Header by Kyle Cassidy

 (photo by kyle cassidy)

- a patron-supported performance art book-drive -

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view on youtube here
On August 20th, Amanda Palmer and a whole team of artists and body-painters got together to create…something.
This film documents the entire day, filmed from 11 am until she stood on the pedestal of the 5th Ave Branch of the NYPL at 6:15 pm.
this entire performance and film project was funded through the support of folks at amanda’s patreon.
if you enjoyed this video and want to see more art like this, consider joining:
the entire story of this project is below!!
song: Amanda Palmer – “SMILE (PICTURES OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN)”
from the infamously-kickstarted-album “Theatre is Evil”.
the whole album is pay-what-you-can online here:
Directed by Michael Pope
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The Picture That Turned into A Thousand Words

i forget exactly where i was and what i was doing, but it was july 4th. i was somewhere in upstate new york, i think, having just been at anthony’s memorial service. i was still in a haze. i was checking my twitter feed on my phone, and from across the sea, @Rosie__cotton from the UK sent me picture of a statue she was looking at.


i had never seen this Thing.

i didn’t know where on earth she was, who she was, or what the statue was, but i was delighted by it.

i tweeted back my delight.

then i copied her photo and shared it on my blog (cross-posting on Facebook and patreon), with this text:

happy fourth everybody. may you explode inside and out and all around and remember what independence means…it ain’t about fireworks and pie.

“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free.”

-Thích Nhất Hạnh. (this photo sent to me this morning via rosie_cotton on Twitter…Damien Hirst sculpture in Ilfracombe.

…in the midst of a world that often seems to be filled with irrational madness, may we all cling a little less and love and little more).

xx a


rosie saw the post……and then she went around to the other side of the statue and took another photo. then my delight turned to awe. i posted the other side:


i re-shared and captioned:

 …and holy shit. as if to make my point for me, @rosie__cotton just took a picture from the other side of the statue. 

i was in a relatively morbid & reflective mood, being seven months pregnant and fresh from the funeral of my best friend.

i thought a lot about the statue that day.

and the next day.

and by the next day, i had an idea.

i’d been wanting, since getting preggo, to do some kind of performance art piece, or installation, or statue.
as a performer who uses my body for art, how could you NOT use this amazing moment when you’ve got this gigantic belly with a baby in it for….something. right?

but i didn’t know what.

if you missed my life’s backstory, i was a “professional” (well…) living statue from about 1999-2004, until i was able to pay all my bills with music and touring with my band, the dresden dolls. (i talk about it a lot in my TED talk), and in the book i just put out, “the art of asking”.

this is what i used to do:


back in those days, i had one main character (the bride, above), and a collection of weird costumes for different gigs: a silver robot, a wood nymph, a crazed ballerina. (here’s me doing a living statue gig in a children’s hospital in 2001):


and since i was a rabble-rouser into guerrilla street art, i occasionally did weird stuff for shits and giggles…. the last time i’d actually re-created another work of art as a living statue was back in 1998, when I threw together a super lo-fi recreation of delacroix’s “liberty leading the people”:


here’s a shot from the chaos. i convinced 10 or so friends to join me. we had no budget. we used sheets from dollar-a-pound and my street-statue face make up…and i asked everybody to bring white clothes. there was really no point, other than to….do it. nobody got paid. in fact, i spent about $200 of my own dollars from my ice-cream-scooping and living statue wages to go buy white cloth and face paint for my friends. but that’s how we rolled in those days.

professional photographers were obviously not in the nonexistent budget…. all that remains of that historically weird moment is this lo-res remnant from my old website, captured by a friend who happened to have a camera on them to capture the moment….


back to the future…

my idea was to somehow recreate and riff on this pregnant statue – half liberty, she seemed, half mortality-wake-up-call.

i googled.

the statue was by damien hirst…an UK artist i knew mostly for his diamond-encrusted skull and sharks-in-tanks. apparently the statue itself, located on the UK coast in the little town of Ilfracombe, was controversial in itself wonderful.

she was apparently beloved and hated by many.

i could relate to this statue.

also, she’d been yarn-bombed:



 so…re-create a statue, i thought.

in boston, maybe, or in new york.

find a body-painter.

make something bigger.

that night i went out to dinner with michael pope in boston. i showed him the statue-tweet on my phone…he knew a great hyper-realistic body painter in NYC, danny.

i looked up his work, and holy shit:


over the next three or four days, the idea had puzzle-pieced itself together in my head.

the statue (titled “verity”) actually stands on a pile of oversized books:


(photo by DJ LeeKee/Lee Smith on flickr)

….as i was brainstorming good spots to do the statue (central park? washington square park? times square?)…it hit me.

duh. the library. new york public library; NYPL FTW.

i called them (well, i emailed).


i told them my idea: a free, public, statue-installation book-drive.

i left out the half-naked part at first, because you never want to scare people who might want to help you.

(that’s life advice: never lead with the naked. when in doubt: go into battle fully clothed.)

 they went for it.


then i had to write an adult-style letter to bryant park, the actual owners/managers of the NYPL steps, and then hold my breath while they approved our weird idea. (i’d love to post that letter, just so you guys can see how i am totally capable of writing an adult letter with capitals and shit)

THEY went for it.

the day after i got out of the hospital in maine ((, i lay on the floor and chatted with angela at the NYPL about their early literacy project, which i hadn’t known about.

synchronistically, THIS had just blown up after i posted it on my Facebook feed; a story about a boy who was reading junk mail because he had no access to books, and the postman who helped him:

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(via huffington post here)

perfect. not just books…children’s books.

we’d need a place to put the books, so we needed to hire a prop designer. and a producer for the event…and….all of a sudden, i was looking at a cast of 12+ people working on this project. they all needed to be paid, and this is where the patreon came in.

i could either do this on the cheap, stand on a milk-crate and just pay the body painters out of my own pocket, OR, i figured, i could make this a Patreon Thing and start racking up a real budget.

i’m still not sure whether anyone is going to turn around and say “this is not what i wanted my $3 to go towards, amanda” but…fuck it.

i hired a professional crew, told danny to get whatever assistants he needed to make this look truly epic.

i called a pro photographer, kyle cassidy, (my practically common-law-forever photographer from Philadelphia) and i coaxed michael pope into getting a crew together to film the entire day so that we could release a stop-motion/time-lapse record of the statue being created.

the team quickly got to work, and over the next month, anya klepikov (the production designer who worked with at Bard on The Bed Show) whipped the aesthetics into gear. she started arranging conference calls with me and the painters. she found an incredible props artisan, jen mcclure, and they started doing paint tests:

paint test

(photo by anya klepikov)

jen’s heart-with-a-hole-ukulele:


(photo by jen mclure)

testing the pedestal height….

Finished pedestal

(photo by anya klepikov)

…superkate (my amazing assistant) went to reconnaissance meetings at the NYPL, to figure out WHERE TO PUT SHIT… then she worked on the day’s schedule and making sure everybody knew when to be where….

a few days before the event, i announced that i’d be doing a surprise in NYC:

come to the library, bring a brand new copy of a children’s book to donate.

i didn’t wanna say what i was doing. you can read that blog here:

UND zen, came zee big day.

we got to an indoor space in the NYPL (they were insanely generous and let us do our day’s prep work IN the library, for free) in the morning and set up shop. i think the pictures will speak better than words here.

pope and the film crew filmed, and it took the three body painters about six hours in total to do the entire paint job. danny setiawan, the head painter, brought in assistant onalee rivera, and the props artisan jen mcclure made three.)


(photo by kyle cassidy)


(photo by kyle cassidy)


(photo by kyle cassidy)

did i mention i was EIGHT MONTHS PREGNANT? my feet hurt. lying on the floor was really nice.


(photo by superkate)


(photo by superkate)


(photo by superkate)


(photo by afp)


(photo by superkate)


(photo by superkate)


(photo by superkate)

issac davidson was on hair duty and did two totally different styles on each side. ryan anas (aka “jesus”) and drew chandler helped out pope and james holland as they filmed the entire process.

i spent most of the day in a chair or standing on a towel.

running across the hall to the bathroom every hour was a trip, as we tried to hide my wacko body from librarians and stuff.

02 - Ryan Anas

(photo by ryan anas)


ART feet selfie !!!

then….before i stepped out, i did a studio-style shoot with the infamous kyle, which was photobombed by the unexpected arrival of John Cameron Mitchell (of Hedwig fame) and Neil:




mister gaiman:


(photos by kyle cassidy)

​(john had been meeting neil about the HOW TO TALK TO GIRLS AT PARTIES movie he’s going to be directing from neil’s story…. neil hadn’t told him why they were meeting just by the library or what he was about to see. good job neil…)

 (kyle made some of these prints available for SALE here, see the gallery below. 20% of the proceeds will go to the Early Literacy program at the NYPL)



(photo by kyle cassidy)


(photo by kyle cassidy)


(photo by hayley rosenblum)


​(photo by hayley rosenblum)

10 - Ryan Anas

(photo by ryan anas)


(photo by ashli sisk)

some sideshow comrades…the silver cowboy and his accomplice, passing out paper flowers. i found the silver cowboy because of this

​i’ve missed standing still.

i was only up for a total of about 15 minutes, and i gradually shifted my arm positions (it’s practically impossible to hold a sword above your head for fifteen minutes without dying)…but it felt like an eye blink.

as you can see, i had a really gorgeous view down 41st street. i watched the traffic flow and watched the airplanes go by and thought about nothing for the first time in a while…. just how happy and lucky i was to live in a world where i was standing still, naked and eight months pregnant, in front of a library, collecting books.

if you’d asked me, i wouldn’t have guessed.

neil donated the final book, a copy of “fortunately the milk”, one of his kid’s books:

 020 - Dina Hawana (fuckyeahamandapalmer)

(photo by dina hawana,

my boys, coverin’ me up for the walk home….


(photo by krys fox)

in the end….people donated hundreds and hundreds of children’s books that the New York Public Library would distribute to kids and parents who needed them…. 


​(photo by @doriette on twitter)

and here’s some facts and figures about Early Literacy, for your edification…

a study of 3- to 5-year-olds who had been read to at least three times per week found the children were:

·         Two times more likely to recognize all letters.

·         Two times more likely to have word-sight recognition.

·         Two times more likely to understand words in context.


·         Thirty-five percent of children with reading disabilities drop out of school, a rate twice that of their classmates.

·         Reading for pleasure is more important for children’s cognitive development than their parents’ level of education.

·         If identified early and given research-based intervention, 90 to 95 percent of children “at risk” for reading failure will become fluent readers.

·         Prevention of reading failure can reduce the need for special education services later in a student’s educational life. Special education costs are, on average, double those of general education.

·         Fourth graders who reported having 25 books or more at home had higher scores on reading tests than children who reported they didn’t have that many books

·         About two-thirds of the 9th grade achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities during the elementary school years. As a result, low-income youth are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college

sources: American Library Association,,  Institute of Education, Reading is Fundamental  

 and since people have asked…IF YOU WANT TO HELP MORE, here you go, straight from Angela at the NYPL:

“for us, the best link is From there, people can donate money online, and earmark their gift for “children’s programs and services,” which is where early literacy would be. Or they could just donate generally, with funding going to the most need. Another option is, which allows people to donate, but also shows them how they can volunteer or whatever. For people who want to support NYPL, those are the best ways to do it…”

you may have been wondering how i got all this shit off – as the new york public library did not provide a bath.

my old friend larisa fuchs (if you were at the kickstarter celebration in brooklyn – that was her loft) offered up her friend jesse sheidlower’s place, right around the corner.

the cab driver did not blink an eye. we came armed with sponges and dr. bronner’s….


and soon i was as clean as a whistle – apart from the fact that i will be q-tipping gold out of my ears for weeks.


(photos by merrilee heifetz)

it was neil, by the way, who came up with the title for the project.
i spent a lot of the day in the library trying to come up with a good name, while getting painted and trying to distract myself from being tickled.
some riff on “verity” (defined as “truth;” or “a true principle or belief, especially one of fundamental importance”)  seemed perfect.
libraries, too….”babylioteque”? 
“truth and consequences” won out, care of neil.
….get it?
I’M PREGNANT and….never mind.


so that’s the story.

in closing (and i’ve been thinking quite a bit about this in the past week since doing the project, especially looking back at my old, weird statue projects) i need to say a couple words about patreon.

THIS NEVER WOULD HAVE HAPPENED – at least not at this level, employing all these painters and filmmakers –  if my patreon didn’t exist.

believe it or not (but you can see from the video, which shows the behind-the-scenes from this project cost thousands of dollars and took hundreds of people-hours to execute).


if you’d like to support future weird-ass endeavors, here’s the link:

a few days after the event, Nansi Brown (floating-rib on tumblr) made this beautiful drawing inspired by the event:

ART nansi brown

she’s selling the print on her website here and 20% of sales going to NYPL!!

AND this rendition came from 10-year-old esme (sent via her older sister patron kira cumming):

image1 (2)


a few days ago, @an_awful_lot retweeted this amazing picture from @OldPicsArchive:


“early 1910’s, a woman calls for more books to be donated to the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue.”




SPECIAL THANKS TO the New York Public Library, Bryant Park, Larisa Fuchs and Jesse, The Beauty Bar for hosting our patron-only afterparty (and liv bruce of PWR BTTM for playing!)



(photo by superkate)

back:  drew chandler, ryan anas,  kyle cassidy, neil gaiman, me, danny setiawan, anya klepikov, issac davidson, onalee rivera, jen mcclure, james holland

front: superkate and michael pope

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 these 10 prints by our official photographer Kyle Cassidy are for sale (available in 3 different sizes / including archival gallery prints) via SmugMug here and 20% of all profits will go to the Early Literacy programs run by the New York Public Library.



these are photos taken from the scene of the crime on the day of the performance that were posted to twitter and instagram in realtime . click below to view them all!

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Anya Klepikov - production designer
Danny Setiawan – body painter
Onalee Rivera – body painter assisting Danny
Jen McClure – props artisan
Isaac Davidson – hair sculptor
Michael Pope - filmmaker, video shooting the process and the installation
James Holland – cinematographer
Drew Chandler – camera asst.
Kyle Cassidy – photographer
Ryan Anas – photography asst.
Larisa Fuchs – show finder
Jesse Sheidlower – shower haver
SuperKate – Amanda’s assistant and statue production manager
Hayley Rosenblum

Neil Gaiman - Babydaddy, sponger-downer, text proofreader
John Cameron Mitchell - robe-wielder, moral supporter

New York Public Library
Angela Montefinise
Amy Geduldig

Bryant Park NYC
Rossini Yen
Nina Coveney

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if you’d like to join the patreon and support more art, music, and weird-ass…things….go here.