Jade Thacker responds to Brody Condon’s Line Up (after Trisha), performed at LACMA on April 28, 2011
A couple of months ago, a friend forwarded me a Call for Dancers to perform Brody Condon’s Line Up (after Trisha). Struggling to pay rent and curious about the job, I sought to be included, imagining this as a painless way to make 200 bucks in two days.
The piece is a modification of Trisha Brown’s original work, Line Up. Each performer holds a 10-foot pole and must maintain a connection with a neighboring performer’s pole. No other directions or choreography are given. With the concept in mind of maintaining a single line of energy, the performers slowly roam the space with intense concentration. This “interaction design,” if set up correctly, provides a logic for the performers to create and inhabit a world that won’t fall apart, according to Brody.
I’m not sure how much I can relate to this world; maybe I just didn’t get there. Perhaps if I were inhabiting the mind of a dancer, with meditative states not far from reach, I would be able to access this ethereal world Brody is referring to. Maybe because it’s just in my nature to fully identify with the worker, it was hard for me to embody this nameless energy that felt a lot more stressful than soothing. Maybe I’m just hyper-aware and too anxious to offer myself up as a metaphor for performance art.
During a rehearsal the previous week, I had asked Brody if he himself had ever performed this piece. He told me no, and that it was very difficult for him because he is not a dancer or choreographer himself. When he first said that to me, I thought it strange because the instructions were so simple, no special qualifications needed. But looking back I can see how endurance-based the performance really is, how challenging this could be for a less experienced mover because of how long the performance is, and how monotonous the activity becomes. For me, it took giving it a shot to find out this wasn’t something I wanted to continue doing. And maybe it wasn’t any physical capacity that inhibited me, but a mental one.
Day One began at 9am with hair and makeup: tight, eyebrow-raising buns and gold face makeup. Soon after, Rodarte’s interns showed up, later than expected, and began stripping us down and wrapping us in cheesecloth dyed yellow. Yes, cheesecloth. I would include a picture of myself wearing this undergarment, but I’m afraid I would shame my father. I feel like this undergarment may have helped me embody the character of a dancer the most, as I confidently walked around nearly naked amongst the clothed professionals. I believe after Day One, LACMA insisted that we be a bit more covered up for the next day. The cheesecloth wrap would be our main clothing for the majority of the day, excluding our performance shifts when we would be wearing the more impressive garment designed by Rodarte on top of the cheesecloth.
The Rodarte costumes were pretty fantastic looking—big white jumpsuits with huge sleeves and pant legs so that when you raised your arms you kind of looked like a huge burnt butterfly. However striking, the costumes did not seem to be designed with the involved movement in mind, with oversized pant legs for my feet to cautiously navigate around, and fabric that by no means was breathable.
On Day One, in the seventh hour of the eight-hour performance, I suddenly felt very warm and lightheaded in my costume. Working hard to maintain focus, I must have forgotten to breathe and needed to excuse myself from the performance. Although my departure was subtle enough, I felt such a rush of emotion while I settled back into reality. For one thing, I was so done holding a pole! I was also having real difficulty identifying with the utopian world of corresponding energies that Brody was describing. In the moment, I felt partly responsible for the realization of Brody’s vision, as a worker rather than a fellow artist, and almost guilty for not having the anticipated ephemerally rewarding experience. I told Brody I didn’t want to perform the next day.
I know other performers experienced real pleasure while they were in the line. I know one performer in particular asked to inhabit a two-hour shift, while most everyone else performed for only one hour straight, with smaller breaks in between. Most of the performers were professional or trained dancers; only I and a couple of others described ourselves as artists who move.
I did come to LACMA on Day Two, but this time to observe. Much like the camaraderie one experiences as a middle-schooler in a school play, I wanted to support my fellow performers. (I was still getting over the guilty drop-out feeling, but grateful I had been honest with myself.) When I returned to LACMA it was about 6pm, and people were beginning to flock to the Stark Bar, the chained-off cocktail and schmoozing section of LACMA’s outdoor pavilion. I find it so funny that this bar is literally chained off to separate it from the rest of the public. It made for a very funny picture during the performance—two separate masses.
The performance was beautiful to watch, to see so many bodies cooperatively moving as one body with many obstacles to navigate and positions to rearrange. They collaborated gracefully and I knew how long they had been doing this, how tired and sore some of them felt. I also knew that, without fair notice, they had been told the performance was going to be stretched one more hour, increasing it to nine hours straight, which effectively decreased the performers’ pay to $8.70/hour—less than the cost of a cocktail at the Stark Bar.