On the Art of Performance

"Transformations of the self must first take place in the potential of thought and mind...There is no other possibility in my understanding, and this was perhaps too little considered by Marx, for instance.The idea of revolution coming from other conditions, in the industrial field or the so called reality of economic conditions, can never lead to a revolutionary step unless the transformation of soul, mind and will power has taken place."

Joseph Beuys

 

“Communiqué”

“Communiqué” as a performance piece was a breakthrough for me as an artist. It changed the way I viewed the world and defined the nature of reality in my mind. “Communiqué” was an culmination of years of study of Art, Science and Intuition. "Communiqué" was an experiment that manifested itself in an elegant awake dream. I had already been working with presence within environments and installations, using Robert Irwin's book "Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees", and Hegel's "Phenomenology of Mind", but coming up cold most often than not. These environments and installations made of everyday items and found objects were still sculptural in nature creating certain moods and meditations. More visual than active, I decided to perform an action within the installation, which in turn, became a ritual.

The main elements of “Communiqué” came to me in a dream. I had been keeping a dream journal for a number of years prior. Experimenting with lucid dreaming techniques. I would set my alarm for 4:30 am to wake myself and then fall back to sleep in order to capture whatever dream I was having at the moment. Having a nice soothing breeze from a fan blowing help tremendously. Dreams were always fertile ground for original content. This particular image, a pair of black shoes on a mound of dirt, not unlike a burial mound, transpired from a pair of black shoes left mysteriously behind after an all night party. I was sharing a loft in downtown San Francisco with two other artists, a photographer and a painter, we woke up one morning and noticed a pair of black wing tipped shoes set aside in the corner of the main floor. We all thought that they belonged to the other. A few days went by and the shoes hadn't’t budged, so I decided to ask about them. But no one knew anything or would own up to anything. We just figured someone got drunk and left them there.


Over a period of time, we all three, asked everyone we knew if they had lost some shoes, but no takers. After no one claimed the mysterious shoes my roommates and I tried them on. Too my surprise they only fit me. I got a good laugh and tossed them into my room. That night I dreamt of the elusive black shoes.

The dream took place at night, I was walking alone through a moonlit trail deep in the woods. The shadows of trees stretched out before me. Winding down the well worn foot path I reached a meadow with a large barren oak tree sprawling out across dry grass. Underneath the big oak was a mound of dirt about two feet high four feet wide. From a distance, as I walked closer, I see something on top of the mound of dirt. As I reached the mound under the big oak I could see the pair of black wing tipped shoes resting on top. About eye level, dangling over the shoes, was a small bell. The bell was hung from a branch of the barren oak reaching over the mound. The overall sensation of the dream was one of a riddle like most dreams. I always interpret the overall sensation of a dream not the actual imagery. But this dream had a lasting effect on me, an effect not easily shaken. I awoke from the dream and immediately jotted down every detail and over the next few days created an installation based on my journal notes. This installation would later become the “Well of Souls”.

During this period I was also experimenting with iconic memory based on Carl Jung's book "Man and His Symbols", mental associations with significant symbols in culture. I would wander the streets of The City finding objects that I felt some connection to or affiliation with on a personal level. Items like a Chinese courtesan calendar torn and thrown in the gutter, pigeon feathers, oil cans, discarded condoms, liquor bottles, trampled “Jesus Saves” handbills, etc. I placed everything in large Mason jars in order to preserve the object intact, exactly the way they were found. Like a medieval alchemist might. Eventually these objects were placed in a circle in front of the “Magic Bell Tree” at the edge of the “Well of Souls”.

Next was the problem of what action to perform within the installation. In the newspaper I saw an article entitled “Ox Walk slows Japanese Parliament to a snail’s pace”. In the Japanese Parliament when an opposing party does not agree with a mandate being proposed they protest by walking very very slowly to the ballot box giving their party time to negotiate a differing opinion. This “Ox Walk” action has been used to totally shut down the Japanese government. Nothing gets done until an agreement has been reached. I thought this was a great form of protest. Nonviolent, but effective. Also the slowing down of time was compelling too. I was very interested in the idea of “time” and our perception of time. So “Ox Walk” turned out to be the perfect time displacement action to perform within the “Well of Souls” installation due to its unexpected trance inducing qualities.

"Communique" was just a name I had for the performance piece, I never thought it would actually work. But it did. It became a portal into other dimensions of reality.