In a little over a week I am supposed to be doing a performance here in town. I voluntarily opted to do this, thinking that it would be a great motivator to flesh out some ideas and get the ball rolling for the semester. And then I decided to double it up with a required performance for my Performance History and Practice course, still foolishly thinking I would be fine. But I am not.
I still have no idea what I am going to do…
Well, technically that is a lie. I have a general idea of the themes and concepts I wish to address, but I’ve got NO clue exactly what the performance will be. And I’m fending off an anxiety attack because of this. I swear I’ve been thinking about this for weeks. Before school even started actually. I’ve been doing research, and brainstorming… I haven’t gotten anywhere.
My intended concept for this performance revolves around reality versus expectations, using the themes of failure, futility, and anxieties that I have been dealing with over the last year or so. I was thinking about how hard I often making things for myself, frequently choosing the most difficult or involved manner of performing tasks. This in turn made me reflect on the way that my expectations are often drastically unrealistic, and that disconnect between expectation and reality is very likely the source for much of my anxiety. Additionally, for me, there is a factor of repetitious, and sometimes destructive, behaviors, because I refuse to give in, or to do something in any other way than I envision it. In a word, inflexibility.
In it’s original iteration, the idea for this performance was a video of me running and jumping for a tree limb, just out of my reach, over and over and over again. Until I was exhausted, possibly bruised and/or bloodied. That then evolved into a performance of me attempting to jump over a limbo stick that was placed at a height which I could have easily walked under. Again, repeating this same pointless and destructive action, refusing to admit failure or adjust my behavior to a more appropriate course of action. But the reason neither of these ideas came to fruition, is that I see them as a bit to literal. Like one liners that will cause a laugh, but not provoke thought. With the limbo stick idea, there was a factor of physical technicality too. The performance is talking place in a space which I cannot permanently alter, making it difficult for me to construct some type of structure which would allow me to repeatedly throw my body against it and have said structure still remain standing.
And that brings me to my current quandary. I have no idea what to do…
So I am going to continue to write about this and hope for one of my magical moments where everything connects and finally makes sense.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few weeks doing research into Matthew Barney, specifically his Drawing Restraint series. I will wax lyrical about my love of him in another post, but there are a number of things in his Drawing Restraint series that parallel some of the things I want to do or am thinking about in relation to this performance.
The thing about all of Barney’s work, is that it is informed by the practice of hypertrophic training. Briefly, this is the way that athletes train their muscles at increasingly difficult levels in order to build up strength. According to Nancy Spector, the chief curator at the Guggenheim (or The Gügg and The Husband and I sometimes refer to it) in New York, this informs the fundamental tenet of Barney’s practice: Form cannot materialize or mutate with out struggle against resistance in the process. In the grand scheme of Drawing Restraint, Barney willingly puts himself in ever increasingly difficult scenarios, using extreme lengths to create a mark or create form. It’s really pretty fascinating. Thinking about that, you see the desire to make a mark, or more basically to create, and then you contemplate the accompanying restraint and training required of creating. So in this really beautifully, and mildly absurd way, Barney is challenging himself, level by level (a theme also seen in his other major body of work The Cremaster Cycle, to make a mark. Barney is also a proponent of using art to overcome psychological division and conflict, which is very much right in line with where my thoughts are these days.
I’ve also spent some time looking at an artist, William Lamson, a fellow student recently brought to my attention. In his work I see so much of what I want to convey. There is this sense of tension and self-defeat in his work that I find completely compelling, particularly in his Actions series. He very carefully choreographs events in his videos, expending tremendous amounts of time and energy in the process of creation, knowing that the moment he initiates the plan, he is actually pressing a self destruct button. When you watch these videos unfold, you hold your breath with this feeling of anxiety and anticipation because you know exactly what is going to happen and that it is all going to be defeated. You are watching self imposed failure. The scary thing is, I can completely relate to the train of thought. I can understand and predict the outcomes of my actions or behaviors, and see the possibility for failure. In fact, no matter what, there is always a possibility for failure. But that version of events is totally overshadowed and out weighed by the prospect of successfully executing something to my exacting expectations. So really, it becomes about this tension between the reality of the situation and the expectation, about the inevitability of the out come.
Which brings me full circle back to the expectations versus reality thing. And for some reason I keep thinking about this scene from 500 Days of Summer, one of my all time favorite movies, and possibly one of the most brilliantly filmed scenes ever.
I just keep watching it over and over again. Obviously the content is not what I am trying to get at, but there is something in the format that really intrigues me. The whole movie is brilliant really (and it doesn’t hurt that Joesph Gordon-Levitt is in it, or that there’s a lot of Regina Spektor’s music), but this scene has stuck with me since I first saw it back in 2010 or so. And no, I didn’t go out of my way to find a JGL connection here. It was a totally organic happening!
I think the question here is how do I put this all into the meat grinder and distill it into something? Can some one answer that question for me? Is that like asking someone to do my homework for me? Nah… We can just call it an artistic collaboration. 😉
So, no magic moment yet, but maybe it all just needs to process?
Oh, and of course, the video clip is not mine. I wish. If it were I wouldn’t be in the position I am!