Studio & Research Project

Art (studio) project:
Working title: “xo_3” (xo_tact, xo_xx, and xo_xy), a trilogy of films for live performance.

Description: This project will be composed of three separate works, roughly 60 minutes in length each, called “films for performance.” They will be performed and developed primarily in the The Basement gallery space in downtown Phoenix, AZ, USAmerica (this is also my house). These will all be developed through a combination of live installations (where I will develop live moments focusing specifically on the “live” body), and showings of the video work, both of which will be shown to open audiences at the First Friday events in downtown Phoenix. These will be followed by workshop performances, where the live and the video are put together before small audiences, and ultimately move to other venues.

The first part of the trilogy, “xo_tact,” takes desire and the theme of “staining,” or “marking,” as a thematic metaphor for the uneasy relations between the U.S. and Mexico. Of the trilogy, this will be perhaps the most directly readable as political in terms of content and aesthetic approach. The filming space will consist of images of white, red, and green (the colors of the Mexican flag, as well as a nod to Kieslowski, and Amores Perros’ nod to the Three Colors Trilogy). Each color will be used to represent and re-imagine notions of, respectively, purity, sacrifice, and vegetal regeneration. The white images are drawn from religious (specifically Spanish Catholic) iconography. The red images come from Indigenous ritual (here indigenous is used as an umbrella term that’s consciously too broad, to play on the Euro- & Euro-USAmerican notions of indigeneity in Mexico and the tropes of blood sacrifice, which is a colonialist notion). The green will come from mythical figures and icons of regeneration, such as the green people in the forest, corn husks, and skin-shedding reptiles and amphibians. In the live performance, I will work with my collaborators in developing gestures where the live bodies intersect and/or reject the projections.

The second part, “xo_xx,” will confront desire for the Muse, and the conflation of female identity with the sources of inspiration under the male gaze. The iconic imagery here will draw from figures in Santería cosmology. Specifically, I will be working with four Orishas: Yemaya (the Mother of the Ocean), Oshun (the Goddess of Love and the River), Oya (the Spirit of the Wind and the Cemetery Gate), and Yewa (the Worms at the Bottom of the Grave that Eat the Flesh, as well as the Exiled Daughter at the Edge of the Wave). This will be the first work where I draw from Santerîa iconography directly. I will be using video images from various location in natural and urban settings, and would like to collaborate more virtually on this than other pieces (i.e., where the other works will depend on the live presence of collaborators, here I would like to work with collaborators in their absence, where they are manipulated as images and sounds and gestures; this is to foreground the notion that the Male Gaze is in effect, but will also play with narrativity in denying closure to these manipulations and gestures, so that the figures and collaborators, ultimately, should overpower the performer in terms of complexity).

The third, “xo_xy,” will focus on the idea of Narcissus and Echo as a model of normative behavior. Again with the female-male thing. Here, I’m interested in using this metaphor in creating a piece where the figures of Narcissus and Echo intertwine and change places and mingle, like a very unwieldy and unhealthy strand of dna. Here, I want to play with visual mirrors (water physical mirrors, web cams, and live feed) as well as audio mirrors, to make a long meditation on the processes of reflection, repetition, and projection as they operate in mechanisms of desire.

This past Spring I finished a work called “xo_tic,” which was the first move toward making “films for performance.” This signals a shift in aesthetic approach, where the eye (camera, receptor of objects of desire, gazer and gazed, tantric keyhole) is becoming equal to my interest in how the tongue (spoken, written) works in live, mediated performance. This is inspired by chasing rabbits down strange tunnels and getting lost, but not caring, and wanting to articulate an ineffable sensation of life as a journey. I try to find it with words, I hear people I adore speaking ineffable things that seem true, or making pictures that also ring true, but open up a motion toward longing that I want to pursue through making these events which are captured but ephemeral. This trilogy then is inspirited by rabbits, some with human faces, and would speak to these rabbits, as a means of deconstructing the hegemony of the human audience member. Similarly, it’s work dedicated to spirits (again, some with human faces).

Production schedule:

June 28, 2008: show first segment of “xo_tact” at Space55, Phoenix.

July-August: Shoot video and collect material for “xo_xx,” in Austria.

August: Begin second segment of “xo_tact,” The Basement.

September 5: First Friday: present segment of “xo_tact.”/Body

October 3: First Friday; present segment of “xo_tact.”/Video

October: Shoot video and begin collecting material for xo_xy.”

November 7: First Friday; present rough of “xo_tact.”

November 21: Performance of “xo_tact” at Teatro Caliente, PHiX Gallery, Phoenix.

December 5: FF; segment of “xo_xx.”/Body

January, 2009: prepare for NY residency (17-19)

January-February: Collect and refine material for “xo_xx,” continue with collecting for “xo_xy.”

February 6: FF; segment of “xo_xx.”/Video

March 6: FF; present rough of “xo_xx.”

March: present workshop version of “xo_xx.”

April 3: FF; segment of “xo_xy.”/Body

May 1: FF; segment of “xo_xy.”/Video

June 5: FF; present rough of xo_xy.”

June: present workshop version of “xo_xy.”

Note: the First Friday events, which are where a mass of people come to downtown Phoenix to look at art, hold enormous potential for populist works, and very little experimental performance work is seen here. This gallery space (The Basement) will be showing segments of these works-in-progress as repeatable, short performances on these Fridays. And they serve as good deadlines for the work as it progresses, and as people start to catch on to what we’re doing. Unknown quantities of people will be coming through, so we have to show something new each time, which is fortunate for us and them, because we can show new things.


Research Project
“Narcissus' Twin Sister, and Echo's Stain: Deleuzian Blues”

Through the lenses of Jane Blocker and Amelia Jones, the trope of the performance artist as narcissist has been re-examined and re-constructed through various feminist schools of thought, and I would like to look at the Narcissus and Echo stories as a contextual framework for performative practice. I would like to suggest that the desire to see oneself represented and echoed is a construct that might be useful for performance, not only in the content, but also in the working practice, that is, in the subjectivities of the performers while they are constructing work. I want to begin by examining the Lacanian notion of the mirror stage, and the pre-mirror stage, in the formation of subjective identity, for some foundational analyses, and because it is a "lack" in my own theoretical framework up to this point. I would then begin to plan an escape route through the works of Gilles Deleuze, which will then turn my inquiry into a process of investigating rhizomatic connections, and occasionally reigning these in to make them useful (so they may continue to act as lines of flight in my thinking and in my practice). Eventually, this would become a 3000+ word document, which will act as a research project technically, but should also function for me as a very useful map.

I am interested in the trajectory of movement from Lacan to Deleuze for very specific reasons. In my performance work, desire is always the subject and the object (this notion enhanced recently by looking into the films of Godard). In the process of making work, I am involved in somewhat intensive processes (like anyone), in intimate working conditions (like anyone working within walls), and the power relation is constantly shifting (in idea circumstances) where different participants become Narcissus and Echo and varying combinations of the two. In performance, this construction is made much more obvious because of the nature of representation and repetition, where the visible and the invisible can alternately form assumptions toward reflection and echo based on the spectatorial desire. However, although it seems interesting to me to investigate these constructions according to the Lacanian models (Imaginary, Symbolic, and Real), I would like to suggest that taking a Deleuzian turn will unveil radical possibilities. In Lacan, desire can be perceived as a lack and an impulse toward fulfillment of that lack. In Deleuze (this, stating it very simply and erroneously, although I'm using it here just as a shorthand without assuming any authority) there are possibilities, through difference and repetition, to make desire useful, as an opening toward the immanence of arrival (as opposed to, or perhaps complimented by, or even constituted by, the Eternal Return). In this, then, I am curious to investigate and even lose myself in the rhizomatic geographies of longing, where the subject and object, entirely locked in a search for the sound and sight of each other as "Other," become not simply objects or subjects, but radical lines of flight in and of themselves. This line of inquiry would, I suspect, lead to radical possibilities for the performing subject, as well as open lines of flight in working practice, for a process that may hold or hide liberatory possibilties.

There are, finally, two directions, or lines of flight, which I will include (with the intention and awareness that this may split into more connections that will lead to other lines of thought): gender representation and ritual representation. In my work, these ideas of representation and power are explored with the intention of distruption and deconstruction, and often the re-representations appear in degradaded form. In a post-feminist aesthetics, is it possible to investigate how the male body functions in live performance, or what roles it might play as sexual signifier? Another question I want to follow, using this framework, is how the notion of representation functions in Santeria Aesthetics (which seems here like a tangential notion but is actually absolutely central in my work). In the year of initiation into Santería, the Yawo (“bride of the secret”) has a number of prohibitions. One of these is mirrors. For the first three months, s/he is not “allowed” to look into mirrors. This is interesting to me to consider as a metaphorical re-creation of the self through dissolution of the ego. David Brown, art historian and scholar of Santería, suggested this Lacanian pre-mirror stage notion to me, and the idea of self as created through its reflection is fascinating to me, and in this context, where the ritual nature of the year mirrors many of Lacan’s ideas on the formation of self. Of course, this will lead to more sensibilities and possibilities which, I hope, will radically change as the project continues, so that I might become more aware of my own tendencies in formation and production, and work more consciously toward a praxis of Immanence.





Bibliography:

Berger, Anne-Emmanuelle. 1996. 
The Latest Word from Echo
. New Literary History - Volume 27, Number 4, Autumn, pp. 621-640

Causey, Matthew. 1999. ‘The Screen Test of the Double: The Uncanny Performer in the Space of Technology’. Theatre Journal Vol. 51, No. 4, pp. 383–94

Colebrook, Claire. Gilles Deleuze. 2002. Taylor and Francis.

Deleuze, Gilles. 1994. Difference and Repetition. Columbia University Press.

Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guatarri. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus. U of Minnestoa Press.

Dolar, Mladen. 1991. "I Shall Be with You on Your Wedding-Night": Lacan and the Uncanny. October, Vol. 58, Rendering the Real

Harrison, Charles and Paul J. Wood (eds). 2002. Art in Theory: 1900-2000. Wiley-Blackwell.

Lacan, Jaques. 2007. Ecrits. Norton.

Petek, Polona. 2003. “Narcissus and Echo at the Movies.” Paper presented at the University of Melbourne.

Rajchman, John. 2000. The Deleuze Connections. MIT.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. 1993. ‘Echo + Women and Narcissism’. New Literary History Vol. 24, No. 1, pp. 17–43

Zizek, Slavoj. 2007. How to Read Lacan. Norton.




Points of connection:

The research project focuses on identity formation in contexts where the re-presentation is limited by the mirror and/or echo of the other. I am interested in exploring how this links theoretically with my praxis in the installation-performances, which are in themselves conscious explorations and explosions of re-presentation. I would like to use the linkages between the spiritual systems (particularly Santeria iconographies) and the mythological projections in the artwork, to come to an idea of where my work might be headed. At the same time, articulating these ideas in both discursive and aesthetic practices, will help me to move toward a point where I can articulate where I want to speak from. This is also an approach toward an “open system,” where I can more consciously use the media to manufacture images of desire in order to develop work that is not strictly ironic, but speaks from a body that is under construction.

Criteria for evaluation:
I would like to use audience interviews, interviews particularly with extreme audiences, to ask about the work's reception, and what it does to the viewer. This is material that is, of course, impossible to quantify, and measurements are rather dubious, so I would like to take a more radical approach to audience feedback, and find ways of engaging in dialogue outside of the standard q&a format. Asking for immediate response from the extreme members would be helpful, then, and conversations on the porch afterwards might help work toward a more useful methodology of developing the work.

I would also like to look at the media as a whole when each work is finished, and assess it according to whether or not it might be seen as a completed work in itself, and if not, begin to work toward an aesthetic where the filmed work is itself a consistent whole, and where the performance work is also a consistent whole (here, by consistent, I might prefer the word autonomous, although the intention is not to make these autonomous art works, but rather develop a way of working where both elements are equally strong and "present").

I will also continue the side inquiry toward public reception of male nudity, and see if there is anything to be learned about possibilities in performance.

Lastly, I would like to use my blog page to mark some of the more personal discoveries in linking my identities as a new priest in an earth religion with my student status beginning an MFA in New Media, and see where these connections might inform my research and art. This last is a sidenote rather than a criteria for evaluation.

Past and future, connections:
Moving from theatrical texts for the stage where I served as a writer, and then added in performer and director and producer, I am decided on moving this year toward a practice that is more blatantly interdisciplinary, where the projects are more performance and media-based, so that their associations with theater (experimental) become even less apparent. Beyond that, looking into next year, I am looking toward developing practices that are simultaneously more performance art-based, as well as more filmic. So this year's mentor is based in the practices of live performance, and I anticipate that next year I will work with a mentor who is based in making film (for live performance and/or for video only).


Summary: My artistic and research project is toward developing an aesthetics of re-presentations of desire through examining the trope of Narcissus and Echo as collapsible categories that could yield liberatory methodologies of meaning-making.

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