Relational March: Washington, D.C

Day One: Washington D.C
In the car on the way from Brooklyn to D.C., the invitation to write a tour blog becomes a reoccurring topic, popping up like a commercial between moments. We begin a kind of joke-trope which beings “Dear Andy…(Horwitz).” Dear Andy: today we ate at McDonalds twice. Dear Andy: we learned today, smoking is not allowed in a rental car. Dear Andy: greetings from somewhere on the highway near the Pentagon, a postcard. Coping mechanisms for communication in close quarters, taking sarcasm seriously.

The first space, Hole in the Sky, is in an industrial area on the second floor of an auto repair shop. A live-work space currently in transition between crusty squat and “legitimate artspace,” the bathroom sports toothbrushes by the sink, gallery blocks and plywood walls support a visual arts show called “The Pizza Factory” (all of the works representationally feature pizza), a Dalmatian wearing a bandana greets us. There is a strong smell of auto spray paint. Eames Armstrong has organized this evening of performance art here. She is freshly returned from Houston and the Lone Star Performance Explosion festival. As a member of the performance art festival community—which is a sort of phantom limb of the international art world—Eames appears as a hierophant, a curator and organizer with quite a bit of power, due to her acquired knowledge of tradition, form, and mode. Her tremendous influence on performance art in D.C. is noted by almost all of the artists I speak with here, and nobody spares the detail that she is also an extremely generous and kind person. Dear Andy: a treatise on female leadership.

A simple dichotomy exists at this stage of a tour, evident on this first day, between the processes of living on the road and the processes of making performance-as-art. The body is the unifying factor. The constants and the variables are not so clearly delineated.

This is the only date on the tour where I will be performing solo, usually Brian McCorkle and I form PPL, but he is at home running a show at our space with Matthew Gantt. He will be taking the Chinatown bus tomorrow morning, leaving Felix Morelo to run Performance Art Open Space and other events throughout the month. Dear Andy: did you see that show (This Was The End) after Uncle Vanya? We’re thinking about this a lot: all of this discussion about being in the moment, and nothing about the future?

We are making work collectively called MAROONING, dealing with bodies and embodiment “in community,” self-alignment and self-isolation, both with regards to social situations, artistic circles, and to locality/psychogeographic location. Future Death Toll (David Griess and Edward Sharp) and I wander around the space, followed by the dog, considering what to do and how to deal with the site. PPL and FDT practices share a hyper-relativity to individual performance situations; we make one-time-only performances constructed specifically for each place.

Photo by Edward Sharp

Photo by Edward Sharp

focuses on social and metaphysical contextual elements beyond the concrete structures of the site, though material/spatial parameters do help us choose objects to use from our car full of objects, materials, and props. These items then indicate certain sets of tasks via their potentiality, tasks which are further developed as we begin to talk to the other artists, the curator, move around the space, and question any people hanging out. Tasks are metaphors as well as in situ actions. I am wondering if dealing with individuals as aspects of a “site,” i.e. attempting to work directly with the social and contextual conditions of the show situation, objectifies individual humans or de-objectifies individual conditions, or both simultaneously. There is a spectrum of “site-specificity” here, ranging from the very concrete details of the space, through interpersonal, organizational, economic, and other increasingly larger metasocial contexts and specificities. The tour as a whole focuses on the larger contexts, attempting to locate and reconcile ourselves, our work, performance art, and the work and selves of other performance art makers and supporters.

Panning out and zooming in between these different “sizes” of specificities is a bit disorienting. On this first night of the tour, I am faced rather suddenly with the task of physically performing. I need to figure out what I will actually do, how to actually physically relate. I talk with Willie, a former museum employee, and Robbie, an admissions counselor, both are at Hole in the Sky to help Natalia Panfile, an artist who will do a piece about her 30th birthday today, in which the audience throws cake at her while she sings “happy birthday” in Romanian. I also talk to Chris, a photographer who tells me that he isn’t “sophisticated enough” to talk about performance art in D.C.  I try self-consciously to understand relationships between people in this space without noticeably performing interviews.  I notice and catalog some visible characteristics of the people who begin to arrive at Hole in the Sky. The average human seems to be a white woman in her mid twenties, jeans and a black peacoat, boots, lots of make-up and a nice haircut. I think they are “young professionals,” some of the them might be artists too, there is no mutual exclusivity there. Future Death Toll and I are dressed very differently from everyone else.  I think it is my “fashion” that is making it hard to blend into clusters of strangers, who know each other but not me. I smoke a cigarette on the roof with Robbie (she has an electronic cigarette, no tobacco, no nicotine) and decide, because of concern with connecting with or gathering information from a wide variety of different people, and because of my ideological/theoretical concerns with “social ecology” attempts, to allow for deeper individual connections. I decide to make my performance about Robbie and her relationship with this situation, or about my idea of her relating to the situation and to me, as my perceptions begin to form. It’s difficult to write more in depth about this process without talking about these specific people (i.e. Robbie); in a way that they might find too personal.

The performances begin with a durational, interactive piece by Renée Regan in which she sells the “blood” of “famous leaders,” (such as Jesus)—it is actually rum and liqueur—and squirts it into the mouths of participants with a syringe. Rachel Hrbek then performs a piece about her name double online, I perform, Future Death Toll performs (I will go into greater detail about their work in a future post), and the evening closes with Natalia’s birthday cake participatory action mentioned above. After the performances, we hang out in the space and drink until 3am or so, then crash on couches at Eames’ partner Kent’s apartment.

Day 2: Rockville, MD

Many of the performers from this evening are also performing the following night at The Fold, a warehouse space promoted by Alan Kayanan.

Photo by Edward Sharp

Photo by Edward Sharp

Another live-work space, The Fold has a high ceiling with an aerials/lighting grid, a little balcony, a huge mural, and neat stacks of amps, star wars paraphernalia, paintings, and, curiously, many cooking grills. There is also a secret room behind a bookcase.

FDT and PPL are last in a line-up of 11, Carolyn Becker, Ziad Nagy, Renée Regan, Eames Armstrong, Eve Henessa, Rachel Hrbek, Ian McDermott, Natalia Panfile, and Michael Gagnon. A night of diverse styles and practices, performances involve local live-feed and video, clothing, avant-comedy, honey, christianity, to name a few things…Starting around 9:30, the audience gradually disperses around midnight and there are dozen or so left by the time it is our turn to perform, making it possible to do a piece with everyone present.

Here is a video of FDT’s performance:

Day 3

300 people zip-tied to the Whitehouse fence today, protesting the pipeline. We are ready to leave D.C., heading towards Ohio and then Kentucky.

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