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Hard at work, preparing for a week of performances…

Soon…

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RSVP here…

Audacity Solo Salon (12/8/14): https://www.facebook.com/events/1732977533594481/?ref=2&ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming

A Very Nouveau Holiday Show (12/11-12/21/14): https://www.facebook.com/events/375880529237000/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming

A Very Nouveau Holiday Show! (Featuring me!)

Photo by Robert Hart www.roberthart.com
Photo by Robert Hart
http://www.roberthart.com

On December 11, 13, 18 & 20, I’ll be performing, alongside my good friend Lance Lusk, an original short play called “Playing Santa” at A Very Nouveau Holiday Show at the Margo Jones Theater in Fair Park.

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But, it’s not just Lance and me! Oh, no. It’s an entire evening of awesome short plays from some of the area best playwrights. We’re talking Brad McEntire and Ben Schroth up in here!

So, please go to the link below and RSVP. It should be a super fun show.

But note: I’m only performing on Thursdays and Saturdays. If you come on Friday or Sunday, I won’t be there. But, if that’s the only day you can go, you still should.

Ho, Ho, Ho, everyone!!!

https://www.facebook.com/events/409596222521296/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming

I’m performing at the Audacity Solo Salon in December!!!

I’l be performing two times (for a total of five actual performances) in the month of December.

audacity solo salon

First, come see me at the Audacity Solo Salon on December 8th.

This is the second Solo Salon after its debut in August of this year. On this particular night, I’ll be featured alongside Adam A. Anderson and Brad McEntire, two incredibly talented performers who I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing many times in my other life as a theater critics.

My performance will be a 20 minute selection from my solo show “..and then I woke up”.

This is a workshop type atmosphere where each of us will take turns performing, followed by audience feedback. It’s a really cool chance to see what’s on the Horizon in the Dallas theater scene.

The location is the Margo Jones Theatre in Fair Park.

Also, it’s free!!!

Show starts at 7:30.

Email me for more info. Also, here’s a link to my Facebook event page. All are welcome.

Facebook Event Page

And the website for the Audacity Solo Salon

Context (Etude #3)

I’m posting a scan of the actual assignment, as I made notes on it…

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So, we have to decide on a story that’s not our own, and then make decisions/observations about its visuals, sound, space, and perspective/concept.

This is definitely a site specific project, especially considering our reading of Kaprow.

I read a conversation in a comment thread online about a couple who, in the course of a normal conversation via text messaging, got into an argument because of something being taken out of context. 

This story interested me for a few reasons. First, I’ve been there before. Despite my generally jovial nature in person, I’ve had people read me in text/email over the years in a much different tone than I intended. The reason for this is a loss of context. Especially in text, it’s difficult to put any intonation into the words. Outside of emoticons, tone and intent can be difficult to decipher in a textual context.

Also, it made me thing of the social scripts I’ve already written about. Our reading of a situation (like in art) is informed by our own subjectivity. Despite the intent of what we’re perceiving, the way we read it can be completely different. 

So, this notion interested me. 

My concept is an installation in which the audience is placed in the role of the person having the text conversation. The setting is a living room. The living room os full of stuff, the decorations of an identity. They sit at a couch with a smart phone on a pedestal in front of them, a laptop on the table in front of them and a television playing a movie or speaker playing music. All of these electronic devices will be active. On the phone, the conversation plays out. On the computer is social media feeds. The TV or music provides a cultural noise that can, perhaps, influence the mindset of the audience. From here, the audience watches the conversation play out on the small screen.

This is like a happening, though I’m not sure how much further the audience could participate. Maybe be able to respond to the texts from someone else so they could experience the loss of context? How they respond to the texts reveals something about the piece and about themselves. 

This is a two part assignment, so this is my concept. I’ll present it in class and then perhaps develop it further…

Performance Installation: Week 4

Our reading for the week was the book Essay on the Blurring of Art and Life, a book of Allan Kaprow’s writings about his work edited by Jeff Kelley.

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My original reflection on the reading…

I’ve had experience studying Kaprow before, in Performance Art and Performance Theory classes during my masters.

Kaprow’s signature contribution to art is the Happening. 

Happenings are tough to define, partly because Kaprow’s own definition shifted over time. Basically, they’re a art performance or installation that happens outside the bounds of the traditional art sphere (i.e. galleries, theaters, etc.) 

That’s really broad. Winnowing down, Kaprow was concerned with the question, “What is art?” His solution partly involved taking the elements of what makes art, consciously, art, and instead using everyday locations, objects, and actions to challenge the perception of art itself. Starting with more scripted events, Kaprow eventually got to a point where events only happened once, they weren’t promoted, and there was a chance the people participating in them weren’t even aware of their intentions, meanings, etc. To Kaprow, art was the actual creation and execution of art. Not necessarily the creations themselves or the spaces they’re contained in. 

I’ve been a part of happenings before, typically of the more scripted variety where the audience was aware of their participation. 

And what this reading does for me is raise the topic of the conscious versus the subconscious. 

Once we’re conscious of something, we automatically assign culturally curated symbolism, meaning, and definition to it. As such, people in a gallery will behave the way people in a gallery are “supposed” to behave, and they’ll automatically register the gallery’s contents as “art”, because that’s what’s in a gallery. 

By leaving the safe confines of the curated, controlled space, Kaprow was able to get a more honest, perhaps visceral reaction from his audience, which in a way, is art. 

I remember taking a class on Dada and Surrealist art at the Nasher Sculpture Center. One time in class, I made the, tired, statement that art is subjective. My professor, a curator at the center, corrected me. She said, our reaction to art is subjective. 

Such a small change in the statement makes a big difference. It acknowledges that something is art if we call it art, taking the power away from the art academy and placing it squarely on the spectator. And there’s something to that. Think of things we interact with everyday. A chair, a table, a toilet (Hello, Duchamp!). All of these things had to be designed. They are, in their own way, art. But, because they exist in our everyday lives, and perhaps because they serve very practical purposes, we don’t immediately identify them as being artistic. The Dadas and Surrealists plead their own part in challenging these notions. Duchamp’s readymades specifically did this. Especially his work Fountain, a urinal turned on its back and signed, as a work of art would be. 

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Collage and some of the Dada sculpture would also fall into this category.

But, Kaprow took that a step further. After all, a lot of these Dada and Surrealist works were still displayed in galleries and exhibitions where they were defined as art. Kaprow took his art outside of the gallery, noting in the book that in order to get to the heart of what is art, you had to un-art the art, or basically strip it of the signifiers that identified it as art. So, take it out of the gallery, don’t sign it, don’t advertise it as art. Just let it happen, as it were. 

This, in turn, will elicit a spontaneous, unconscious reaction from the audience, which can then reveal the true definition and nature of art. 

I totally dig what Kaprow is saying, to an extent. We live in a socially constructed world and follow script throughout our everyday lives. So, when someone walks into a theater or a gallery, they’re playing the role of audience member, art patron, etc. Due to these roles that we take on, we behave in certain ways, and look at the contents in a certain way. We perceive the art as art simply because we’re in a place that houses art. Not necessarily because it actually is art. Confused yet?

I like the idea of getting your audience into an unconscious space. Getting them to react spontaneously and authentically to art really is, perhaps, one of the most interesting aspects of art.

However, what the Dadas and Surrealists played a big role in starting, and what Kaprow furthered, is this postmodern notion of deconstruction. And while there is a way in which deconstruction can be a very good thing, what happens at the end when we’ve torn the entire academy down?

By deconstructing the notion of “What is art?”, we tear it down to its parts to such an extent that we invite a total relativistic outlook on the form as a whole that in the search for meaning can dilute it to the point that it has no meaning.

As Hakim Bey suggested in TAZ: Go into the lobby of a Citibank, drop your pants, take a shit on the floor, and walk out.

Sure, you can identify that as an artistic expression. Especially in today’s world where there is such distrust of the large banks. But, if no one else knows about it, is it art? Is it enough that the 20 people in the bank perceived the action and questioned in their own heads what it meant?

I agree that we should find ways to break down the social scripts that can, arguably, sometimes limit art. But, how far can we break them down before there is no script left? Are we truly living in an age that’s so subjective that it’s enough if just one person unconsciously perceives it as art? 

And think of it on a practical level. It’s fine when you’re the one leading the charge on these movements, but what happens to artists who come after? I feel it’s safe to say that the world needs art and artists. But, we let those who came before us tear down the academy to a point that we’ve entered into a time of cynicism where everything is considered trite or derivative. Everything is been there, done that. 

Kaprow was great, but he got to work in a time when the art world was still somewhat strong, so his abstraction meant something. But, his development of the Happening, in a way, can play as him pulling the pin on a grenade on his way out the door and making it more difficult for everyone who comes after him. The grand narrative (or meta narrative) of art has been broken down to a point that to participate in the traditional art world these days is considered tired. As Tom Riccio said to me during a meeting, “Theater is dead.” (For this example, consider that theater can mean art in general). Now, Tom didn’t mean that theater itself is dead. That’s obviously not true. Broadway posted record ticket sales last year. What he meant is the “box” is dead. The traditional theater, with its proscenium seating and coherent, self-contained narratives, is dead. To participate in this old form is to be living in the past, to an extent. 

I, in all my amateurism, disagree. I think it’s still possible to work within the box (whether that be a theater, a gallery, or whatever else) and create great, progressive art. The key, as Kaprow’s work gets at, is getting the audience to truly unconsciously react to the art within. How to do that? I’m not totally sure. But, I’ll keep working on it.

I know going into this class, that Tom is a fan of site specific artistic work. His group, Dead White Zombies specializes in site specific performance. And, I think it’s really cool and results in really visceral, honest performances. I like the notion. And it’s something I want to do with my work. Which leads me to the assignment (etude) for the week…

Etude #2: Everything ends up in a box…

Our second assignment in Performance Installation class was called “High Points of Your Life”

The basic premise was, choose seven high points from our life (good, bad, or otherwise). These high points had to, essentially, manifest in an object (found or created), a sound, a video, a text, has to be performed, and consider spatial relationships. Shape all of these to a perspective and take a point of view (implied that it’s other than our own).

So, here are my notes on the assignment. Again, you’ll notice they’re somewhat brief. Sometimes the things that happen in my head go too fast to write down…

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And, here is the finished product…

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As you can see from the notes, I began with very practical life events, but soon moved to more abstract concepts. 

But, at one point I realized that I had a major dividing line in my life. It was in 2009 amid the depression. I’d recently moved, and it had been before I had another place to go. So, I put all my stuff in a storage unit. However, even after I found a new house, I was so busy and I knew the move was only for a year, so I left most of the stuff in the storage unit. Int the meantime I had started a business (an art gallery I co-owned with an artist friend), and the recession had hit – closing said gallery eventually. And here’s where I ran into a problem.

The recession was hard. I wasn’t making very much money at the gallery as most of my labor was essentially sweat equity. Also, I ended up getting screwed over by departing roommates and stiffed on rent. Because of this paying bills became a sporadic event. That said, I knew my storage unit was most important, and I tried to pay the bill as often as possible. 

At one point, I’d sent a check that would cover two months and any late fees I’d accumulated. However, a couple of weeks later I got a phone call from them. My storage unit was about to be auctioned off unless I paid in the next couple of hours. I asked about the check I’d sent, almost certain that I’d seen it clear the bank. They said it was $14 short of what I’d owed and weren’t sure if I wanted it applied to my balance or wanted to send another check for the right amount. Mind you, they waited until right before they were going to auction it to tell me about this issue, which is real flimsy in the first place. Of course apply it to the balance. Then, call me and tell me to send you $14 more dollars. But, this was a setup. I got the money together and called them back, but no one answered. I called a dozen times over the next few hours. Never an answer. 

About a month later I got a check in the mail for $175. My cut after the balance owed was paid off of what they auctioned it for. 

Doing the math, that means most of what I owned, most of my life, was worth less than $600. 

Furniture, clothes, hundreds of DVD’s, hundreds of books, a lot of my masters notes, papers, etc. Keepsakes, gifts, mementos. All gone. Stolen, essentially.

But, I was so low at that point there was no fight left in me.

The gallery closed soon after. I had a falling out at grad school. Got screwed over by friends. Had the absolute worst breakup of my life. And then got most of my stuff stolen by a shady storage place. I’d lost everything. I was at rock bottom.

I moved back into my parents’ house and went back to work in the family business. The very thing I thought I’d escaped from just three years earlier was once again my resting place. 

I realized of the big events in my life, losing that storage unit might have been the biggest. Because I essentially had to reboot everything. 

And I did. 

Though I had to work a day job to pay down bills, I decided to fully devote myself to the pursuit of art. The thing I’d always let others convince me could never be anything more than a hobby would be my life, come hell or high water. 

To that end, I’d met and started writing with my, now, closest collaborator Joe, and we soon had a script for a short film completed and a production company in Austin that wanted to produce it. 

Since then, it’s still been an up and down, sometimes rocky road on the path to being a working artist. But, it’s getting there. I eventually went back and finished grad school. After living at home for three years, I was able to move into a dream apartment (a converted warehouse loft space catered to artists), and I wrote and co-directed promotional videos that aired on national television. And I eventually went back to school to work on a PhD in the arts, which eventually led me to this class. 

Now things are happening faster than ever. I have a lot of irons in the firs that are ready to strike. It’s taken six years, but I’m getting close. 

So, I built my installation around a box. The point of view is that of the auctioneer, auctioning off all my belongings to the highest bidder. The perspective, theme, or whatever you want to call it is simple. Everything (and everyone) ends up in a box. No matter what we accumulate it life, it’s all temporary. And the ability to let go is a experience that can transformative. 

For the performance aspect of the piece, I prepared a manifest on my yellow notepad (to give it the look of a ledger) and read this prepared script…

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An accounting of the contents:

1. The American League Championship trophy replica is from the Texas Rangers 2011 season. Despite being an “artist”, I love sports. Hey, I grew up in Texas, after all. And above everything else, I love baseball and the Texas Rangers. And during the 2011 playoffs I was at Game 6 against the Detroit Tigers when Nelson Cruz hit the walk off grand slam to send the Rangers to the World Series. In fact, the ball even landed near us. Even remembering it now, it was an emotional moment. I’ve never in my life experienced that much shared jubilation and euphoria. It may be the most positive feeling I’ve ever had in one single moment. And I shared it simultaneously with 50,000 other people. It was amazing. To me, it represents happiness.

2. My masters hood from the University of North Texas. I experienced the highest of highs (being named Outstanding Graduate Scholar, the top non thesis award in the department), and the lowest of lows (being passed over for a job I felt I deserved and my advisor being hit by a car on her bike). I took nearly two years off at one point. But, Tom Riccio (of all people!), played a big role in convincing me to finish. I gutted up, took one more class in which I made a complete fool of myself, took my comprehensive exams, and graduated. It was a big moment for me, in the end. I’ll never be the academic that some of my classmates were, but I feel like I had a great overall experience and it made me a better person. It represents hard work and accomplishment. And a book end to the rough patch of my life (graduated in Fall 2011).

3. Two burned DVD’s from two plays I was in at Duncanville Community Theatre. They were The Diary of Anne Frank and The Curious Savage, in which I played Hannibal (a role once also played by Spalding Gray!). As a theater critic, I don’t get to do much theater. But, DCT doesn’t get reviewed and I have a lot of close friends there. So, I sneak down occasionally and do a show. My best role in the last few years was as the title character in The Nerd! This represents my continued pursuit of art stemming from that reboot.

4. Two Criterion Collection Luis Buñuel films, “The Exterminating Angel” and “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie”. I included these because of my love of film and desire to make films, but also because, due to my earlier compromises in life, I’d never actually studied filmmaking. So, part of my reboot was essentially trying to teach myself. I bought books, watched and studied films, listened to interviews, etc. But, a major tool of my education has been the Criterion Collection, which is known for being, essentially, film school on a disc. And through that exploration/education, I feel in love with the films of Luis Buñuel. This represents my drive and desire to make films.

5. Film wasn’t the only thing I took up study of. I also became a (renewed) student of theater. I’ve done theater pretty much my entire life. From the moment I could get on a stage, I did. Yet, I rarely studied it. I took 1 1/2 years in junior high and two years in high school before switching to choir/show choir/musical theater because of schedule considerations. I stayed in choir in college, but got back into theater late. Over my last three semesters of undergrad I did about a dozen plays. That said, it was too late to take any classes. My graduate work (in performance studies) had gotten be back into that world at least tangentially. And coming off of that, and getting a job as a theater critic for Theater Jones (www.theaterjones.com), I decided to enhance my studies and learn more. To that end, I included the books Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic edited by John Willett and Martin Esslin’s The Theatre of the Absurd. These show both my continued education and specific interests, and represent how big a part of my life theater is.

6. During my reboot, like I mentioned, Joe and I got our first film made. It’s called Grip, and it’s not great. We were novices. Didn’t know what we were doing. And then we had issues with the production company and the edit, and ended up finishing it on our own, without all the footage. However, it was a major milestone and started my forays into making films. It’s important and will, hopefully be an amusing footnote moving forward in life. It’s playing on the iPad in the box. 

7. Finally, I included my Canon 7D, DSLR camera. It represents the evolution of my film/art making. I’ve shot several little projects on it and have several more planned. It represents the future. 

The box is labeled as “Random Stuff”, because in the end, that’s all it is to anyone else. It means something to me, but it’s temporary. And that knowledge has a dual effect on me. First, it actually makes these moments mean more to me. Because they are so unique and special to me. They’re rare and personal. That makes them mean more within the context of myself and my identity. However, it also helps me to not get to tied down to anything. Always be moving forward. Don’t fall back on sentimentality and certainly don’t ever get contented with the the easy path. 

 

The project went over well. I liked it. It’s the kind of thing, I feel, if I had more of a portfolio and display history, would be taken seriously as an installation piece. 

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