INFERNO: Spy, Spy, Spy, 2012, graphite on paper, 12" x 15" framed
INFERNO: Spy, Spy, Spy, 2012, graphite on paper, 12" x 15" framed

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About Spook™

In the summer of 1781, James Armistead Lafayette was the sneakiest man in America. By providing intelligence, James succeeded in liberating our insurgent forefathers from the British Empire. Spook™ is a multimedia installation project based on James’ true story as a double agent for America’s first Director of Central Intelligence, George Washington.

The Spook™ project focuses on James Armistead Lafayette’s participation as a double-agent in the American Revolution. Spook™ creates a space to view it as a multimedia artwork. It combines scholarly research and historical documents, with more seductive and ephemeral media objects about James to give greater exposure to the subject of an outrageous historical erasure. The project gives viewers the opportunity to engage this unique story, a slave’s eye view, in the struggle to grasp American freedom.

Spook™: INVOCATION, "Chapter One, Inferno" © armstead 2011
Spook™: INVOCATION, "Chapter One, Inferno" © armstead 2011


Artist Statement
Spook™ lyrically extends and technologically upgrades the tradition of Neo-classical history painting exploited by Jacques-Louis David. It is inspired by David’s lasting images of Napoleon and the age of revolution. Spook™ operates in critical dialog with David’s example. I recover an obscured fragment using rigorous historical research techniques; the true story of James Armistead Lafayette - his role as the double agent / slave that helped to end the American Revolution. Then like Fred Wilson, I create an ironic, questionable, reality. The formulaic memory changes, requiring a re-assembly of our notion of the American Revolution and the founding fathers.

Memory is alchemy. Recalling a recent moment or hazy event from the distant past requires a murky formula consisting of, image retrieval, conscious mediation, synthesis and utter fabrication. The image is inherently unstable. Memory, personal or social, becomes the act of ordering incomplete pictures. 

Spook™ reshapes what is both close at hand and historically distant in a Sisyphean feedback loop. History is used as a creative tool. The process creates an open ended, non-narrative, production environment that is both an engaging critique of guerilla warfare in our insurgency, the American Revolution, and a relevant, current, social document.


Armstead lives & works in Brooklyn, NY.