Monday, July 02, 1990

Southern Exposure, San Francisco, 6.29.90

Adapting "Brief Amaze," which I had premiered at The Lab several months earlier, I created an hour-long piece using "modules" of distinct gestural activities which I hoped would be individually evocative and which could be resequenced according to the specific conditions of each site where the piece was to be performed.

I didn't want to create a performance in advance and simply present it in, say, Poland, but I did want to prepare a vocabulary of gestures for myself. I am not a good improviser, but felt that if I had the bricks ahead of time I could improvise the building of houses of different shapes when I needed to.

I was under some stress during the month prior to leaving. My lover ended her relationship with me, I was under financial pressures, was creating a performance and was of course preparing for a 3-month tour in unfamiliar territory.

The Southern Exposure performance ended up confirming the piece's ability to articulate site- and situation-specific concerns. But the embedded personal/emotional content concerning my recently-ended relationship weakened the piece and diverted the audience's attention from other themes that I'd hoped to articulate. I also bowed to some sort of inner insecurity and added a short spoken monologue section which ended up not really serving any purpose.

Major failure of this performance: as planned, I cut my arms with razorblades, not meaning to evoke emotional response but rather attempting to subsume this image within an iconography of images of pain. My technical mistake was not making it clear that I had in fact cut myself (actually more deeply than I'd intended.) My white shirt was already soaked with red paint and, since this obscured the flow of blood, everyone in the audience thought I had simply mimed the act of cutting my wrists, evoking a banal pathos which emotionalized an essentially formal performance and had a strong negative effect on the interpretation and credibility of the piece.

Major success: I managed under a lot of stress to create a performance which didn't totally embarass myself. As such it was a good rehearsal for the kinds of conditions I'd have to deal with on tour. I also liked the graphic and tactile qualities of the paint-and-blood-spattered script after the performance was over.