This is Part I of a rolling conversation with photographer and sense provocateur Worm Carnevale. For this interview I gave him simple prompts and he told me a story. Nothing has been edited except to provide clarity, nothing has been omitted.
Part II will be posted on Monday.
Sean: I want to hear about how you came to Bushwick.
Worm: I moved here in 2008… I didn’t realize that I was going to end up in Bushwick. I planned to move into Manhattan but that place fell through. I was feeling pretty anxious because I was moving in four weeks.
Luckily things came together though my sister’s friend. It was quite different than what I’d planned.
I remember getting off at the Morgan stop… It was actually New Year’s Eve going into 2009. This girl I was shooting, her sister lived in Bushwick.
She told me “Meet me” at this address, I don’t think she even said the name of the place. I didn’t realize then, but it was the Wreck Room where I was meeting her. I don’t think it could have been more perfect because I find that to be the most legitimate bar in the area that reflects late 70’s, early 80’s New York. The only one in the area that holds true to that time period.
When I got of the subway, and keep in mind that this was New Year’s Eve, there was one person on the street other than me. I remember feeling a little uneasy. Maybe people feel that way now, I don’t know. The only thing there at the time was Roberta’s which may have been closed. I think King’s County may have been open, but I didn’t know that those places were even there. That was it. There wasn’t even Eastern District, which is gone now.
Let’s make a long story short here: At Wreck Room, at the bar, one of the girls said “Can I touch your dick?” And this whole night was a total New York moment that you think is what’s going to happen to you once you get here. It was the epitome, in my mind, of what New York represented. And I’m not saying here, now, that Wreck Room represents that.
Imagine a first timer getting off at a completely desolate subway stop, going to a bar that was spray painted and stickered, and a girl at the bar asking to touch your dick. Then after all of that, I go back to the subway and there’s this guy acting totally crazy, acting kooky. I mean absolutely absurd. We start talking about After Hours the Marin Scorsese movie which took place in SoHo in ‘85 I think. You couldn’t pick a better movie to talk to me about.
And that’s totally died for me. I don’t run into people that talk about After Hours or act as kooky as this guy. But we became acquaintances and I ended up going to the Brooklyn Museum with him and his girlfriend. Afterward he says, “Oh let’s go to this loft party.” Well, I didn’t know it then but it turns out to be the McKibben Lofts and AKA Potion was the café there then. It was awesome. I remember we tried to go to the loft party and we couldn’t find it, so we go to the other building across the street from there and we’re just walking around. We saw these blue lights on, it turns out to be AKA Potion which later ended up opening some doors, and the Potion Collective started later on, a few other things that I’d rather not go into…
But it was very cool there was someone painting in there, someone was playing piano, there was a group shooting a video that I ended up being in.
Sean: Can you find that film anywhere?
Worm: I really have no idea about what happened to that.
But we walk in and we ask “Is this closed?”
They go, “Uh, kinda.”
Which is such a New York moment! When was the last time you go to a business and they’re like well we’re kinda closed? It reminds me of After Hours in that respect where he walks in the diner and asks if they’re closed and he answers, “Well it’s kinda after hours.”
Anyway. That was my first experience with Bushwick. Which was just two days into New York for me.
Sean: Where were you living?
Worm: I was temporarily staying in Greenpoint. But I kept coming back, even though I didn’t live here, it was my first experience of Brooklyn other than where I lived. I didn’t have as much work then so I was coming back at least four or five times a week.
My permanent residency here began three years ago. It wasn’t that I just made friends here, I had friends already living here. Plus, you know, I was coming back almost daily. What was the point of taking the G to the fucking L?
Sean: Then the first artists you met were the future Potion Collective?
Worm: No, I was brought in later by a guy by the name of Bill Bartholomew and he was running a venue called Bushwick Studios next to the Anchored Inn I believe it’s called…
After they closed up shop he calls me up and says that he wants to start a collective. Basically bring Potion back. He and I had a meeting, he said that there was an “unofficial” collective at the time, once he brought me in we became official with a logo and all these other things.
So we put on one of the more successful shows of Bushwick Open Studios 2010 at the Loom. Now everyone shows there, but then they only had one art thing going on. Now it’s this permanent collection of shops…
I don’t know, I went there recently and there was this weird candy shop or dessert store… But Dan Victor, who is an awesome musician, he introduces me to Tobias Stretch – who’s done videos for Radiohead, Crystal Fighters… – anyway, he was showing work during Bushwick Open Studios with us and at the time he was a Philadelphia artist. He was showing against that wall where that shop is now!
And it’s kind of, you know, boo hoo, but a lot has changed. A lot has changed…
Sean: What was the next phase after that for you?
Worm: After that… I guess in a way it was you guys at 950 Hart and staying in my neighborhood. I think that while I was in Potion I began realizing that the Morgan Stop was really changing from something that I wasn’t interested in anymore. So I decided to stay in my neighborhood, and I won’t say the street, but somewhere around Hart [laughs] and Tony’s on Knickerbocker, the infamous Tony’s.
I want to give a shout out to Lorenza and her family who’s owned that place for 40 years. They grew up on Hart interestingly enough. She grew up on Hart. Her dad has owned that pizza joint since… the late 60’s I want to say. That’s a legit spot. He actually owned the original Tony’s and sold that. But I don’t want to go into that.
Sean: The birthday show in October ?
Worm: Yes! I was hanging out at that show in October and the next big thing for me was Freaks ‘N’ Geeks at Brooklyn Project for the Arts.
Sean: Yeah! The Trailer Park Crew.
Worm: Right! So after that I came to the group show at your place in December. Then we hooked up for the group show in February. Then I showed again with you in June for Bushwick Open Studios. Then we had my solo show in September.
I guess in between that I was doing a lot of stuff in Manhattan. Yeah, it was 2011. I was doing a lot of club stuff, showing videos.
We kind of fast-forwarded a lot, but that’s a general timeline. It’s weird, I don’t think that there’s been a foggier time in my life living in New York. So much happened in 2011.
The photographs included in this story are exclusive content created for Bushwick Daily and may not be reused without permission.