Performa 07 Live
Here's your chance to read comments, reviews and ideas arising out of this year's Biennial posted by specially commissioned writers, critics and theorists. The Writing Live Fellows have been generously supported by Arts Council England.
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12/02/07 06:45:21 am
Interview between Carlos Amorales and Rachel Lois Clapham, New York 15 November 2007
Carlos Amorales, Spider Web Stage (negative), 2006-2007. Courtesy of the artist and Yvon Lambert Gallery, New York/Paris.
Carlos Amorales??™ Spider Galaxy
is a 400-piece sculpture resembling a spider??™s web that is the site for an ongoing performance by a lone dancer, accompanied by a subsonic sound composition by Julien Lede transmitted through the sculpture itself. Spider Galaxy
adds to Amorales??™ oeuvre of
ritualistic performance projects and animations, including Amorales vs. Amorales, which involved professional wrestlers and was exhibited at the Tate Modern in London and at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, amongst other venues.
Rachel Lois Clapham (RLC): Can you tell me what happened in your studio with regards to Spider Galaxy
Carlos Amorales (CA): In my practice I build structures for other people to work in, like the record label I set up ???Nuevos Ricos??™, then I invite other people such as bands, artists and graphic designers, to be involved in that structure. It??™s the same in my studio. I collaborate with three of four people at any one time. Various people do graphic design, draw, research software or write. Together we build an archive of digital images which I use in different ways. Working in this way means I can create the conditions for something to happen within the limits of my own practise. Spider Galaxy
really illustrates that way of working, that collaborative process that happens in my studio. I literally constructed a stage and asked a dancer (Galia Eibenschutz), musician (Julien Lede) and choreographer (Eri Eibenschutz) to develop their work on it.
RLC: What currently binds all these different ways of working?
CA: Thematically, it is Fantasy - whether it is inherited fantasy, myth or the clich?© of Fantasy - how it operates; how we rationalise it or don??™t. Essentially I want to unpick how we relate to the clich?© of Fantasy in its own specific language. That is why the digital archive is very important. It contains all these different pictorial elements, tools to make a fantasy story. My other main concern is analysing the process of doing artistic work. That??™s why I work across many different formats and within various institutions - both within the art-world (in galleries and museums) and outside it (in Wrestling or the music industry). I like to test the ways in which I can work within those different environments and how the specific audiences??™ interact. I do see all these things as part of my practice but at the same time, with the record label Nuevos Ricos, it??™s not like I??™m declaring it ???art??™.
RLC: What is the significance of the dancers??™ costume in Spider Galaxy
CA: The bird shape for the costume comes from my archive. It is the combination of an image of a bird mixed with the pattern of a spider web and the grid-like structure of a Samurai Warriors??™ armour. I wanted to abstract the costume, to make it more open as an image, and if I had used a spider as reference point it would be too obvious.
RLC: Why have Spider Galaxy
in the atrium at 590 Madison? - was it the fact that there are trees and real birds inside that space?
CA: The birds flying inside the space was a pure coincidence. The most important thing was to find a mixture of public and private space. I wanted Spider Galaxy
to occupy a space that wasn??™t specialised like a Theatre or a gallery, but that wasn??™t directly on the street. The key element of public space is to creating a spectacle that is not overly theatrical; where the work is not so much about creating a show for people to turn up, be seated and laugh at. Having Spider Galaxy
in the atrium public plaza area meant that some people travelled directly to see it and the passing public might enjoy it, but then again they might not look at or even notice it. I like that mix. It also means that people can stumble upon the work without meaning to.
RLC: What is the significance of the sound in Spider Galaxy
CA: For many years the musician Julien Lede and I have been collaborating, he is a part of Nuevos Ricos. The sound he made for Spider Galaxy was quite simple, with really low bass and really high pitched sound at opposite ends of the sound spectrum. There was no rhythm in the sound so that the dancer could move independently, according to her own natural or bodily logic, that way her moves might look stranger. The sound was also designed to match the physicality of the space; the spider web has a built-in seated space for the audience as well as the dancer. This highlights the audience??™s physical interaction with the work, it brings them in. The vibration the audience feels moving through them heightens the fact that they are implicated in the work. The bass moving through the stage is also an analogy of the movements that a spider uses to track food on its web.
RLC: I looked away when the dancer was coming onto the stage. When I looked back all I saw was an inhuman looking bird form perched on the side of the stage; it was very still, moving only when it was breathing. It looked really unfamiliar and was quite a disturbing moment. The thing that came to mind was the Uncanny. In what way does this aspect of primal fear operate in your work?
CA: I think you were really lucky. The fact that you looked away and suddenly something had appeared like that is an important moment in the piece for me. I??™m jealous of that experience because I know the story from the beginning, but that??™s a moment I really like: when you don??™t know if the dancer is an object or a human or what is about to happen. For me, Spider Galaxy
has a lot of tension and the idea was to really slow that moment of anticipation and unfamiliarity down, to prolong it so the audience would have to wait a long time to realise what it was, before Galia starts dancing. That??™s another way in which Spider Galaxy
plays with the audience??™s expectations of being ???entertained??™.
I would say a notion of the uncanny: attraction and at the same time repulsion, is very important to my work and is built into the aesthetics. Beauty can have this dual element, it can be attractive yet really scare people. Aztec art is beautiful but it has that same air of strangeness, I think because we know so little about it, yet the images are quite commonplace. It??™s important to me not to make anything nightmarish or gothic though, that would be reduce the work to the level of gimmick. Instead what I want is to try to work with the spaces I can??™t grab. I try to find something in beauty. The Uncanny is perhaps not a psychological narrative in my work, rather it is built into its material form. It is a way to perceive the graphic forms I use.
RLC: How do you think of Spider Galaxy
when there is no dancer?
CA: I displayed the spider web stage itself, with no dancers, as an installation ???Spider Web Negative??™
in Milton Keynes Gallery in 2006. So the work does have an important function in the atrium space without the dancer. There are deliberately no signs to say you cannot touch or climb on the spider web when there is no-one there, whether they are staff, dancer or audience; it is a stage ready for anyone who wants to interact with it. Sometimes people do step on it or play with it, which is important. In that sense the installation, the empty spiders??™ web, has an element of performance waiting to happen. It??™s also an invitation to perform, which can be quite alienating or frightening because you??™re not sure how you are implicated, or what you might be expected to do. With this invitation to perform Spider Galaxy
is passive yet equally quite aggressive.
RLC: Perhaps for the people who stand on the empty spider web stage their uncertainty is ???When is the spider going to come and eat me??™
CA: Or ???Am I the spider???™
RLC: Spider Galaxy
is a Performa Commission. Performa Commissions usually represent a shift of some kind in an artist??™s practise with regard to working live. You have worked live before, why do you feel you were commissioned by Performa?
CA: I stopped doing live performance after the wrestling and Devil Dance projects about 5 years ago so Spider Galaxy
does represent a shift for me, quite a big one, as it is my first live work since I quit performance. It was a big step for me to come away from that kind of work but I wanted to change something in my practise at that point. Spider Galaxy
is very different from what I have done before. I really wanted to depart from previous work, which was much more entertaining and ???popular??™, the audience knew exactly how to react to it. Of course, there are similarities in Spider Galaxy
; the idea of the stage remains the same as in the wrestling or Devil Dance. But other aspects are totally in another direction. Spider Galaxy
is against the idea of entertaining. It is slow, more demanding of its audience and not so immediately translatable. The design of the work, a certain graphic Bauhaus feel, is also more developed. It??™s that deliberate shift of direction and the fact that the previous performances were made in my late twenties, whereas Spider Galaxy
comes at a time when I am in my late 30??™s, which makes this work feel more mature.
RLC: If Spider Galaxy r
epresents a change in your relationship to live performance, does this mean you will begin to make live work again?
CA: I don??™t know. Performance is such a burden. When you make studio work you are in a private space. The moment you exhibit or show someone the work is of course public, but when you finish it, it stays finished and static. In my current exhibition ???Black Cloud??™ at Yvonne Lambert Gallery - I installed the work, then I left it and only return every now and again to check on it or fix the odd bit. I can release myself away from the work. The problem with performance is you carry it everywhere in your daily life, and it??™s so intense. Even though I no longer perform in my work myself ??“ I am only directing or behind the scenes in Spider Galaxy
- the tension is still huge. I don??™t think I could cope with making it regularly as the main outlet of my expression.
11/30/07 09:36:47 am
Interview between He Yun Chang and Rachel Lois Clapham, New York 14 November
Mahjong 2007 (Detail)
He Yunchang, Majong, Courtesy of the artist and PERFORMA Photo: Paula Court
Beijing-based artist He Yun Chang is arguably the leading performance artist presently working in China. Over the last eleven years, he has created a series of unique and discrete solo performances in which he has placed exceptional physical demands upon himself both in terms of his strength and endurance. For PERFORMA07, He Yun Chang devised a unique version of Mahjong, based on the ancient but popular Chinese game, but using over 100 mahjong ???tiles??™ made from large cement bricks. The artist played this game in New York's Washington
Square Park for four hours with various audience members.
Rachel Lois Clapham (RLC) How did Mahjong 2007 come about?
He Yun Chang (HYC) I thought of the idea 2-3 years ago but my gallery, Chambers Fine Art, set it up with Performa for 2007. People usually play Mahjong recreationally but I wanted to subvert it, turn it into something else and make it physically oppressive. My version of the game is quite cruel, that's what the heavy bricks are about. Also I like the idea of playing it for a long time in the hot sun or in middle of winter, like here in New York. Someone told me that Korean soldiers are made to play a similar model of the game, with very large bricks as part of their torture in prison but that's not necessarily the most important thing in Mahjong 2007. What's important is playing the game with the audience, rather than the game itself. Previous performances have been dangerous, solitary or censored, whereas in Mahjong it was important that I was able to have the audience in the space with me in, and interact with them. My relationship with the audience in Mahjong is also quite friendly - unlike the wrestling game I played in 'One and One Hundred, 2001' where the relationship with the audience was definitely tense, antagonistic. People really wanted to hurt me and to win! In Mahjong the process of playing, the time we spend playing it, is much more important than winning the game.
RLC Why do Mahjong in Washington Square?
HYC Because it's a public space; some people go ice skating, some people eat a meal there, I chose to play my version of Mahjong. It could have been anywhere public really. I was ideally looking for somewhere a bit warmer!
RLC You wanted to be warmer. You also ended the performance 45 minutes early (at 6.15). Does this mean perseverance or physical endurance are less important to you in Mahjong than in other previous works?
HYC Physical endurance is still a factor, its' just that there were logistical problems with Mahjong. I ended the work early because it was cold and raining but more so because several of the people could not play the game properly, which really affected the piece. The police also came part way through Mahjong and made me put my clothes on, which also interrupted the performance. The nakedness was important. I have always performed naked so I was naked whilst playing Mahjong- for continuity- but I also think nudity makes the performance more pure, with less distractions. Being exposed to the elements when naked was also a way of increasing the magnitude of what was happening in Mahjong, it made the game a starker contrast to the wet and the cold.
RLC Do you consider Mahjong a success, even though you were interrupted by the police and stopped early because it was cold and raining?
HYC Yes. It is a success because I completed the performance. I carried it out. It is out of my control whether the police stop the work; they have guns and I don't! Carrying out my work in the face of those elements does have a connected interaction with those chance elements. But they are also forces that are out of my control and so not central to the work's success.
RLC Is Mahjong a new side to your work, a softer side, in which you testing your physical and mental limits is less important?
HYC It's true that I often pitch my body and my individual will in contrast to external forces ( harsh weather, strong water, poured concrete) or chance elements, like being interrupted by the police, that is important in my work. But in some pieces I vary the concept and lessen that element. Often, like in Mahjong, the process itself is as important as fighting against those forces, whether they are outside (natural, instigated by others ) or from within myself (my own endurance against my own body or will). In that way, the process and act of completion, following through with the act of performance, expressing it physically with the audience is key, in spite of any logistical, natural or chance factors that may stop or hinder the work in some way.
RLC How would you feel if a someone walked through the park, saw the game, and didn't realise Mahjong 2007 was a performance or something original?
HYC I wouldn't mind at all, that would be wonderful! My work is very ordinary looking. I always use the simplest materials in order to create the largest imaginary space. Even with simple, everyday gestures and materials you can make work of a great magnitude and get the essence of something important. Also, it wouldn't matter to me if some people thought what I was doing wasn't art, or was pointless. In my 9 month tour of the UK in 2006, 'Touring Great Britain with Rock,' I often had only two or three people watching me and sometimes in China I don't have any audience at all, so I don't necessarily think about who will witness or understand the work. My feeling is that if some people pass by Mahjong and don't understand what they see, give them 100 days and they can have a think about it.
RLC Is it true that your work gets more interrupted here in the US, than in China?
HYC I have never actually been 'caught' doing a performance in China, but have been arrested in the US a few times. My work is under the radar of the authorities in China because of the locations and spaces I perform in; often in private enclosed gallery spaces or outside in the remote countryside. But there are big differences too: my performance work is not so easy to do in China because nudity is not allowed, that's why I waited to do Mahjong here in New York. Chinese audiences don't have the general level of understanding about art, or the same generosity or openness to understand or interact with different things as art. For instance, a lot of people in China still don't consider what I do art. On the other hand, there is more financial support and artistic, institutional, frameworks outside China for artists doing performance. That doesn't mean performance doesn't happen in China. There are spaces in which you can perform, and perform nude, but for big projects like 'Touring Great Britain with Rock' 2006, it is much more conceivable outside China.
RLC Pitching your individual will or mental limits against that of your own physical body- do you see that separation of those two elements, a separation of self, as political in your work?
HYC For most people intellect and body operate in tandem, but sometimes the intellect is superior. Under normal conditions we are used to what the body and intellect can do together, but under extreme situations sometimes the body takes over to do amazing things as well. I feel that China is a very complex society, one in which it is important to use your body and your intellect so you can stop and face its reality. Highlighting the body in this way, as separate, is also important because, historically, Chinese people have not endowed the physical body with value, rather they have valued the spirit of the Chinese people, as a collective. Contemporary China is much more individual in its thinking, so it's a pull between the two. By putting pressure on an idea about myself (my intellect) and my own body I can make it into something much larger.
RLC Do you foresee a time when political, body-based or nude performances will be shown alongside other contemporary visual art forms in china?
HYC Not in the short term, no.
RLC What has been the most lasting effect of your performance work to date-mentally, physically or emotionally?
HYC It is my health that has suffered the most because my body has been in danger so many times. In Buffalo 2005, as part of the exhibition 'The Wall: Reshaping Contemporary Chinese Art,' I did a performance where I stood in the Niagara waterfall and the police came, they were worried and took me straight to hospital. The doctor told me my kidneys had failed because my body was so cold from being submerged in the freezing water. In general I am also getting increasingly grumpy and short tempered. Despite all this I think the most valuable contribution I can make is to use my body to express ideas and give other people imagination. That is more important than my health. I have also derived much pleasure and enjoyment from my performances over the years.
RLC What project are you planning next?
HYC I'm planning to do something for 2008 in China that involves my mother and will be three months long. It's going to be great. I can't do it in the UK or the US as the insurance costs will be too high. I can't say anymore about it, all will be revealed in due course.
RLC Is there anything you want to ask me?
HYC Can you please ask if Performa can happen earlier in the year for next time, so it's not so cold? October and November are too cold in New York.
RLC I'll do my best.
11/15/07 04:51:07 pm
Interview between Pablo Bronstein and Rebecca May Marston, New York, 4 Nov 2007.
Pablo Bronstein Plaza Minuet
at World Financial Centre, One New York Plaza, 60 Wall Street, and 80 Pine Street, 2007. Curated by Catherine Wood and presented by PERFORMA
RMM: We only have 30 minutes so I will leap in; when did you start using dance in your work?
PB: With Plaza Minuet
in 2006, which was a Tate Commission as part of the Tate Triennial. It was a natural extension of my installation work where I was theatricalising space and making the viewer the performer with the walkways and pathways in the installations.
RMM: But you began working with an unknown territory of dance?
PB: Yes. It developed from my interest in ???sprezzatura??™, which is the art of aristocratic comportment; about bodily positions, manners and elegance. It developed amongst the Italian aristocracy in the 1500s, although I??™m not interested in its courtly manifestation, more the legacy and how it developed through baroque into classical ballet. Sprezzatura became preserved in, codified as ballet with the increase of behaved gender differentiation in the modern period.
RMM: Yesterday we were talking about the two separate contexts of art and dance in reference to a dance duo showing work with your gallery in London. Do you think the dance context is interested in your work?
PB: Although the dance context seems much more receptive and open than art, my work isn??™t a language that they are bothered about. Dance tolerates it and dance simply sort of does what it is asked by providing me with professional dancers, then that is it.
RMM: And you are not a dancer, nor a choreographer. How does it work? How does the work develop?
PB: Well I don??™t dance in them myself??¦
RMM: But you did in the one in Gyonata Bonvicini??™s exhibition in London and you said you??™d taken Baroque dance lessons?
PB: Yes ok that one, but that was very simple and very short, as an antidote to Frieze Art Fair. Usually the choreography is done in collaboration with the professional dancers.
RMM: Have you ever tried to choreograph yourself?
PB: Once, I tried in Munich but it was really unsuccessful and became a parody. The works are co-authored, it??™s very rare that I think of them as being me, alone.
RMM: And are the dance works, or works using dance, within the same trajectory as the rest of your practice? The same as the architectural/object based works?
PB: It??™s all linked with an architectural interest in spatial thought and the politics of space. There is a lineage through all of my work that begins with this.
RMM: And the way in which your work is heavily influenced by art and other histories, has using dance enabled you to bring in dance history apart from sprezzatura? Because in the text that Catherine Wood wrote for this she talks about a relation to minimalist 60s dance and I wondered if that was her interpretation or if it had come from you?
PB: I??™ve been interested in pedestrian movement for a while, which is based in postmodern dance history. My work balances two ideas of ???natural??™ or artificial behaviour, like the quick piece during Frieze was a ???natural??™ walk along a line (1960??™s), with a held pose (1660??™s).
RMM: For this Plaza Minuet
you are doing it in four places in the financial district and there is something funny in them being in financial places because the public space is already so mannered, codified and formal, in the way people dress and behave.
PB: Yes, I was imposing a minuet on Manhattan. As with the piece in the Tate Duveen Galleries, it came a little out of my interest in a kind of institutional critique, so I place the green crosses on the floor to make a grid and attempt to delineate a symbol of ???pure??™ public space within a once-public, now privatised space. A location which resisted (with the cooperation of Tate) commercial enterprise such as the caf?© and the shop. Also the lobbies use much language associated with public space -benches, trees, paving, free access- for commercial and planning ends. My idea was to insert an emblem into these spaces which demonstrated an ideal citizen in a state of ???pure existence??™ or embodiment of values contrary to the work ethic of the places. With laying the grids on the floor, part of it encourages the distinction between pedestrian movement and mannered choreography, but when you put the pedestrian or naturalness on a pedestal it is shown as a construct anyway.
RMM: This idea of formality in your work reminds me of Rene Mackintosh and that Art Nouveau and Art Deco thing of living in spaces that envelope you and dictate how you are meant to behave, like Mackintosh chairs being so short in depth but very high-backed so you would sit straight, tall and elegant.
PB: No-one has ever mentioned Mackintosh in relation to my work??¦ The body politics of sprezzatura would be codified as queer politics now.
RMM: So are you ever informal in your work?
PB: (Laughs) No. I love order and power, it relates to the queer thing and the sexualisation of power and how you actually subvert power by sexualising it.
RMM: And I have to also ask you about your costumes. They are pretty jarring, tight with Jazz shoes?
PB: Yes, I like bad taste. It??™s also important to see the body though, and the turquoise green colour relates ???80s colour schemes. Big garish spaces need big garish costumes. But the ???Jazz shoes??™ aren??™t really that, they are just a black slipper that was the closest thing to the baroque dance shoe with a slight heel.
RMM: And another thing to end on that you said last night was about the ???wall of expectation??™ that the audience comprises and how it turns into a sculptural manifestation of expectation so you prefer fewer people in the audience??¦ That is just for live work?
PB: Yes, the presence of the viewer distorts the space, sometimes, if there are enough, creating alternate and unpredictable architectural volumes. I don??™t like too many people watching a performance.
RMM: Does that relate to the fact that you are giving a private performance in a private space for one wealthy patron as well as the public performances in public spaces? Or is that more related to the history of private rendition and patronage? It seems a bit seedy.
PB: If a patron is willing to become a symbol for something seedy, long may he reign.
11/14/07 03:04:26 pm
Interview between Darren O??™Donnell and Chen Tamir, New York, Nov 10, 2007.
Darren O’Donnell, Haircuts By Children, 2007. Photo copyright Paula Court. Courtesy of PERFORMA and Art in General.
I recently had a child cut my hair. It was an art project, part of Haircuts by Children
, conceived of by Darren O??™Donnell, a social practice artist based in Toronto. Organized by Art in General and part of PERFORMA07, it took place over two consecutive Saturdays at 2 in 1 Hair Salon and Hair 2 Stay respectively, both in Chinatown. The children were more like young teenagers and all of them were Asian and spoke broken English. They had been trained for a mere six hours in the art of coiffure. The timid but evidentially excited stylists were packed in with nervous-looking but faithful creative types.
Chen Tamir: Were you anxious about how this was going to come out?
Darren O??™Donnell: No, I??™ve done it enough times now that it always turns out well. The logistics are always a pain in the ass like everything, but there??™s never been any anxiety really.
CT: What are you hoping to accomplish with this project?
DO: I??™m trying to engage an atypical social dynamic, to make encounters between people that wouldn??™t normally happen. In this case, you wouldn??™t ordinarily find a bunch of kids who are three years from China, in New York, hanging out with a bunch of art hipsters. That tends to be the demographic that will come and get their hair cut here. So making a playful encounter between those two, where there??™s a bit of risk, not real risk but fashion risk, is something that doesn??™t happen. And all my work is about creating atypical social encounters.
CT: You do that in a really specific way. You break down social boundaries by breaking down or invading personal space.
DO: I guess that??™s true. It sort of started with this thing called The Talking Creature
, a performance in which I would invite the ???audience??? to a public meeting spot. We??™d disperse and everybody would try to find somebody to invite back to just hang out with us and talk. That??™s how all this stuff started. At the same time there was a Spin-the-Bottle game. It was during SARS, so it was about showing us not to be scared of each other??™s saliva, that while Toronto was quarantined we weren??™t afraid of being there, and that lead to a series of more erotic kissing performances.
People were just asking me to do that kind of stuff and I wanted to distance myself from it. So I thought I would take it 180 degrees and start some projects with kids. Amazingly, people??™s memories are so hilarious. That other stuff just dropped. Nobody even asked me for that [kissing] stuff anymore. All I get asked for now are kids. I love how you can re-invent yourself because people have such short memories.
CT: Or maybe they??™re just always looking for new thrills. I wonder, do you do these projects ??“ trying to create atypical situations ??“ to provoke? Would you consider yourself a provocateur?
DO: People do because there??™s an aggressive aspect to it. But for me, I always forget how nervous people are because I??™m not. I??™ve been doing this for so long that I??™m really comfortable. I just did this project as part of Open Engagement, which is a conference that happened in Regina. I got all the conference participants to offer free massages to the students at the First Nations university. And people got kind of pissed off with me because I didn??™t give anyone a choice, but of course I gave them a choice. The people that didn??™t want to give massages felt the gesture was unkind or something because they felt bad that they didn??™t want to give massages. I just had to explain, ???well, don??™t feel bad just stick with your decision.??? You don??™t want to give a massage, you don??™t want to give a massage. Nobody??™s going to judge you. You just don??™t do it. But people have to go through so much of their own stuff. A lot of this tends to provoke projection. With the kissing, people re-lived junior-high trauma and got mad at me and were just disgusted that I would do Spin-the-Bottle because it was such a difficult thing for them when they were kids. So, step up or step back but take responsibility. It??™s not the end of the world. Come on, we??™re adults.
There was something I did called Back of the Bus
, which was this bus trip up to a York University Art Gallery opening. I invited people stepping onto the bus if they wanted to play a kissing game, and if they did I put them in the back of the bus and we would pull names out of a hat and they??™d have to join this growing group of people that were kissing each other. I put the people who didn??™t want to play in the front. They had to listen to all this fun going on behind them but they had to take responsibility, ???You don??™t want to play a kissing game, you don??™t have to play a kissing game, but don??™t get chippy!??? We??™re trying to reproduce the cool-kid-in-the-back dynamic but in such a way that you were invited to be a cool kid and either you stepped up or you didn??™t, but you had to choose. Unlike high-school where there wasn??™t an invitation, this wasn??™t exclusive. It was open to everybody but you had to take responsibility for your decision. There were a lot of grumpy people sitting up with their arms crossed over their chest just annoyed with all of this debauchery happening in the back.
CT: It kind of reminds me of the Milgram experiment and all these ???unethical??? psychology experiments they did in the 60s.
DO: They??™re kind of related to that. There??™s another thing I do when I work with university students or youth groups. It??™s a project called Out of My League
. I send them out to the surrounding area and ask them to approach people they think are out of their league and go up to the person and tell them so and ask if they agree. I would call that training for this kind of work. I get to them to chant over and over, ???It??™s good to be rejected??? before they go out. You have to be rejected in order to build up immunity against rejection. This guy that used to run IBM said that in order to increase your success rate you double your failure rate and take more risk. It??™s about taking social risks.
CT: What are your thoughts on Relational Aesthetics or other kinds of social practice movements that have come about?
DO: I think they??™re great. I would rather them than not. But I side with Claire Bishop. Often they lack antagonism. I prefer to call it ???fruitful antagonism,??? where things can be forgiven. They happen in a performative arena where people are triggered but it??™s easily forgiven. There??™s whimsy to a lot of Relational stuff and it can be annoying. Like gifting, sweetness, and lovingness. For example, Newmindspace. They have public pillow fights and bubble-blowing events. They??™re about a hundred people, but it??™s an homogenous group of people; it doesn??™t induce discomfort and discomfort is important. It??™s analogous to confusion. When you??™re learning something new you have to go through a moment of confusion. You can??™t learn a new math problem without becoming confused. And you don??™t become more socially intelligent without feeling uncomfortable. You have to suffer through discomfort just like you have to suffer through confusion in order to raise your social intelligence. Conceptual intelligence is raised through confusion; social intelligence is raised through discomfort. I??™m always trying to create encounters which are slightly uncomfortable and weird for people, but in a way that??™s easily forgiven. These kids were shaking this morning, and the adults are nervous too.
CT: I noticed you taking a lot of photographs though. How do you feel about documentation standing-in or surviving after your work that??™s so experience and time based?
DO: With something like this, the concept is so simple and obvious, and you experience a lot here in a way that you wouldn??™t otherwise. There??™s an intimacy that happens, quiet banter. The crush of people is important. I love when there are tons of people and everyone is shoving around each other. I think documentation actually captures a lot in this case because the concept is a no-brainer. And that??™s why when we first did it in Toronto we spent a lot of money on ephemera. We made a poster that had lots of didactic information. It was designed by Cecilia Berkovic from Instant Coffee and the intention was to make an art object with this information that people would put on their walls for years as art
. So the documentation is partly about that but then it??™s partly about my wanting these kids to be stars. I want them to be in an international performance art festival on par with people like Carolee Schneeman and Yoko Ono. And they are.
CT: But it??™s not the kids. It??™s you
. You would be on par with Carolee Schneeman and Yoko Ono.
DO: Of course. But they??™re collaborators in the event. Without them I??™m nothing. To what extent they know that, I don??™t know. But they??™re certainly the focus of all the flashes.
CT: You??™re soon going to Pakistan. What are you going to be doing there?
DO: It??™s a theatre show called Diplomatic Immunity
. We go around and shoot video interviews of people on the streets. We ask them about the end of the world, what they think about heaven, describing hell, their fears, what keeps them up at night. Then we have a gossip session on stage. I??™m trying to leave theatre behind except I get operating funding from all the councils in Canada to make theatre. I??™m trying to make theatre I can stand. I could do a show about children??™s rights, or I could give children rights.