I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art by: John Baldessari
(American, born 1931) 1971. Lithograph, composition: 22 3/8 x 29 9/16″ (56.8 x 75.1 cm); sheet: 22 7/16 x 30 1/16″ (57 x 76.4 cm)
Thinking of the Cedar Tavern Singers.
Who said it before Ian Baxter&? I guess it was this John Baldessari.
Performative Strategies in Contemporary Art with Andrés Galeano
And the panic sets in. I woke up and worked on my sound installation, grabbed all my stuff, and ran for the bus. Today we had scheduled meetings with Andrés to talk about our plans for the day, and of course, like every day, he gave us about 1000 ideas on how to make it better, or worse, and it was up to us to choose what we wanted to do. I scrapped a lot of ideas between 2:30pm and 9pm. I was still working on my sound installation 20 minutes before the doors opened. We all were, running around getting things done, finalizing things, making everything look right. This was a weird feeling though, usually before a performance, I’m terrified, but as Andrés reminded me in the morning “Performance is dead, you are alive.”. This wasn’t a performance. This was contemporary art. Having my real name on a poster threw me off more than anything else. My stage name is Sanguine, and 2 days ago I had a bit of a breakdown and tried to force myself to get into “sanguine mode” in hopes it would force me to think more creatively, but as Sally reminded me today the difference between performative art and theatre, is that in theatre, you are a character, in performative art, you are you. I usually set aside 3 hours for hair/makeup/getting dressed for shows. For this, it took me about 5 minutes. The show itself was entitled 6 Islands, and I’m sad I didnt get to see everyone elses art, but, from the sounds of it, it sounded pretty amazing. I sat in the sound booth, sharpening knives, from 8:45 until 10:17. I scared the crap out of a lot of people, and it was hard not to laugh when I heard people talk about me as if I wasnt there. Apparently I even offended a few artists that I had seen perform just the other day… which is something I didnt even know was on my bucket list, but I’ve crossed it off anyways. Hearing “Okay Heathrr! You did it, its over!” was a feeling of relief, it was my first durational performance… before this, my longest performance was 9 minutes and 28 seconds and that felt like an eternity.
Andrés taught me a lot. I think I’m still figuring out what I learned from this week, there was a lot to take in.
Andrés himself is a quirky guy, he’s devoted, and opinionated, and hilarious. He tried not to talk about his own work all week, and instead showed us about 100 other artists, I think it was because he didn’t want us to be influenced by his work. His thick accent and a bit of a language barrier made the class interesting every day, I will never get over how hard he rolls his r’s when he says “Rrrock and rrroll”. Despite everything, I was still nervous to piss him off. He’s fucking brilliant. But he’s really honest and open about art, and he took a really interesting approach on how to teach us everything from how to get paid, how to take criticism, things to avoid, and how to be a “good” artist. The thing that stuck with me the most, is the idea behind “first ideas”. Throughout the week we would come in with proposals for what we wanted to do for our group show, and Andrés would break them apart and give us new ideas. I showed up with a very solid idea on Thursday, and did something completely different on Friday, it was the same concept, just, abstracted about 1000 times. Even when we showed up on Friday we ended up breaking down the idea more and more and more. Because in Andrés’ mind, we have a first idea, but that means that everyone else has also had that first idea, it’s a very simplified version of what your final product might look like, and you need to break it down multiple times before you start finding second and third ideas etc. It’s a way of thinking I’ve never considered, I usually just come up with an idea and then start thinking about costuming, but this makes for really flat ideas. A good performance shouldnt be predictable. I feel like the show spoke for itself, we all did well, and Andrés was happy. I’m going to end this with the 6 most important things I learned this week.
- Warm up (This process takes forever, and I am waaaayyyy too out of shape for it, but I did it anyways, and couldn’t walk by friday)
- The audience needs an entry point, make sure there is a connection, something that makes the viewer want to stay and watch, and if there isn’t a connection, make sure there’s a reason for that.
- Eye contact, it can make or break a performance.
- If you need to do art therapy, go to a therapist, no one wants to watch a performance and feel bad for you the entire time. There’s a big difference between a performance that is emotional, and a performer that is emotional.
- People will make up their own concepts for your work, its more important that you clearly start and finish an action, as long as people know that you did the thing you were trying to do, their minds will fill in the blanks.
- Never settle on a first idea.
M:ST was incredible, and I’m so happy that I got to be a part of it.
Rrrrock & Rrrroll.
I ended up getting sick last night, and when I woke up this morning, I was so sore I couldn’t move, and too sick to do anything, so I went to the workshop for just the afternoon. From what I know, today everyone showed off the plans for tomorrow, and then had a group discussion on different ways it could be executed. Andrés was giving us ideas on how to change the performances even if he liked our ideas, and it was really nice to just sit and brainstorm with others who understood the show and the space, I think that’s a practice that I’d definitely love to keep doing whenever I got the chance. The set in stone idea I walked in with this afternoon, was not what I left with, and I am so glad. I had hoped to do a 10 minute performance, looks like I’m doing a 2 hour performance with a sound installation in another room… fuck yes. My small ideas exploded to create this big thing, and it was the “aha!” moment I’ve been waiting for for the last 3 days. Everyone’s performances are going to be incredible. I’m so proud of everyone, and how fast we’ve managed to put this together. Tomorrow is going to be incredible. This is a personal invite to everyone reading this!
Today was the last day of the workshop, but tomorrow is a full day of set up and performance, so I’ll journal tomorrow as well. This has been an incredible experience, and I can’t wait to put it all to practice tomorrow!
“How to Make Mac Hall Pruno”
Walking into the Nickle Galleries I find myself nervous in moments. I’ve spent the better portion of my trip to the gallery wondering what the Arbour Lake Sghool’s project could be.
As I enter, John Frosst grins widely. I eye a glass display gallery containing a variety of drink bottles, bags of I-don’t-even-know-what which may be rotting, filters, vessels, and a half full still of orange-ish liquid. My partner, Evan, who also knows the Frosst brothers, asks Andrew about the project as I take in the visuals and listen to the conversation. Pruno, Andrew explains, is a wine… of sorts, brewed in prison. They’ve spent nearly two weeks crafting a Mac Hall Pruno made with leftovers of juice from scavenged drink containers, fruit remnants, and sugar and salt packets retrieved from cafeteria businesses. Evan asks if they intend to drink it, Andrew smiles and explains that they intend to offer it to their audience (us).
We spend a minute speculating on how it should be sanitary, because alcohol sanitizes, right?
I’m mortified at the possibility of drinking the orange liquid that I can’t seem to stop staring at. And, knowing these guys, sitting here implicated, sitting here planning to blog about this – I’m feeling a lot more obligated to participate than I can even believe. I hope they try it first.
As the two brothers continue to set up, I sit at the front of a section of chairs, facing tables slowly being loaded with ingredients, a stack of waiver forms (you have to sign one to drink), and the still and assorted bottles behind that. I ask Evan if he plans to try it. He hesitates. I tell him I plan to, and ask (perhaps desperately) that he will too. He agrees. Now we’re both sitting here in dread, contemplating what we’ve determined to do. (I’m totally into the prank-like social disruption of this project. I want to do this, I just can’t believe I do.)
In between dreading the Pruno and drinking the Pruno was gathering Mac Hall Pruno ingredients, as well as instructions on how to craft it, and information on the three main types of alcohol and which ones are pretty safe for humans. They also provided a variety of prison sayings to help you remember how not to fail at making Pruno (I’ll share these soon!).
One of the most challenging aspects of participating in this project was gathering the Pruno ingredients, I also feel it’s this part that heavily emphasized the socially disruptive aspects of what Arbour Lake Sghool does, and was doing with this project. There are socially upheld rules for what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour. We were asked to break these, gathering fruit juices and even fruit from recycling and compost receptacles throughout the Mac Hall cafeteria – as well as sugar packets, salt, and even ketchup, which is also high in fruit and sugar content. Though I stuck with the group and did my best to participate, I was only bold enough to grab some sugar and ketchup packets to add to the mix. I’m majorly supportive of dumpstering whole, intact, and safe for consumption foods when you live in an urban setting where they’re incredibly abundant – but to openly pick through small cans in public? Thankfully (and probably because they expected this nervousness) enough material (in the form of fruit cups and juice boxes, and sugar and ketchup people had gathered) was provided so that everyone could make their own ziploc bag of potential Pruno regardless of scavenging skills.
The Pruno produced by the Frosst brothers as a part of their installation was well fermented. To ensure a high enough alcohol content in the drink, it was also cut 50/50 with filtered hand sanitizer, retrieved from a public location (this is where the lesson on which types of alcohol aresafe to consume was incredibly important.)
Now, to be clear, their Pruno was made entirely from fruit-based liquid scavenged from the Mac Hall Cafeteria at the U of C. This made adding sanitizer to it actually reassuring. As the concoction neared completion, John explained, “We’re going to serve you in these 9mL vials. Andrew and I are contractually obligated to drink this.”
“Not really” suggested a gallery staff member.
Stubbornly, “We signed a contract with ourselves.”
A quick conversation revealed that these vials had been scavenged as well, but well cleaned in the same way beer brewing equipment is cleaned – with powdered bleach. They asked who’s in. Surprisingly, 4 of us agreed. As we signed the waiver, a fifth joined. From there it was grimacing looks to one another and just a few moments of nervous anticipation. I let some other audience members smell my Mac Hall Pruno, while waiting for all participants to be served.
It tasted awful. Obviously.
I almost instantly felt a warm and familiar tingling feeling in my stomach. Success. Right? Apparently the best way to get participants to do something gross for art, is to ensure the gross thing is consuming probably-completely-safe alcohol.
The project also included aspects contributed by the 2 absent Arbour Lake Sghool members. A fantastic paper by Scott Rogers addressing the history of alcohol and social disruption, and a video work by Justin Patterson.
And I’ve got the soon-to-be Pruno I was sent home with (now in a mason jar) and I’ll probably, at least, try that too.
(I’d also like to note, that if you haven’t noticed the jest of making prison wine at a university in a time of budget cuts and tuition raises, please do so now.)
Day 3 (written on day 4, I’ve got a habit for this now)
We spent the morning just letting our bodies move. Movement without thinking. We were instructed to create gestures to form a language, as if we had no way to communicate but we had things to say. Then we all did a short performance with some of the gestures we created. Everyones seemed incredibly moving, and I honestly felt like I could understand the languages. I practiced a bunch for mine but then ended up winging it when it was my turn to go up. I tend to do that. On day 2 we were asked to prepare a performance, about 5 mins long, involving one object. Wow. It’s incredible to see what comes out of such a broad assignment. A quiet reading on the floor, an intimate performance that involved touching the performers face and eyes while blindfolded, plucking apart a peacock feather, a naked “fuck you” to the audience, spitting half a bowl of salt into small circles on the ground, and tying themselves up. It was a good day, a constructive day, we all did our first critiques and it was nice to just sit and listen to constructive criticism. We explored the space, and the possibility of using the space to its fullest for performative purposes, we posed in different spots outside… this was more difficult than expected. We sat and brainstormed our first ideas for the performance on friday, it was nerve wracking because none of us really had a solid idea of what we wanted, it’s such a short time frame to come up with something and execute it properly. After listening to advice from Andrés, I felt like I had a good idea, and he gave us a checklist to complete and asked us to bring in an example tomorrow. Wish me luck.
Babies breath, trace of ‘one on one for so called fans’ by Nadége Grebmeier Forget (as referenced by Jenna Swift during the performance’s retelling)
I’m writing this on day 3, I needed time to think about yesterday. Day 2 was a movement class, 7 hours spent moving, warming up, contact dance/movement, learning to use your body as a tool. I’m sore. The workshop is more difficult than I expected, some of the people in the class are extremely experienced, some aren’t, it shakes my ego a little bit, being one of the amateurs. Everyone is pumping out incredible concepts, quickly, and that is where my faults are. As a burlesque dancer, I usually have at least a months notice to get an idea set, the only improv I know is what to do if your bra won’t come undone, if your pasties fall off, or if you trip in heels. No one has ever put a chair in front of me and told me to give it an action. Every rule of performance I know, is wrong in the world of performative art. The entire purpose of performance art is to be uncomfortable… with intention. To have a clear action with a start and finish. A place for the audience to enter and exit. But at the same time, your concept doesn’t need to be clear. If you’re going to push a chair around with your head, with the intention of flipping it back right side up, then thats all you do. You don’t use your hands or your mouth. You use your head. What that means, or what your purpose was, is up to the viewer, but at least they know, you meant to flip a chair with your head. This workshop is doing everything it should do, I was very upset when I left, almost in tears. I felt like a terrible artist. It took a night to realize that I’m not, in stepping out of my comfort zone, questioning everything I know to be true about performance, and exploring, I’m not really meant to be great yet. As long as I’m moving, trying things, failing at things, I’m learning. No harm in that. I think the thing I really took away from day 2, is that if you feel the movements you are making, then other people will feel them too. It isn’t necessarily the movement itself, but the intention you do it with. At the end of the day we paired up and did a short performance. Sally and I dragged each other across the floor, it felt strong, I regret not doing it longer, but I have a bruise from my armpit to my elbow that tells me maybe what we did was just fine. All I can say is that you should be excited for Friday.
Series of quick shots from ULTIMATE WORKOUT in Lethbridge!
At artBOX, following Adam Waldron-Blain’s performance. Etienne Boulanger & Francis O’Shaughnessy prepare to perform Trajectorie.
Etienne, one of the two artists creating the upcoming performance, begins to speak to the crowd using a wireless microphone. “Hello everybody, I’m Etienne.” He then gestures at his collaborator, “My friend Francis.”
“I’m asking you to stay outside of these two poles…” he gestures at two pillars in the open space. “We ask for you to be as quiet as possible. Thank you. If you want you can also sit over here.” He gestures again and the audience reorganizes into a sort of semi circle. Francis begins walking around with a roll of red tape.
Francis walks around with part of the roll extended, his posture somewhat subdued. He makes eye contact with the crowd. His gaze is strong and makes me slightly uncomfortable, though I appreciate its intensity.
Two red tape lines, which Francis creates perpendicular to the back wall of the space, delineate locations and boundaries which the artists relate to throughout their performance.
The work has an absurd, playful, and welcoming quality. I find it to be particularly theatrical, reminding me in some ways of a carnival or circus act. The objects and stage are set, the actions seem set as well, though there is a quality of potential failure. Early in the performance Francis and Etienne sit on chairs facing each other across about a meter of space, Etienne holding two red plastic cups. Opposite him, Francis laboriously attempts to balance his chair on its two back legs with his feet lifted off of the ground. He finally succeeds but only for a moment before his chair pitches backwards and he is dumped onto the floor. At this moment of his failure, Etienne launches his hands into the air, an explosion of confetti launching from the cups he holds.
The performance is described as having three segments. First, the arrangement of the room – this must be the tape, the chairs set facing each other, the objects set near the back wall and not yet utilized. The second, the challenges of balance and reconstruction of the space. The third, the revealed, final, reconfiguration of objects and props used by the artists.
At a later point, while Francis is building a strange structure out of two supports and a door, Etienne is taping his feet and then legs to the two chairs. The mostly grey/white space makes the white chairs and red tape quite visually striking. When finally well fixed to his chairs Etienne takes a step. The awkwardness of this movement nearly causes him to fall, trapped in a moment where recovery is not certain, pitched forward on the two chairs so that each rests only on its front legs. Francis has begun to sing into the microphone. A playful tune, emphasizing the playful and precarious quality of this unusual act. Etienne, takes several more steps, stops, recovers, takes a few more. When he reaches the door structure he stops, Francis stops singing, and Etienne cuts the chairs from his legs – hanging them on a nail that Francis had stuck into the door.
The performance concludes in an unexpected, unusual but aesthetically striking structure constructed through both artists’ actions
Two performers, two red stripes denoting the space of the performance, two supports. One door, one nail. Two plastic cups. Thousands of pieces of confetti. One unusual tune and many absurd, playful, and entertaining small actions.
Posted by: Sheri Nault
Fragments of overheard conversation discussing the four volunteers who told the story of the performance:
N: Were you here? I didn’t see you in there.
S: I showed up late. I caught the last one.
N: You kind of only had to see one to get it.
S: She was really attentive to detail. Though I’m sure each was different
A: The last one was the best.
N: You think so?
N: I really liked the first one, it was so conscise.
A: I felt like it lost detail because it was sort of condensed into facts.
M: How did you feel it went?
G: The first focused on colour of things, shapes of things. Yours was like ‘this is how I felt’ and the last one was like ‘this is how I thought about…’
K: It was…
T: …get your facts straight…
J: How was that? Did I miss any details?
G: No, it was, no I don’t think so.
G: How was that for you?
J: It was interesting, it was hard to remember everything. She went first and that was like a disaster, it was just sort of all over the place and I felt like I didn’t really know what happened. And then, with the next person, I felt like it really began to take form together and make sense and tell a story.
G: It’s interesting because everyone seemed to struggle to remember the order things happened in, and when you’re making a performance you really consider that.
J: Yeah, it seemed hard.
G: I really enjoyed the last one because it was so tactile and I really think about that with the materials, like the way that things feel and smell.