Nathaniel Sullivan is an artist, performer and writer. His work begins with research, and from that research he produces performances (lectures, tours, live storytelling) that involve moving image media (animations, video, and text) working in tandem.
Nathaniel Sullivan has made work around a variety of subjects: from basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain’s mythological sex life, French President Francois Mitterrand’s last meal to the (fictional) love letters of current JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.
A leaping off point is the story of a public figure, and the finished works are truthy in nature: mostly factual, somewhat historically and statistically accurate, and yet infused with irrational impulses. Often his own story becomes so enmeshed with his subject that the line separating the research and the researcher are blurred. The subject and the supposed objectivity of the medium become deranged through pleasure, vice and exuberance.
Sometimes, he takes this practice out into the streets; he has led a guided walking tour of an abandoned housing project re-imagined as a Richard Serra sculpture, conducted a seminar on desire from the back of a limousine and performed for one person at at Brooklyn Nets game.
Nathaniel Sullivan’s work operates at the intersection of art, performance, writing and theatre, so the venues where it is shown are diverse. He has performed at the Prelude Festival at the Segal Center CUNY, the Conflux Festival at New York University, at film festivals in Europe, at performance venues like Dixon Place and Galapagos in New York and at institutions like the Carnegie Museum of Art and the San Diego Art Institute. His writing has appeared in Drain Magazine, and his performance as Jamie Dimon was recently featured in Vice Magazine.
An Overview of My Practice
Performance, Video, Writing
I am an artist, performer and writer. My work begins with research, and from that research I produce solo performances (lecture performances, tours, live storytelling) that involve moving image media (animations, video, and text) working in tandem.
I would like to walk you through a brief tour of my practice. Click on any link for more information on the project page.
On The Way To The Theatre We Egged A Trans-Am (2009)
I made this video in 2009, while in grad school. I had come from a cinema studies and production background, and I was interested in video as a medium of greater immediacy, where I could develop my voice. Some of the aesthetics of this piece – rhythmic uses of text for example – have carried into my current performance work. The voice feels like me, hard and clean.
On The Way To The Theatre We Egged a Trans-Am won an audience award at the Carngeie Museum in Pittsburg, PA and a festival award at FilmWintur in Stuggart, Germany. It played on a large public screen in Syracuse, NY for the month of February 2010.
A View From Above (2010)
A View From Above unpacks the sexual mythologies of basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain, who in 1990, claimed to have had sex with 20,000 women.
The performance is about my relationship to this mythological figure and his braggadocio; as a 13 year old on the cusp of manhood, as a man confronting my own failures in relationships and as an artist, folding in a genuine love of basketball into my practice.
This is my first use of the lecture performance format, powerpoint, notes, and audience engagement. In a previous career, I had training as a public speaker in the corporate context. I use these aesthetics to investigate something absurd.
I continue to perform this piece, it has become modular, adaptive to contextual and length requirements. It is something that I love to return to again and again, because it feels like with this piece I am speaking with a voice all my own.
The Last Meal (2011)
I call what I do “creative non-fiction”, that is to say that it takes on the authority of so called objective, truth telling forms (academic lectures, documentaries) but veers into conjecture and subjectivity. In the end, I build an imagined history, that taps into how we feel rather than what we know.
The Last Meal is a story about the rumored last meal of French president Francois Mitterrand. Mitterrand supposedly ate a tiny, endangered bird as a last act. The performance unravels the rationality of his political affiliations as it collides with the irrationality of his immortal wish.
In each of the performances, there is a collision between the rational/objective and the irrational/libidinal. Often this collision is instigated by the media onscreen, as I try to maintain a level of order in my performance tone.
Art + Finance (2011 – Current)
I moved to New York City in late summer of 2011, as the Occupy movement was gaining momentum. I began researching financial abstraction. I found a savagery just below its rational surface.
All That You Desire (2012)
A tour on the subject of desire and abstraction, given from the back of a limousine and on Wall Street.
The above images were taken from a tour version of the performance, given at the Confulx Festival at NYU in fall 2012.
Also: Read a review of the tour that was written on Hyperallergic.
Jamie Dimon: Before The Nation Went Bankrupt (current)
I take on mythologies, of both the living and the dead. My current work is centered on Jamie Dimon, the current CEO of JP Morgan Chase. My performance Before The Nation Went Bankrupt, is a rewriting of the financial crisis of 2008-present. This alternate history is presented in a reading of Dimon’s love letters, which I wrote.
In a theatrical setting, the performance is punctuated with animations, text and video onscreen. This historical redress peels back the rational language of financial capitalism to reveal its savage core. It is a catharsis that unravels mythologies that on some level are embodied by most people, and it opens up a space to ridicule neo-liberal capitalism as flimsy and contradictory.
Before The Nation Went Bankrupt Live at Dixon Place August 2015:
An ongoing writing project is a twitter I created for Jamie Dimon’s conscience. On Twitter, Jamie muses on inequality, white privilege and high finance. Visit Jamie Dimon Twitter
The Lost Weekend (2014)
A version of the project was published in Vice Magazine as a series of photographs and a few of the letters. Click here to see the Letters from a lost weekend Vice photo project
The purpose of this description of my practice is to give context to some of my interests. There are many projects that I have left out of this description, for a complete list of works visit the Art Works page.