Samuel Vasquez, Study of Repetition to Achieve the New Now, Part 4 (Simon), Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), Hollywood, February 19, 2011
Samuel Vasquez, who is steadily developing a very strong performance practice, presented his most powerful work to date at LACE last Saturday night, as part of the 2011 iteration of GUTTED, a performance art extravaganza curated by Dino Dinco. Study of Repetition to Achieve the New Now, Part 4 (Simon) utilized the physical format of wrestling, along with the reading of extensive text on the concept of the psychological “double,” to offer a beautiful and very moving evocation of creativity, ego, sexual identity, and interpersonal relations.
A red circle was drawn on the floor and Vasquez and his male partner stood inside it, facing each other as Vasquez announced the piece. Vasquez wore protective headgear and his normal clothing; his partner wore a complete wrestling outfit. The two then crouched down in a starting position, and Vasquez began reading his text from a sheet of paper. The artist was kind enough to share his text with me, so I’m going to paste some representative excerpts from it here (note that some of the references are taken from Mitchell Walker’s 1976 essay, “The Double: An Archetypal Configuration”):
“THE DOUBLE DOES NOT HAVE A STRAIGHTFORWARD DEFINITION. IT’S A SET OF CHARACTERISTICS, WHICH GIVE RISE TO OUR CONSCIOUS AWARENESS OF GENDER IDENTITY AS A BIOLOGICAL MALE OR FEMALE… THE ARCHETYPAL CONCEPT OF THE DOUBLE, AS CONCEIVED BY WALKER, ACCOUNTS FOR A SOUL-FIGURE WITH ALL THE EROTIC AND SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCES ATTACHED TO ANIMA/ANIMUS, BUT OF THE SAME SEX. THE DEFINITION OF ARCHETYPAL IS A PRIMITIVE MENTAL IMAGE INHERITED FROM THE EARLIEST HUMAN ANCESTORS, AND IS SUPPOSED TO BE PRESENT IN THE HUMAN CONSCIOUS.
“3 WEEKS BACK, DURING A LUNCH BREAK WHEN I FOUND MYSELF CROSSING A STREET IN WEST LOS ANGELES. I DON’T REMEMBER MY THOUGHTS AT THE TIME OR WHAT FEELINGS WERE GOING THROUGH ME. HALFWAY TO THE CROSSWALK I NOTICED A GUY CROSSING THE STREET IN MY DIRECTION. THERE WAS NOTHING THAT STOOD OUT ABOUT THIS GUY. HE WAS NOT MY TYPE OR EVEN SOMEONE I WOULD BE ATTRACTED TO. I DIDN’T FIND HIS WAY OF DRESS PARTICULARLY APPEALING. BUT SOMETHING ABOUT THIS GUY CAPTURED MY EMOTIONAL BEING. I HAD THE SUDDEN SENSATION OF ABANDONING MY WHOLE LIFE, INCLUDING MY APARTMENT IN ECHO PARK, MY POSITION AS A RISING ARTS ADMINISTRATOR, AND MY BELOVED RELATIONSHIPS WITH YOUNG ROMANTICS, ALL TO BE WITH THIS ONE STRANGER. I WAS READY TO GIVE UP MY LIFE IN ORDER TO BE HIS. I’D SURRENDER EVERYTHING. FORFEIT MY FUTURE TO THIS GUY THAT WAS WALKING TOWARDS ME. NOTHING MATTERED IN THIS MOMENT EXCEPT THAT I HAD PROJECTED MY ENTIRE EMOTIONAL BEING INTO THIS ONE MAN.
“THE DOUBLE IS THE ROOT OF EGO IDENTITY, IT MAY LEAD ONE TO SIGNIFICANT SELF-REALIZATIONS. THE DOUBLE CAN UNLOCK CREATIVE PROCESSES. THE DOUBLE CAN BE A GREAT DRIVING FORCE IN A PERSON, AND COLLECTIVELY IN THE GROWTH OF ARTS AND SCIENCES… GROWTH ONLY OCCURS ONLY IN THOSE WHO RECOGNIZE THE INNER URGINGS OF THE DOUBLE AND ALLOW THEMSELVES TO FOLLOW IN THIS DIRECTION.”
As Vasquez read, or attempted to read, his text aloud, his partner proceeded with the wrestling match and tried to pin Vasquez outside of the red circle. Vasquez struggled to be able to see his text, and to be able to vocalize it, while his partner struggled with him physically. The energy that passed between them was intense, and there were a few times when Vasquez’s partner lifted him high in the air before pinning him down again. On the far wall behind them, all of their actions were projected via a live video feed, thus providing another layer of doubling.
In addition to being a visceral work, this performance was so smartly put together—the clinical descriptions of gender and ego, combined with the wistful personal anecdotes of longing and the raw sexuality and struggle expressed on the wrestling floor, all made for a multivalent look at significant relationships, the inner psyche, and the creative spark. We desire, we fight, we create, we mate, we dissect—and in so doing, we encounter our own reflections, over and over again, whether within ourselves or in the faces of others.