A Call-and-Response Response to Jack Ferver’s Mon, Ma, Mes (Revisité)

Jack Ferver’s words, in italics, are from this interview with Amanda Ryan, this interview with Joshua Lubin-Levy, and this interview with Marissa Perel.

Photo by Scott Shaw

Photo by Scott Shaw

My work en général deals with persona and how those constructs are formed, what tools we use to reproduce them…I have also cultivated a public idea of who I might be; some people think that is me.

The Q&A is rigged and it happens first. What else is rigged? I don’t know.

There’s a duet going on between us and the audience that is part love and part abuse, there’s a duet among audience members and how they relate, and between the artist and himself, who he is and how he relates to himself when performing.

The partner dance seems spontaneous and the audience member who’s tapped for it unsuspecting, but when I describe it later to a friend who’s seen the performance in an earlier form (Mon, Ma, Mes sans Revisité), her questions make me unsure. Was Reid there? No, I say, Reid was cut from the show. In fact, Reid being cut from the show was actually a primary plot point in the show, insofar as a lecture-performance can be said to have plot points, since calling himself out for his inability to collaborate vis-a-vis touting his own collaborative abilities was a recurring gag, I say. Well, maybe that audience member was Reid, she says. Reid wasn’t in the program as a performer, I say. Reid wasn’t in the program when I saw it, she says. Of course: if I can’t trust the words coming out of Jack Ferver’s mouth, why trust the words he’s had printed for me to hold in my hands?

Making work is a lot of analysis; why are you using that music? Why do I use cold lighting?

The lighting is harsh and bright and washes the whole room equally, from stage space to audience space, so that it feels like we’re sitting in a classroom. Ferver uses a folding chair and a mic and at one point he rips a piece of paper off the bottom of the chair, where it’s been taped, to read it—in terms of stage properties, that’s it and that’s all. He wears a shirt, and briefs, and knee-high socks. There is no need for anything complex.

Otherness is always such a big part of my work. Formally, I don’t fit any specific niche in performance.

Ferver is master of the theatrical Jedi mind trick. He tells me what I’m going to see, and then I see it. His body inhabits each scenario so completely that the world springs up around him, like one of those cartoons in which a character walks across a blank space that becomes populated with blooming flowers and buzzing bees, seemingly drawn as we watch. That’s part of it.

My methodology in both performance and teaching is about exposing what is already there.

Another part is that audiences will see what we’re asked to see, and it can be even more satisfying when the illusion is incomplete. It’s certainly more intimate. It’s an xy-plot with its axis in Ferver’s brain, and we slide down the slope of the line and in.

There have always been mirrors in my work, and generally in the back so that the audience sees themselves. That obviously seems like a cliché trope for what I’m doing but that’s why I like clichés and camp.

Jack on either side of the mirror: double Jack. Jack in love with Jack. Jack holds Jack’s hand. The illusion is so real that I expect to see the mirror ripple. Jack skips by Jack’s side. The Jacks giggle together. Flirtatious hair toss. Love as performance. Narcissus finally gets his Narcissus (does that make me Echo?).

I think that I function in terms of neo-camp because I’m not unaware of these devices I’m using, in fact I’m hyper-aware of what they are. I’m always looking to comment while inhabiting. Whereas I would say camp simply…inhabits; it lacks the same level of awareness.

This is a performance that pits supreme confidence against supreme despair until both become ridiculous.

This performance contains the hottest chair dance I’ve ever seen, I think, the sexiest and goofiest simultaneously, somehow.

This is a performance in which the performer pokes fun at his own eroticism and yet it’s still erotic, reminding me of the way that the line drawn in sex between silly and sensual is rarely clear.

This is a performance about collaboration and its impossibilities.

I make my work so that people don’t feel so alone.

This is a performance about life being a performance.

This is a performance about loneliness and control.

This piece…is about loneliness and control.

Yes. I wrote that before reading the interview in which you say it. Definitely yes.

This is a performance about Jack Ferver’s gaze: flat and direct, impeccably timed, a gaze that simultaneously invites you in and shuts you out. The gaze of a person looking into a mirror.

I also love this idea that it’s our friends who clean up after us, whether we’re making a psychological or an actual mess, it’s generally our closest friends who pick up the pieces.

So do I.

Photo by Scott Shaw

Photo by Scott Shaw

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