So I have thought all this for years, but I have never actually attempted to write about a show. So here I am going to really put my money where my mouth is and try to write about Continuum's Live Art Series Fourth Night embracing exactly what happened, with a respect for my own honest experience, and a respect and admiration for each artist who was brave enough to express themselves that night. Let's see how possible it is to put my ideals at work.
I will begin with Tina McPherson's tweeting piece. Tina had a list of questions available and was inviting people to tweet their answers to the twitter account. Like many performance pieces, this piece did not seem to go as planned. This threw me off a bit, I'll be honest. No one seemed to have a twitter account. I was determined to participate though, so I spent fifteen minutes downloading the twitter app and trying to remember my password. Then hashtags or at signs confused me again... I tried... I was a bit sad to see the the twitter feed so stagnant, but then I went outside and saw a big group of people pouring over Tina's questions and sharing their answers verbally to each other. This was the beautiful surprise of the tweet piece... people moved past the difficulties of the technology and used the piece to create their own unique experience... Answering personal questions is absolutely one of my favorite things to do in a group, the answers always change your understanding of the other people in lasting and dramatic ways. So here was a piece that unexpectedly inspired feelings of confusion, frustration, and insurmountable distance, but in the end, it was redeemed by the creativity of participants and their willingness to make it their own. It is interesting to me too that participants taking that responsibility and being creative with the piece would have been much less likely in a stage piece or a piece where the artist was present... The distance made it possible for the participants to have a private enough moment for them to be willing to take those liberties. This is really interesting to me... I would love to explore the idea of participants reforming a piece themselves, if you think about it, it is truly a brilliant outcome. The piece inspired participants to create their own experience. Wow!
photo by me
I encountered Raindawg at the bottom of the stairs, wrapped in a white sheet and looking so, so sad. It was a palpable experience. His placement at the bottom of the stairs held a beautiful tension. Was he sad at the uphill journey before him? Or was he stuck, existing in a space that was in the middle, a place of transition. Stuck between the upstairs and the the downstairs area, with no will to get to either destination? It was a beautiful and admirable use of space. He energetically radiated an extreme sadness that, seemed to me, impossible to ignore. It was simple, yet it strongly evoked an all too familiar feeling of intense hopelessness. The inspiration I draw from this piece is definitely in regards to use of space, what a simple way to create a strong narrative.
photo by me
Neil Orts was downstairs in a full body, blue suit. He was creating a map of the pain of the audience by asking them to place an X and a number corresponding to the intensity of the pain on the area in which we feel pain. This was a beautiful way of making the invisible visible. This piece created awareness, which is such an important step towards healing. He became the entire audience, which is a thrilling feat, in my opinion. I believe there was a feeling of connectedness created through this feat. It also inspired compassion for each other and a deeper compassion for our own pains that we may not honor and acknowledge readily. I had never thought about the secrecy of pain, it was jarring to me, that when I wrote on his body, he made a verbal comment about what my ailment could be, and I was surprised at the way I bristled, I honestly did not want to share about the issue that caused me pain. This was revealing to me, I did not realize that I guarded my pain and treated it as a secret, but as he spoke briefly about his own issues, I began to think of so many different examples of this secrecy. I am a huge fan of bringing secrets to light.
photo by Hilary Sculane
photo by me
Joshua Yates did a visually stunning piece upstairs. He surrounded himself with concrete pieces, placed in concentric circles around his body. His use of light was brilliant. One bright light was directly above him. One at a time, he collected each circle of rocks and attempted to hold them up to the light as long as he could, before gathering another circle of rocks and then lifting them again to the light. He whispered to each rock as he collected them into a large bag. This was another piece (like Raindawg's) where the feeling depicted was palpable and familiar. Watching him gather more and more and more felt so much like the overloading of ourselves that we each do in life. His lifting of the bag up to the light became, for me, failed attempts to get help from the divine. Over and over he seemed to try and receive some sort of relief from the light but each time it was a fruitless effort. It embodied struggle, anxiety, self abuse, desperation... It was very effective at tapping into universal emotions. I was inspired by his use of light, it almost became another 'character' in the piece. I loved how the concrete dust filled the air and created a smell to accompany the piece, I love the way the bag made marks on the floor as he dragged it.
photos by me
Manola Maldonado performed upstairs in the attic. I loved this space for this piece, it added so much to the eerie energy of the piece. Manola was having a child's tea party. She hummed a sad and haunting tune as she poured blood like? tea for herself and her blonde baby doll. She was dressed as a child, she had flowers on her dress and her face had small designs painted onto it. On the couch behind her was a small iphone screen displaying a pornographic image of a woman with her legs spread wide, perhaps she was bound? Eventually, childlike Manola covered all of her and her doll's tea and cupcakes with powdered sugar. I think this piece effectively tapped into the strange straddling role of being a girl and a woman. The sweet playfulness that is lost when you are expected to make a guy cum, inspire a guy to cum, or let a guy cum in your body while you stare at the ceiling. It is a traumatic shift that isn't usually gently facilitated by boys with raging hard ons. It did raise an awareness in me of a kind of split nature that occurs due to these very different female roles. The sprinkling sugar felt like a judgement of the child like scene, in one way it felt like it was a motion to dismiss the play as something overly sweet and of little 'nutritional' value, but in another way it felt like a burial in white, perhaps whiting out the childlike playful dream... with sugar... this could even be a reference to the food issues revealed in Manola's last piece at CLAS night 3 where she covered herself in ice cream. There was definitely a sense of insanity and ominousness that made me feel like porn girl was in charge here.... despite her tinyness, she was a strong force in the piece. The dischord of the scene definitely resonated with my experience of being a woman. I could recognize myself in this scene. It left me with an overwhelming feeling of loss.
photo by Hilary Scullane
Nikki's piece. Nikki was skimpily clad in bra and panties with giant nails protruding from her sexy attire. She walked around the bar rubbing her spiky ass against anyone she could as well as the walls and really anything at all. The noise that her nails created against the walls was really beautiful. There were a couple of things that were really interesting to me about this piece... watching her from afar it seemed almost like a one liner.... but as I looked closer and experienced the piece more thoroughly, it gave more and more. As she came to me and rubbed against my body, I was very surprised at the pleasant feeling of the nails rubbing against me. It also became apparent how powerful the nails made her. I had to be passive, because any aggressive move on my part would result in pain, and her body was obviously something to be respected and acquiesced to... She had the power here. At the same time, Nikki was visible uncomfortable and obviously a bit uncomfortable in her role, she was clearly not a confidant stripper... and was not doing these things out of pure enjoyment... not to mention her bottoms kept slipping down a bit, and she would quickly pull them up, making this clearly not a case of exhibitionism... To me this turned the piece into a picture of unhealthy sexuality... intimacy issues... the dangers that are created when sex is misused... the dangerous nature of broken people seducing each other and then fucking each other up... It connects to Manola's piece beautifully, Nikki is a self conscious girl playing a sexual role, promising pain to anyone who makes a wrong move, while Manola is holding onto the dreams of her childhood while that sexual role ominously watches in the background, not only nullifying the innocence of the scene, but turning it into a nightmare. Nikki is the Girl in a Sex Costume, and Manola is Sex in the Girl costume. Both are in states of discord and the result is a quiet, implied violence.
video still from footage by Jonatan Lopez
Then there was my piece. I have to speak from inside this piece, since it was mine. I laid on the floor, covered in dirt, with a sign asking for massages. I was buried alive. I was covered in the protective blanket which allows little seedlings to grow, i was covered in the definition of dirty, dirt, gross, the opposite of clean. I asked for massages. Participants were required to get dirty in order to fulfill my "true" need. I was surprised at how painful the dirt was when rubbed against my skin. It hurt, even when it was gentle. It rubbed away my skin. There was an amazing feeling of pleasure as well, don't get me wrong... but it was a painful pleasure. A burning pleasure. And not all of it felt good. Certain people did things that really hurt and I couldn't bring myself to ask them to stop. I just took it. My temple is bruised. Then there were people with amazing skills, I was truly impressed and filled with gratitude. The earth pouring down my skin was also an amazing sensation, a very pleasant one. I thought this piece was about asking people to wade through my issues in order to please me, to get dirty in order to please me... My filth creating a painful barrier between me and the people who try and help me and try and pleasure me and try and fulfill my needs. I thought the earth was burying me because I was dead. But perhaps the earth was covering me because I am growing and still need protection. Perhaps the earth was painful because it was exfoliating... removing layers and exposing fresh, raw new skin... Perhaps this is pleasurable and painful at the same time. Perhaps I am not dirty, filthy, gross.... perhaps I am natural, of the earth, the catalyst for growth.
I just have to say, it seems hardest of all to let go of the "shoulds" for my piece and accept the beauty of what actually happened. I want to harshly criticize myself the most. I held my harsh tongue and opened my eyes wider, and I feel richly rewarded for doing so....
I wanted to write about every single piece of art at this show. There are pieces that I loved that I did not write about. But alas, I did the best I could with the limited time I have. I am so grateful to have experienced CLAS, and I hope you go the the final CLAS performance art event on May 3rd. Obviously, interesting shit happens at these things.