this got a little weird

This might be just a little confusing.
This was a performance that I didn't intend.  
And the documentation here is hard to read, the images don't ever really resolve, and there's video, but I don't know who has it, or where it is.
This might be better than anything I could have intended, though, because something happened that turned my head somewhere else, something happened that I wasn't expecting.

There's an event here, it's in a lot of places, it's not just here, there's an event, First Friday, it happens the first Friday of every month, and it's estimated that 14,000 people come out for this.  
The galleries are open and there are food trucks and there are people selling art on the street (old men selling hand carved toy coffins with carved skeletons inside for $15, kids spray painting cardboard with stars for $10, and people at tables selling hand-made jewelry for $175.
It's unusual for Phoenix because people don't go out and see things.  As a general rule, it's one of the hardest big cities to live in if you do anything that involves an audience.  People stay in because everything is too far away, and everything is suburbs, and everyone in the suburbs thinks that it's dangerous downtown.  (I live downtown, and have only been robbed with a rifle once, when I was sitting on my porch smoking a cigar).

This happened on Friday, March 1st, my friend Lance Gharavi was given Pop-Up Park (a park on 2nd Street and Roosevelt), to do a live performance event.  This was during the Emerge Conference (an ASU event where scientists and artists mix their heads all up in each other and make things and 
talk about potential things they could make, for three days); so there would be people coming
 from Tempe to Phoenix to see whatever we did in the park, and there would be some 
other people from the general public who might stop by.  

And this is where things went so very different.
First, I want to say that I really did think that I would be in a corner where no one could see unless they were looking very closely.  There would be a dj by the street, and my friend, Chelsea Pace, would be performing in a central spot, and I had this idea that I would be doing yoga in a little corner of the park, some place that no one would see.

I really didn't think this through.  

I spent two weeks running this through the back of my mind, thinking about what this might be.  I'm sort of obsessed with the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, so I decided I would do a performance where I was a phantom of Orpheus, and I would be doing a rite on Eurydice's grave, and that I would be praying to bring her back, even though I couldn't bring her back, but I would be trying.  I had a white cloth for the ground, a red sheet that could represent her body and could also cover my body.  Some fake black roses, a scissors, some red string, a candle, my ipod (so I could time the performances in my head, by pacing them according to the music, because I knew that I would probably be going into a light trance, and I would need something to keep track of time.  I also had some cascarilla (white chalk made of eggshells, sacred to children of Obatala in the Lucumi tradition (I use it to keep my head cool and for different kinds of cleaning).  Oh, and beet juice.  I made some beet juice and put it in a bottle, because I knew I would get thirsty, and I suspected it might look interesting to spit it out on white cloth.  I painted my body white, and watched a youtube video on how to make a loincloth, and was ready to do this.

The rite to Eurydice was something in my head, I figured if anyone happened to find it interesting to watch for a minute or two, they wouldn't know the context, and it might not matter.  I would keep busy doing yoga poses and that would give anyone passing by a sense that movement was happening.  I really didn't have very much planned out except for this.

So, I met some friends there, and my roommate said he'd be close by just in case someone in the crowd decided to attack me for some reason, with a rifle or whatever, and I laid down the white sheet and made the grave, and put on my iPod, and sat on the grave and did some deep breathing for a long time.
And it was terribly, terribly alarming, really, when I opened my eyes, because there were hundreds of people standing in a circle around me.

Apparently Phoenix is really hungry for live performance, and that was exhilarating, and it was also interesting trying to keep my pulse going very slow, because I was not really thinking about graves and longing for a mythic lover at all, but really more focused on the idea that I had not planned this out very well.  I suspected that if I did yoga, they would catch on pretty quickly that there wasn't much thought put into this, and they would move on, and I decided that it would be all right if they did move on, but it might be a lot nicer if they didn't, so I started focusing again on the idea of the grave and missing someone, and my movements got very slow, and the music took me away from everything, and soon I was trying to eat dirt, spitting out beet juice, and focusing on moving in the way that I move when I am trying not to weep, to move from a place of very deep mourning.  And I also decided to move from a spiritual part of me that I usually keep very hidden, because it is not quite secret, not quite public, but vulnerable, sure, but it seemed like the right thing to do.

Apparently it was right, if there is a right to these things, because I eventually did three versions of this rite, each one lasting about 45 minutes, and I understand that most people stayed the whole time each time.  And some goth kids came back at the end of the night because they wanted to know more about what the hell this was.  And because it's Phoenix, there were some people who thought it was just crazy (and a little cold for sure), some who thought it was mesmerizing and didn't know why, and some who thought it was nice to see performance art in their city for a change (and I'm sure there were some who thought it was stupid, or narcissistic, or pretentious, and it's probably all these things and none of them and maybe it does not matter so much).

What excited me the most was that although I've done lots of performances and am not shy, this was by far the most exposed I've ever felt, and for the first time I didn't have a script, or a stack of poems, or any projection, no media at all except for an ipod that was just for me, just a body in space, one that could not speak above a whisper, and tons of people.  It's likely that most of them never heard of Orpheus & Eurydice, but it's certain that they know what it means to mourn somebody and miss somebody, because everybody misses somebody.  That's what makes us like phantoms, that's something phantoms have in common.

(this next bit is really not part of the thing for Transart, so if you're reading this with Transart vision, you can stop now)

(but if you want to read...)

(this next part is written after the performance, and is where I'm being a good researcher, and writing a phenomenological response to the performance, and also connecting it to the piece I'm starting to work on for Transart/Plymouth.  After doing the performance, I realize that the next piece will have more to do with Orpheus and Eurydice than I had realized)

((anyway, cheers, and thanks for reading....xo's....))

This is a scene for an elevator, where Ted is trying to tell Robin about his recent turn to performance art (keeping with the Ted & Robin thing here because I can talk about things that are very personal and think that no one knows what I'm talking about, but it's also going into a play, so it's really just me making art and nothing more than that).  ((So stop reading into it))..  (((Honestly, I don't know who that last comment was for, I think it was for me)))...
This is a scene in an elevator, and no one really looks who they are supposed to pretend to be.  It all looks a little fucked up.  Even the elevator is fucked up, it's very old fashioned, one of those pre-electricity elevators, before stairs even, this elevator is really a rock.  Ted is talking to Robin on a rock and it's very heartfelt so watch out, this will be terribly confessional.
TED: (this is a ted talk)  You would think, you would really have to think, or I would have to think, you know, being on a white sheet in a loin cloth in front of hundreds of people when it's cold, rolling around and pouring blood out of my mouth and listening to headphones, that I would be a little, you know, "I think this might be the most self-absorbed thing I've ever done, and to anyone who doesn't really know me, this would be, you know, crazy, that I look crazy," is how I would think I would feel, except no, except not at all, except no, not at all.  There was something else.  I was Orpheus, a skeleton of him, missing Eurydice, and she was underneath the ground, and we were both dead and we were on the opposite side of the worlds, and it was about missing somebody, it was like that.  Don't look at me like that, this wasn't about you, I wasn't thinking about you, not at all, except in this way of like, well, you're a lot of people, you are a lot of people to me, and I was missing that, and while I was missing that, these other people were watching and they were seeing themselves missing someone in all of it, so it was one of those kinds of things, where you take on what they give you and return it in some kind of series of ritual actions and the blood is like a purging.  But it's not real blood.  It's not my blood, it's not her blood, and it's not chicken blood, although, of course, the people who don't know me, they were thinking that it could be any of those things, and probably was something very dark, but really, it wasn't dark, it was beet juice, which is healthy.  Because, really, maybe three years ago, it might have been chicken blood, but that's not really appropriate for a park.  Not with kids and old people.  I mean, I will do these things, because this is what I know how to do, but I can do them so they are healthy, so something gets awoken in them, and something is cleaned in me.  This is exciting to me.  What we can do to each other in public spaces.  But the part I wanted to tell you, after I covered myself in small pieces of bloody cloth, covering and cleaning all of my wounds, I put my face on the ground, on the sheet on the ground, and that's when I started to think about you, this was the first time in the performance that I thought about you.  Because it was a trance, and because it wasn't a live human acting, it was all impulse, I started to chew on the ground, to try to chew the ground beneath the sheet, and my teeth couldn't get a grip on the ground, and it was endless and fruitless and wasted, it was a wasted action, except not at all wasted.  Because it told me what I wanted to do, where my heart lives right now, I want to touch you with my mouth but there is all of this grave trappings in the way, and it's a meal that I cannot have, apparently, apparently I cannot eat, I want to eat but I can't eat, and that's where I live.  Which will be either terribly disturbing or terribly sweet, depending on how you feel about me, and that's something that I'm not allowed to know, apparently.  But for me, I know, I know that, and it's not terribly revealing, really, to say that at the root of all of this is this strange recognition of a whole bunch of ancestors underneath all of this, under my clothes, under your clothes, we're not unclothed but utterly naked in the presence of other spirits, those who came before, and for whatever reason, they are speaking, and they are speaking of holiness and that same fire of hunger that was there at the beginning of everything.  Except when you live forward in time, in time that moves forward, there are all the usual confusions that go with living in a body with memories and children and lovers and burials, except, the second layer of except is more than the first, except.  When you live in the circle, in time that moves in a circle, there is no death, only birth, one birth that leads naturally into the next birth, and I am starting to see for the very first time that these metaphors for birth really don't refer to the physical act of birth, of being born, because our own physical birth is already a metaphor for something else, some very important secret that can only be answered in being born.


Popular Posts