, and candy. Then we met the artists we would be working with to plan an art-themed Halloween: Whitney Biennial 2012 artist Tom Thayer and Jim Jines. Suddenly, all expectations for traditional Halloween fun were abandoned. They showed us a film with two people talking about a human “Bee Hive,” a collection of people in an unknown space with nothing but themselves, the people and the space’s objects around them. When left to themselves, people use the materials and space to create art in extraordinary ways and the ambiance of a Bee Hive fosters extraordinary thoughts. To me, that ambiance can only be described as free will. Now that’s scary.
The first afternoon that we met Tom Thayer and Jim Jines, they helped us participate in a trial Bee Hive—just the Youth Insights Leaders, working with materials in the Whitney Studio. We didn’t know what was expected of us except that there weren’t any expectations—there was no destination, no final product, so we and the artists just moved, stuck things to the walls and each other, and hoped for nothing. It really did feel like a singular, stretched moment with no “after.”
We repeated the Bee Hive for a second time at the Halloween event, after face painting, fortune telling, and a tour of the exhibition Wade Guyton: OS, and the adrenalin was noticeably higher. We were bringing in unfamiliar teens who had no idea what a Bee Hive was. I felt omniscient, like I knew what they were going to feel and was aware that we had an active role in steering their actions, but I was jealous that I couldn’t feel it to the same degree again. The difference was the sense of control. I was more familiar with the activity and knew that the space was supervised. During both our practice session and the Haunted Studio Halloween event, Tom Thayer and Jim Jines helped create a new, positive energy in the Studio space. They were comfortable with us and trusted us, so we reciprocated. That was essential, I feel, for the activity. We tried to carry that same energy to the Teen event and hoped to share the experience with our peers. All in all, it was a night of Halloween fun that hopefully took many out of their comfort zones!
By Michelle, Youth Insights Leader
See and hear more about this Youth Insights project on Watch and Listen.