Category Archives: Audience

Theatre Manifesto from 2002

Back at home for the holidays, I took some time to go through a few things I have stored in my mother’s garage. Within my pile of stuff, I discovered an old binder from many years ago when I was an undergraduate theater student at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. Within that binder was my Theatre Manifesto, written for a course on generative theater work around 2002. Surprisingly, it’s not far from where I am today with my art practice. It’s nice to be reminded from times past that I continue to follow the path I carved out for myself.

For your reading pleasure, here is my Theatre Manifesto from 2002:

gremlins-popcorn

THEATRE THAT ASTONISHES

THEATRE THAT CHALLENGES

THEATRE THAT BREAKS THE RULES

THEATRE THAT ENLIGHTENS

THEATRE THAT DELIGHTS

As a theatre artist and performer, I strive to:
-BRING PEOPLE TOGETHER FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD
-EXPLORE DIFFERENT FORMS OF PERFORMANCE
-BE ABSURD
-BE GROTESQUE
-EMBODY BIG, EXAGGERATED, DISTINCT CHARACTERS
-MAKE PEOPLE LAUGH
-MAKE PEOPLE CRY
-MAKE PEOPLE THINK
-BREAK THE FOURTH WALL- CREATE OPEN COMMUNICATION BETWEEN THE PERFORMERS AND THE AUDIENCE
-CREATE THEATRE FOR CHANGE AND REFLECTION
-REACH ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE, NOT JUST AN ELITE FEW
-CATCH PEOPLE BY SURPRISE
-COLLABORATE USING ALL DIFFERENT FORMS OF ART
-CREATE IMAGINATIVE, UNREALISTIC, ILLUSIONAL THEATRE
-CREATE WORK THAT IS PHYSICAL-BASED, USING THE BODY AS AN INSTRUMENT
-MAKE THEATRE BECAUSE I WANT TO, NOT BECAUSE I HAVE TO

The don’ts of my theatre:
-NO SHOWS THAT MAKE PEOPLE SIT FOR MORE THAN TWO HOURS
-NO UNORIGINAL THEATRE
-NO CHARGING MORE THAN $15 A SHOW
-NO BEING PREACHY
-NO ARTSY-FARTSY
-NO PRETENSION
-NO STIFF BODIES ONSTAGE
-NO NEGATIVITY
-NO DOING THEATRE JUST FOR THE SAKE OF SHOWING OFF

Image source:
http://blog.moviefone.com/2011/08/15/please-consider-signing-the-movie-theater-etiquette-manifesto/

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Inspiring Art Installations

I’ve been working for the past couple of weeks on an art installation, and through the process have gained new respect for artists who create interactive environments for their audience to explore and respond to. Below are some of my faves:

 

Ernesto Neto

Griya Kulo: Thousands of Pigeon Feathers

Cakeland in Oakland

Leandro Erlich: Swimming Pool

For Use/Numen: Tape Installation

Pipilotti Rist: Video Installations

Maurizio Cattelan

Louise Bourgeoise

The Creepy Hamburg Water Woman

David Cerny: Look into the Abyss

Spencer Tunick

And now, off to finish mine!!!

Image Links: (for some reason I’m having trouble connecting the link, so I’m afraid for most of these you’ll have to copy and paste until I figure it out.)

http://vectroave.com/2010/07/ernesto-neto-art-installations/ (Ernesto Netohttp://forum.xcitefun.net/cakeland-sweet-art-installation-oakland-t40631.html Art Installations)

http://www.griyakulo.com/art-installation-with-fluid-concept-features-of-thousands-pigeon-feathers/art-installation-with-fluid-concept-features-of-thousands-pigeon-feathers08/ (Art Installation with Fluid Concept)

http://forum.xcitefun.net/cakeland-sweet-art-installation-oakland-t40631.html (Cakeland- Sweet Art Installation- Oakland)

http://slicemagazine.blogspot.com/2009/04/wtf-art-installation.html (WTF? Art Installation- Swimming Pool)

http://www.dezeen.com/2010/06/17/tape-installation-by-for-usenumen-at-dmy-berlin/ (Tape Installation)

http://intransit.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/20/great-art-outdoors-on-buildings-in-moscow/ (Great Art, Outdoors, on Buildings, in Moscow)

http://www.thisistomorrow.info/default.aspx?webPageId=1&catId=188&pageNumber=1 (Contemporary Art Magazine)

http://artobserved.com/artists/maurizio-cattelan/ (Maurizio Cattelan)

http://morrisonworldnews.com/?p=12735 (Sculptor & Artist, Louise Bourgeoise)

http://www.lolgallery.com/the-creepy-hamburg-water-woman-photos/ (The Creepy Hamburg Water Woman Photos)

http://diannaspostcardsfromtheedge.blogspot.com/2010/08/look-into-abyss.html (Look Into the Abyss)

http://danielleandkait.blogspot.com/2010/11/spencer-tunick_10.html (Spencer Tunick)

http://www.shanelavalette.com/journal/2010/05/30/spencer-tunick-installations/ (Spencer Tunick: Installations)

Die Tomato, Die!!!

Last night I performed a piece, Die Tomato, Die!!! at the Performance Laboratory, which is a bi-monthly performance event I co-curate at the Contemporary Art Institute Detroit. The theme for this month was Death.

I performed Die Tomato, Die!!! for the first time last April in a seminar in grad school, then titled Tomato Smashing. Here are some pictures from that performance:

It was a successful performance, and I made a lot of discoveries by doing it. One of them was that smashing tomatoes with a hammer was more difficult than I thought (they roll off the table, especially if they’re not ripe enough). Another, that the juice sprays everywhere, including on the audience, who in that particular space space (an empty studio space) was in close proximity. As they were sprayed with squirts of tomato juice, my peers grabbed a plastic sheet on the floor that just happened to be there, and used it to protect themselves from the bursts. There were plenty of  yelps and squeaks as I worked away with my hammer. It was hard to be serious even though I was trying to be- I really didn’t know what would happen, and everything was unfolding in the moment.

The performance was aimed to be an exploration of the RED BLOB, which has been a theme I’ve been experimenting with in my work over the past year. I’ve done all kinds of experiments around the idea of what the red blob might represent, without wanting to define it too specifically as one particular thing. In the tomato smashing context, the tomato represents food and cooking (and a female doing it), there is something quite gorey about it as it is smashed, and it has an interesting context in a performance, especially with me, as the performer, smashing it. Usually it’s the audience members who throw the tomato at the performer…

So, with all these things in mind, I recreated this performance last night at the Performance Laboratory for The Death Show. And it went really well! In the context of death and horror (two other themes I’m working a lot with right now), I wanted to continue with the seriousness of the piece, choosing atmospheric ‘scary’ background music. I chose a costume that was a bit more ‘glamorous’ than the previous one, and was a red color just a bit deeper than the tomatoes, but would be partially hidden behind my white apron. I also added a timer, that I set to 10 minutes long, which is the duration limit for each piece at the Performance Lab. I added rubber gloves, which accentuated the horror effect and made a lot of people laugh in nervous anticipation. And lastly, I handed out plastic bags to the audience members in the first row, who were in close proximity to my table. Oh, the anticipation!!!! AND, I waited to enter for added suspense- just the audience staring at those shiny red tomatoes and a hammer with plastic bags on their laps, waiting for something to happen….

Here are pictures from the performance:

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I have to say, this is definitely one of the most satisfying performances I’ve ever done in my entire life. There is something so incredibly liberating about covering an audience in tomato juice. And even though it was a serious piece, there was a lot of laughter, a lot of participation, and a continuous dialogue between me and the audience. This is still a work-in-progress, and I plan on continuing to develop it for more future performances. I feel so thankful to have the Performance Laboratory as a continuous forum to try things out and experiment. I couldn’t have asked for a more willing and accepting audience, one willing to get covered in tomato juice for the sake of good and experimental art. I don’t know if this would happen everywhere… it would certainly have to depend on the context, and the space that I performed it in.

You can read a review of the Performance Laboratory’s Death Show on the Midwest Theater Review: http://midwesttheatre.wordpress.com/2011/10/22/detroits-performance-laboratory-journey-to-the-interdisciplinary-fringe-a-review-by-edmund-lingan/

For more info about the Performance Laboratory, please visit our facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Performance-Laboratory/139602749441643. I co-curate this event with collaborator Carrie Morris. It takes place at the Contemporary Art Institute Detroit (CAID) every other month, featuring short works by artists and performers that explore what performance is, and what it can be.

Art That Brings People Together

Unfortunately, 9/11 divided people just as much if not more than it brought them together. On the 10-year anniversary of the tragic event, of course we want to honor those who died and the families who lost them; remembering that sad day when all hell broke loose in New York and across the world. However, as so much of the alternative media is discussing in relation to the ten years that have passed since that day, a lot else has happened. And I’m sure you’ve already heard that it ain’t all good. Rather than try and sound overly smart myself, I’m just going to quote a few articles I’ve read over the day that have struck home for me.

The first is from Al Jazeera English, in an article written by Mark Weisbrott titled “The Decade of 9/11: war without end”:

The most important way that 9/11 changed the world, as tens of millions of Americans understand, is that it provided an over-arching theme and a rationale for the kinds of military adventures, invasions, bombings, interventions and atrocities that our government had previously carried out under other pretexts. For half a century the “war against Communism” served this purpose.

From OpEdNews, in an article written by Abdus-Sattar Ghazali titled “American Muslims ten years after 9/11”:

Alarmingly, the post-911 America has become less friendly to Muslims to the extent that they have probably replaced other minorities – Hispanics, Native Americans and Afro Americans – as targets of discrimination, hate and prejudice. Many American Muslims have a story of discriminative treatment ranging from physical attacks, a nasty gaze, casual comments to work place harassment, burning mosques and the Quran. Muslims have witnessed the ever-growing marginalization of their communities. According to a PEW survey released on August 30, 2011, forty-three percent had personally experienced harassment in the past year. The survey also said that 52 two percent of Muslim Americans complained that their community is singled out by government for surveillance.

And from USA Today in an article by Harriet Baskas titled “How the airport experience has changed since 9/11”:

Outside of sending men and women to war in Afghanistan and Iraq, no aspect of Americans’ way of life has been changed by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as much as their travel — especially air travel. Many Americans say government air security requirements intrude in their lives in ways that not only inconvenience them, but also invade their privacy, humiliate them and even change the ways they behave.

Rather than dwelling too far on all the negatives, I’ve decided instead to look at the role of art as a medium to bring people together. Often referred to as participatory art, interactive art, and social practice, this style of art often brings art into public spaces, encouraging participation and interaction between people who might not usually come together in everyday circumstances. Here are a few examples of some of my favorites:

Improv Everywhere’s “Say Something Nice” project. To read more about their project, visit the post on their website at: http://improveverywhere.com/2011/08/22/say-something-nice/

French street artist JR’s “Inside Out” project. Visit his website here: http://jr-art.net/

Spencer Tunick’s crouching nudes in Mexico City (http://www.thecreatorsproject.com/en-uk/blog/creativity-bytes-a-guide-to-participatory-art)

Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present (http://www.whatisparticipatoryart.com/)

Nick Tobier’s mobile hot chocolate tent (http://playgallery.org/stories/nick_tobier/)

Rose Petal Pool by Rounder (Joanne Jovinelly/Figment) (http://radioboston.wbur.org/2010/06/04/cambridge-river-fest)

Cardboardia. (http://cardboardia.info/)

Do you have more info or links to art that brings people together? Please share them below!!! Thank you.

Article Links:

http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/09/2011910151711228528.html (Al Jazeera English, “The Decade of 9/11: war without end”)

http://www.opednews.com/articles/American-Muslims-ten-years-by-Abdus-Sattar-Ghaza-110905-979.html (OpEdNews, “American Muslims ten years after 9/11”)

http://travel.usatoday.com/experts/baskas/story/2011-09-07/How-the-airport-experience-has-changed-since-911/50300998/1 (USA Today, “How the airport has changed since 9/11)

Art Without Art Spaces

A hard part about being an artist is finding the right space to do so in. Rehearsal space, space for making things, space for thinking about making things… all these things are needed but space is limited and to have space you have to have $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$. Artists have to become increasingly creative in the ways that they find space to make things in. This is why Site-specific art work makes more and more sense. Not only does it bring itself directly into the public sphere, not contained in a traditional art space, but it also saves big coins in the wallet, if you know what I mean. As space is limited, I feel pushed to search for a new means of creating artwork that does, indeed, fit outside the box.

Image Sources: http://www.greektravel.com/greekislands/santorini/ (Galleries and Wineries in Santorini), http://web.ncf.ca/ek867/2009_03_01-15_archives.html (Prague Warehouse), http://www.today.ucla.edu/portal/ut/challenging-the-concepts-of-art-96002.aspx (Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty” in the Great Salt Lake), http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/theatreblog/2007/apr/26/sitespecificworkneedsmoret (The National Theatre of Scotland and Grid Iron’s production of Roam, performed at Edinburgh airport.)

Buoj iz Jeb hosts the Water Show

Well, the Performance Laboratory had another great monthly event last night. What was fabulous about this time around was that we staged it mostly outside in the backyard of the CAID, with each performance in a different area of the yard. I’m becoming more and more drawn to site-specific performance as opposed to performing on a standard stage setting, and having the Performance Lab outside added a new exciting dynamic to the performances and event. Besides the fact that we had to mow a completely overgrown lawn a day ahead of time, and that there were mosquitoes nipping at everyone’s skin for the entire event, it was AWESOME. Great performances, nice theme of ‘water’ to tie it all together and a fabulous audience. The Performance Laboratory really does just get better and better. The more we learn from each month’s event, the more we grow as organizers, performers and a solid community.

As for my own performance, well, I went kinda crazy. And it was so much fun. See, I’ve been performing this character since approximately November 2010 named Buoj iz Jeb. Buoj iz Jeb is an old man with a dirty mouth and a foul sense of humor. He’s not afraid to talk, and despite his raunchiness, he’s a pretty likable guy. The thing about Buoj iz Jeb is that he likes to take his clothes off. That’s what he does for a living. He’s a professional figure model, and more recently, a stripper and swimsuit model as well. His first big break took place at the Work: Ann Arbor Gallery in downtown Ann Arbor on November 19, 2010. He showed up with an easel, some props and his own body to be drawn by the art show attendees in an interactive performance, which took place in the front window of the gallery, exposing itself both to those on the inside of the gallery, as well as those on the street passing by. Each time an ‘audience member’ drew Buoj iz Jeb, he taped it to the window facing out to the street to display. By the end of the night, the window was full of drawings of his naked, old man body.

This time around, Buoj iz Jeb was the host of the Performance Laboratory. Going with the theme of water, Buoj modeled a different swimsuit between each performance. Each swimsuit was peeled off to reveal the next, until by the end of the night he was completely naked, transforming into a nudist swimmer. Each swimsuit had a theme, and music that he played out of his boombox to go along with it. There was lots of audience interaction, and in the end Buoj collected money in his socks for the show. It was a big success! For this performance I hadn’t had a lot of time to plan ahead, as I didn’t commit to performing until a week before when we realized we needed more performers to fill the show. Slowly over the week my ideas developed, but nothing was ever set into stone. Even though the performance wasn’t completely planned, I had a structure and idea of where it was going from one point to the next. I also had a lot of thoughts in my head about what I might do, which naturally came out in the moment. The majority of the performance was improvisational- responding to the audience and situation. What I love about playing Buoj iz Jeb is that all the things I am unsure about or question ahead of time naturally come out in his dialogue- he has the ability to communicate what’s working and what’s not, and make that a part of the show. Basically, his character gives permission to be completely chaotic while still having a throughline and end point, which most of the time is to take his clothes off. What’s the point? Well, to make the audience uncomfortable, and yet completely enjoy the absurdity of something that would not usually happen in most cases. There’s something about Buoj taking his clothes off that people totally get a kick out of, in many ways because it’s pretend- it’s not real. Buoj’s body is not a real naked old man body, it’s my female body dressed in a nude unitard that I have designed to appear realistically as a male body. However, it’s still obvious that it’s not real. Therefore, the removal from reality makes a generally grotesque and disturbing action turn into a fun, still grotesque, but raucous and hilariously disturbing event. If we were gonna talk concept and theory, we could say that the performance plays on the stigma of male sexuality and body image, in particular that of an old man, in society. It challenges the audience to view something that normally they would feel extremely uncomfortable viewing in a completely different context. It also challenges gender ideas: me playing drag in reverse.

To view Buoj iz Jeb’s figure modeling performance, go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJGQjEkMarM (3-minute excerpt), and here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8volCSH8STU (9-minute excerpt)

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The Art of Teaching Yoga

Besides being an artist, I’m also a yoga teacher. I practiced yoga for 10 years before training to become a teacher. I’ve now been teaching for four years. What I love about teaching yoga is that within the average class time of an hour and fifteen minutes, I can leave the room knowing that I’ve really affected someone. I teach yoga not to say “hey, look at me, I’m beautiful and perfect and amazing and talented”, but to provide the space and opportunity for the self discovery of my students.

I am, in a sense, still ‘performing’ when teaching yoga. I have for the most part memorized my lines and the sequences that I lead the class through, thrown in with spontaneity and improvisation based on the moment and feedback I receive from those in the class. Each sequence has a beginning, middle and end. I often provide music or sound to accentuate the mood.

So what’s the difference between teaching yoga and doing a regular performance (as in theater or performance art)? Aren’t both aimed at giving their ‘audience’ an ‘experience’? My first thought is that performance is more self-infatuated. While a performance is still aimed at giving its audience an experience, it’s usually more concerned with the appearance of its performers and the talent and artistic genius of those who created it. This probably explains why I’m so much more aware of myself and at times full of self doubt when I perform. Because I’m thinking too much about myself, and not enough about my audience. When I teach yoga, I’m not concerned about how I look. Because it’s not about me. It’s about them.

When performing and not teaching, I’d like to take more inspiration from my experience in the yoga studio. I don’t want anything I create to be just about making myself look good, as much as that can be tempting at times. I also don’t want to always see other artwork that is only concerned with itself and its own progress in the art world. As an audience member, I’d love to go see a performance that massaged my back, that taught me how to breathe and relax; that made me look at things differently without forcing me to compare myself to its greatness. I want to see something that doesn’t just showcase how amazing it is, but also moves me to feel something great within myself.