Category Archives: interactive art

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.

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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)