3 x 2 x 3 #1, live works curated by Dino Dinco, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), April 21, 2011
Recently I was talking to a friend of mine who frequents internet hookup sites. One night he got a particularly aggressive invitation from a particularly hunky guy, but decided to turn it down and go to sleep instead. I asked him why. His response was, “I just didn’t feel like going through a whole performance that night.”
I thought about this strange tension between intimacy and performance—how the two oppose one another, actively struggle against one another, and yet also feed each other—as I went through 3 x 2 x 3 #1, a circuit of “intimate performances” given by three separate artists in three separate rooms for groups of no more than six at a time. In each performance (limited to 10 minutes per group) there was a feeling of being physically close to the artist, sometimes uncomfortably so, and yet in each case there was the untouchable distance imposed by the act of performing, of accomplishing a task, of inhabiting a character, of acting out a scenario.
For me this created an interesting dynamic of intimate viewership, where I willingly suspended myself in order to allow the artist space to do whatever it was she set out to do. The group I was with was of a like mind; we were all quiet, respectful, and did as we were asked. Other groups, I hear, were more disruptive, which must have caused other interesting dynamics to occur.
Hannah Henderson’s piece, while fairly theatrical, was also the most warm and welcoming, making for a lovely induction into the experience. As a tone sounded to indicate the 10-minute mark, our group was ushered behind a big black curtain into the main gallery of LACE, where six empty chairs were arranged in a half-circle around Henderson, who sat primping in front of a vanity mirror and rack of clothes. She began talking to us right away, getting our names so she could address us individually. In a spirit of friendly sharing, she told us about how the angel Gabriel had come into her life some time ago and everything had changed. She seemed to be in the midst of preparing for his arrival, and enlisted our help in applying makeup and fixing up her hair (I put some black eyeliner on her).
As we helped her primp, she chatted with us, telling us about her childhood growing up in a rural area, how there wasn’t much love in her household, and so she was forced to find companionship in nature. She obliquely touched on some homophobia she saw in her community. She asked one of us if he had ever been in therapy, and had a short conversation with him about it. Knowing her 10 minutes was about to come to an end, she shared a final insight with us. Have you ever really looked at a strawberry, she asked us? Each one is so unique and each one is so beautiful. If only that Libyan leader would realize that he too is a strawberry, he might not be doing what he’s doing. We are all strawberries, each one of us.
There was a lot of underlying sadness and tragedy in Henderson’s character, as well as persistent optimism. Henderson allowed us to both see and share in all those qualities by involving us in the anticipation inherent in her hair and makeup ritual. There was also the added sense that we were helping her to put on her character and/or channel her angel.
The tone sounded and we moved on to the second room, where Dawn Kasper was in the process of changing into a tuxedo shirt and white thermal pants, echoing her ongoing white theme. She made some comments about gender differences in the placement of the shirt buttons and how that came about (in the old days, women didn’t dress themselves). All around her was the usual gathering of personal effects and random debris. We sat in a straight row of chairs facing her. Using a laptop and a projector turned on the side of a pedestal, she showed us a YouTube clip of Fred Astaire playing drums in a toy shop with a little boy. She had wanted to play drums for us, but she wasn’t allowed. Then she pulled up a tall skinny pedestal with a large box of Kleenex on top of it. She pulled out each piece of Kleenex one by one, letting them scatter on the floor around the pedestal. At about the time that she finished this task, the tone sounded and it was time to move on.
Kasper’s performance was detached and involved extremely limited audience interaction—she might have asked us one inconsequential question, the answers to which I don’t remember. It was basically a brief glimpse into the ongoing nomadic studio practice for which she is well known, and which I already felt intimate with, having seen her perform on so many occasions. It actually functioned well as an interstitial performance between more dramatic performances.
The final act, by Allison Wyper, took place in the darkened hallway/alcove space between LACE’s bathrooms and the rear exit into the parking lot. It was the most rigidly structured performance, and also by far the creepiest. The brave Geoff Tuck answered the call for a volunteer, who was seated in a chair slightly apart from the rest of us. As we all sat down, the performance was already in progress. Two women were gripped in a tense, swaying embrace—one wearing an orange jumpsuit, the other business attire, six-inch red heels, and a blindfold. Suddenly the orange jumpsuit threw the other woman off her and screamed, “Off the wall!!” Then she turned to Geoff, and slowly and menacingly began to unzip the jumpsuit. A simple black outfit was revealed underneath. She laid the suit out on the ground in front of Geoff so that it kind of looked like it was forming his shadow.
The sequence of what happened next is fairly muddled in my mind. Everything basically revolved around violence, captivity, and having power over subjects. There was an unnerving sense that something really unpleasant could happen, that certain boundaries might be crossed. At one point the first woman unfurled a rope that had a noose tied at the end of it. She put the noose around her thigh, wound the rope around her own waist, and wound the other end around the other woman, who remained blindfolded the entire time. She then yanked the other woman hard down the hallway, between audience members, and exhorted us to help her pull. We did and the rope came loose.
The piece slowly wound down to an end when the first woman placed the orange jumpsuit and rope into Geoff’s outstretched arms, as though laying a body across them. Then she took off the blindfolded woman’s suit jacket and pinned it up to a clothesline that hung across the hallway, not far from the back door. We were then allowed to leave. As we did so, we passed the crumpled jumpsuit and the pinned up jacket, both of which carried an unsettling aura of both power and victimization. Opening the back door, we exited the stifling confines of the space to find ourselves suddenly bathed in the open air and gentle light of dusk. I think we were all pretty shaken at that point, left to confront our own responses in the literal light of day.