A conversation between two “cultural contributors” is at the heart of every testsite project. Justin Boyd and Nick Tosches began their conversation with a common interest in American culture; both Boyd, over the last few years, and Tosches, over the past few decades, have created bodies of work exploring the American spirit—ugly, bold, yet ever hopeful. But what happens to a conversation about our national identity when everything around us seems to shift overnight?
For many of us, America suddenly feels young again. Especially for those who came of age during the Bush era. A sense of fruitful possibility breaks through the murky darkness of the headlines that continue to loom around us. Yet as historical events swirl around Boyd and Tosches, a rift between their ideologies has became apparent.
Tosches recently asserted that “as the French proverb has it: plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose—the more it changes, the more it stays the same. And the way things are going, we should maybe take it one step further: plus ça change, pire c’est—the more it changes, the worse it is.”[*] By contrast, Boyd’s work focuses on historical moments when the American Spirit has manifested itself in the “best way.” Most recently, he has explored the mythology surrounding Route 66, the channel that Americans, seeking to remake themselves and start afresh, traveled for decades.
As the gap between their perspectives widened, the conversation pushed both Boyd and Tosches to clarify their world views and articulate their approach and response to American culture.
For Hide it Under a Bushel, No, I'm Gonna Let it Shine, Boyd uses faith, hope, and love as the subject matter in “direct defiance to Tosches and cynics of this time.” Toward this end, Boyd has invited friends to handwrite letters that express one of the following: something that they are hopeful for, something they are thankful for, a note to someone or something they love, or a note expressing faith in something or someone. The letters, written on carbon pads that have been mic'd, provide the material for prints and a sound piece installed at testsite. Alongside this project will be a timeline of Boyd and Tosches’s correspondence as well as the original e-mail conversations that inspired the installation. Boyd explains: “I refuse to blame one thing or entity, I want to take responsibility for my actions and my choices, and do my best to use them for something that helps rather than hurts. (If that is possible.) I feel that in a small way this exhibition will put on display the type of feelings and emotions that are essential for us to move ourselves and our nation forward.”
[*]Tosches, Nick, “ Plus ça change...” Myspace blog. Wednesday, January 28, 2009.