Eva DeCarlo. Installation view of Nest, 1980. Courtesy of the artist
Prior to the Times Square Show I had been making nests throughout the city, wherever and as often as I could. I used only materials indigenous to the site and its immediate surroundings so the site itself dictated the nest's size and form. Most were made on the street so I was interested in how they differed from one another according to location, as well as the local passersby responses to them (or lack thereof).
The Times Square Nest was pretty rich in response. When I had the opportunity (as a member of Colab) to make a nest in a former massage parlor building, I jumped at the chance. To make the site-specific installation I was there early and often to gather materials and build the nest piece by piece. I chose a small upstairs side room that I thought would be "hidden" enough from the public, much as the way nests are in nature: camouflaged from predators. Predators, protection, privacy were concepts I had been working with, but in this environment they were particularly interesting and relevant. I was very keen on building a human-size nest in the midst of the sex industry from its discarded detritus and debris. I never called it "The Love Nest," though it was often referred to as such. I sometimes received criticism for the associations drawn from that title. I'm not sure where that title originated; I called it the Times Square Nest, and had no notion of love while building it. But I do find this title one of the many interesting interpretations of my piece.
Also interesting to me was the public's interaction with the nest. It got a lot of attention despite being in a side room on an upper floor with little else being shown there—the floor was basically empty because it had initially been reserved to show films, but that idea was later scratched. People hung out a lot in the nest—which I really was pleased about—occasionally the artists but mostly all kinds of people. It could seat five people comfortably. People would try on the wigs and panties and play with things the nest was made of. I took a few photos of some women dressed completely in nest material. I didn't know them; I was there with my camera for something else and happened upon them. Although they were posing for the camera a bit, they were already well into their shenanigans when I found them. I didn't speak to them or they to me. One of them is the performance artist Adele Bertei, but I didn’t recognize her or her nest mates when she was all glittered out in my nest.
People often played in the nest but I didn't always document it. Some didn't want their photo taken (couples especially). Other times I heard about activities in my nest when I wasn't around. Furthermore I wasn't as interested in recording the interaction as I was in providing the environment for it. Occasionally people (artists and non-artists) would ask if they could borrow something for the night if they put it back the next day. So it was also an ongoing live performance; anyone could happen upon people in there and join or watch, which was a great tribute to the location. Sometimes people stayed outside of it, peering in but not daring to enter, others stood around talking in it. A number of visitors missed it completely, just as so many nests in urban settings go unnoticed.
My Times Square Nest was my main contribution to the exhibition. There were discussions early on regarding the concept and practicalities. I recall Tom Otterness having a key role in mapping out the "floor plan" of the show and everyone pretty much advocating a "staking out a territory" method, first come, first serve, without any aesthetic judgment or critique. This also led to pushing boundaries both literally and conceptually. A lot of us traded feedback and artwork with each other during the run of the show, which was another great aspect of so many artists working together to make their own show.
As told to Shawna Cooper, January 26, 2012
Eva DeCarlo (b. September 1956, Port Chester, NY)
Eva DeCarlo holds a BA from the State University of New York, with additional post graduate work in 1978 at the Center for Media Study at SUNY, Buffalo. In the late 1970s and early 1980s she exhibited her Nest series in varied locations in and around New York City, as well as in Brazil and Europe. During this period she also participated in a number of exhibitions and activities organized by Collaborative Projects and ABC No Rio.