THE BOSTON CORBETT PROJECT Location: San Francisco to Concordia Filmed by Anna Bruinsma, Performed by Lauren Kronemyer
The Boston Corbett Project is an unrealized collaborative experimental documentary. The subject was a nineteen-year-old girl (Kronemyer) descended from a man named Boston Corbett. He became a minor hero in the Civil War Era by avenging the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. After shooting John Wilkes Boothe he went crazy, castrating himself and becoming a religious fanatic. During this time he made his home in a cow field in Kansas. Corbett was subsequently sent to a mental institution, whereupon he promptly escaped on horseback to Mexico and was never seen again.
When Lauren told me the story while we were in art school together I thought it was wonderful, and we began throwing ideas back and forth about documenting an investigation into this particular branch of her family tree. Using Abraham Lincoln and Boston Corbett: With Personal Recollections of Each by Byron Berkeley Johnson (published in 1914) as the main source, we discovered marked similarities between the two in temperament and physical characteristics, and we developed a plan to travel to travel to the dugout in Kansas where he lived.
We set up the parameters of the piece as such: half of the film would be pre-determined montages of Lauren recreating seminal moments in his life throughout the journey (for the castration we went through a half dozen cow penises purchased in Chinatown) and half of the film would be my documentation of the trip. We got lost in a historical polygamist Mormon compound, drove during a tornado watch next to a lightning storm, spent three nights in the Kansas jail that Corbett was in a exactly hundred years before, and recreated the living situation in the dugout, including cow manure shoveling.
There are about forty hours of uncut footage in my cupboard documenting these moments as well as some from the return trip to Concordia.
I have included some photos from the costume fitting (note the historically accurate jingle bell medal and nose ring).