Monday, July 20, 2009

Gearing up for my first performance


“The performance will be informed by my new understanding of space as a precious commodity in Manhattan. I’ll be counting on people infringing on my personal space so they are close enough to become part of the performance…”

Last week, I took the overnight bus to Toronto and turned around immediately with my husband to renew my employment paperwork for the US and to add him to mine as a frequent visitor. Along the way, we saw graffiti that said “Read more!” repeatedly. The librarian in me smiled, while the rest of me ached for sleep. I’ve been too tired to heed the advice of the graffiti and get any reading done, but I have been plotting an unconventional way to encourage reading: weather permitting, I’ll be doing a performance this week that will prompt unwitting viewers to read my body. To inscribe words on my own body will surely prove as unsettling as being on the receiving end of a stranger's written comments about my body, but it needs to be done to address the injustice of the latter incident (the details of which I won’t dwell on here), plus it’ll relate to my previous cocoon sculptures that address the phenomenon of text-based socialization through baby clothing.

Too tired to read, I’ve indulged in watching my DVD set of the television show, Felicity. The main character, a college freshman played by Keri Russell (who is now a real-life New Yorker) describes Manhattan as a blizzard in which she is but a snowflake. That line makes me think about the difficulty of capturing someone’s attention in New York. It would be a lot easier to do a performance in my hometown where there is less visual stimulation, but I think I’ve found the perfect place to do the performance in New York. It’s actually the same place where I got the idea for the performance, after seeing a woman wearing the same kind of clothing on which I want to comment. I’ve never done a performance; the closest I’ve come is modeling wearable art for photographic documentation. I’m not quite sure how I will gear myself up for it, but I will admit that I’m making this post to ensure accountability. I’ve stated that it will happen, so now I have to go through with it.

As I’m used to thinking of sculpture with a frontal focus, it will be very strange for me to become the sculpture in a sense and to be moving through space. A quotation by Louise Bourgeois that I saw on the week-end at the Dia:Beacon keeps going through my mind even though I can’t remember the continuation of it: “Space is an illusion.” While walking around the top floor of the stunning gallery to view her work, I believed she was right. Moving towards the bench where my husband sat, I perceived a stationary sculpture to be animated as he went in and out of my field of vision. Likewise, from different vantage points, the security guard was eclipsed by a hanging Bourgeois. But I also had a knee-jerk reaction to the suggestion that space is an illusion. “Oh really?” I thought. Having ample space is the difference between hitting your head on the paper towel dispenser and the doorknob in a puny Manhattan restaurant bathroom and not; it’s the difference between getting a parking space at 2 am and having to go to a parking garage and take a taxi back because your neighbourhood is too rough. (I will recall memories like these when I look at the photograph I just purchased by James Prez of graffiti that says ‘New York Fucking City’). The performance will be informed by my new understanding of space as a precious commodity in Manhattan. I’ll be counting on people infringing on my personal space so they are close enough to become part of the performance, to act as the conceptual completion to the act of assemblage.

I’m off to Pearl Paint to procure some materials for the performance. Stay tuned for photographs this week-end.

P.S. I was in fact foiled by the rain. Now I am just waiting for a time that is convenient for both me and my photographer-husband.

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