“I didn’t think about how hot it would get or how much it would smell,” he says. “We were all just plastered.”
Of course, Brannock did not actually go to the moon. He simulated the journey by building a 4-by-8-foot capsule in a basement and piling in there with some artist friends for 16 hours. To simulate weightlessness, they got drunk, and they ate MREs, which were smelly. Sitting in this tiny, sweaty box, totally inebriated and eating military-ration sausage was, for Brannock, a grand adventure.
Brannock’s art is a journey. For more than two years, the 27-year-old artist has been leading other artists in the “Adventure Residency” — a series of curated travel experiences to places that inspire him. There, the artists create work for Brannock’s roving gallery, Camper Contemporary, which is a white cube space inside a 1967 Yellowstone camper-trailer.
The “astronauts” kept a log of their adventure. It will join work from other artists who have traveled on Brannock-led trips to such places as Natural Bridge, Va.; the ghost town of Centralia, Pa., where a coal mine fire has burned for five decades; and Thomas Edison’s workshop in New Jersey. Works created on those trips will be exhibited in a bricks-and-mortar extension of Camper Contemporary in Brannock’s new show — “Adventure Residency Program Headquarters” — now at Flashpoint Gallery in the District.
If you don’t take Brannock seriously — and because he doesn’t always take himself seriously — his art might come across as merely a series of road trips with buddies. His adventures have involved trips to nightclubs, Cape May, N.J., and Atlantic City. For one trip that involved a two-car caravan, “I made the other car listen to Ludacris’s ‘Sex Room’ over and over and over. They ended up starting a Sex Room Collective. It’s all juvenile work.”
But Brannock says his excursions are more than just quirky road trips: They’re art. For the people who accompany him, the trips are exercises in relational aesthetics, which considers social interaction and experience to be a form of art. He asks artists to help cover the cost of the trip, but money for props and supplies comes from his own pockets.
“It’s important to make stuff for the show, but it’s creating this shared community,” he says. “The way you approach art is a great way to figure a person out.”
It’s also a performance by Brannock, who assumes a role that is equal parts explorer, entertainer and scoutmaster. He often wears a blue jumpsuit with his “Adventure” logo when leading tours, and he spouts factoids like a seasoned tour guide.