Kenseth Armstead, video still from "Spook" (experiment beta), 2005, 3 minute loop video with site specific drawing

Kenseth Armstead, video still from “Spook” (experiment beta), 2005, 3 minute loop video with site specific drawing

Kenseth Armstead

Spook is a multimedia installation project, in-progress, based on the true story of the double agent and slave, James Armistead Lafayette. James provided the intelligence that helped end the American Revolutionary War and gave our rebellious, insurgent, forefathers freedom from the tyranny of the British Empire .  

Spook project research example: Historical abstract from Logan & Winston (1982), Dictionary of American Negro Biography:

[James Armistead Lafayette]…had been the slave of William Armistead  of New Kent County Va., before being granted permission by his master in March 1781 to serve with General Lafayette, a French statesman who was fighting on the side of the colonists. By July 7, 1781 , Armistead was able to infiltrate the headquarters of British General Charles Cornwallis, ostensibly as a servant hired to spy on the Americans, but in reality a patriot who spied on the British. …He is remembered for his written intelligence reports relating to the Yorktown campaign that ended the Revolutionary War… It was the quality of Armistead’s reports that led American and French commanders to station a French fleet in Chesapeake Bay , thus forcing the surrender of Cornwallis. After his surrender he “was shocked to find in the Frenchman’s headquarters a Negro he had hired to spy on the Americans.” (p. 17)

Why would Spook be important to anyone?

The Spook project collects and provides information that isn’t available anywhere else. It is the only source available to focus on the detail of James’ participation in the revolution. There are numerous sources that make reference to him as a subsidiary character, which is not an accurate portrayal. He was the primary intelligence source for both Lafayette and Cornwallis.

Spook is intended to re-shape and shift this landscape of historical erasure. It recasts the story of the struggle to grasp freedom in the Americas , the people willing to risk their lives for it, and includes the viewpoint of a vital group of African participants and laborers.

Brooklyn-based Kenseth Armstead has exhibited his videos and multi-media installations worldwide at venues including the Guggenheim Museum in NYC, the Whitney Museum in NYC, the Photographers Gallery in London , and FUTURA Centre for Contemporary Art in Prague . His work has been reviewed in the New York Times, Art in America , and the Washington Post, among others. Armstead received his BFA from the Corcoran College of Art and Design, and his MS from the Integrated Digital Media Institute of Polytechnic University. He has also studied at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and the Whitney Independent Study Program. His honors include a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant and a NYFA Fellowship.