rethinking why performance matters through the matter of performance
Trashing Performance

1 December 2010

Excerpts: I wanna be in that show

Author: Owen Parry

 I wanna be in that show, Toynbee Studios Theatre, Performing Idea, 5 October 2010

I wanna be in that show looks at what's at stake in the desirable surfaces of live art practice, by exposing in conceptual work what might customarily be denigrated as superficial. The performance is motivated by a curiosity for sensational experience in performance and prompted by observations of tendentious criticisms in contemporary art. Robert Garnett says 'How superficial we had been in disregarding the surface appearance of a work in favour of its ostensible status as "text"'. In artist Mel Brimfield’s creation of fictional performance art histories titled This is Performance Art, and Vaginal Davis’ re-performances in queer clubs of works from ‘high-end’ institutions, not to mention the recent influx of references to performance art in popular music videos, we are reminded of the surfaces of the works we are so accustomed to interpreting. I wonder if the pursuit of truth and knowledge has blinded us to the curious importance of the farcical relations of performance?

In my practice I am interested in the things that have no explanation. I am excited by the decisions artists make and elements they include in their work for reasons they often cannot explain other than 'It just works' or 'it looks good'. I am curious to how these elements often feel illegitimate, lacking sentiment or lacking purpose, yet are absolutely crucial to the exploratory process. In I wanna be in that show I explore this process, with a consideration for the pleasure-seeking elements of performance, I deliberately place unrelated material together and out of its habitual context, a container of milk, an oriental mask, some floral wallpaper, a sound recording, a film, air conditioning, a performer with the flue. Besides an easy refusal of criticism, and without a complete loss of historicity, can attention to the surfaces of live art practice illuminate its other personal, social and popular relations beyond the subject of performance itself?


The following excerpts include naughty text and sexy imagery lifted from my sensational performance and fabulous workbook:


The curtains opened to a grey brick wall and nothing happened

The wall looked like it was leaning (dot) Like it was about to fall over (dot) And then suddenly it did (dot) and all the beautiful thin people came out running and dancing amongst the rubble

There was another scene (dot) I remember it (dot dot) It was a theatrical scene with two more thin people (dot) One of them was a woman and one of them was a man (dot) The woman begged the man to throw tomatoes in her face

Somewhere else: I saw you smoking out the back of the theatre twice (’d) and you were so admirable (dot) And elegant (dot dot) And German


 I was on my own waiting to meet you on your own in a pitch-black theatre


You always come on sideways (dot) I like it when you come on sideway (dot dot) It’s because I’m a Taurus

You weren’t actually in the show though ('d) but you were there somehow ('d) under the rubble ('d) under the floorboards ('d) under the patio ('d) under the coffee table ('d) That’s where I saw you ('d) You were in the Sunday magazine (dot) You were all glossy and shiny ('d) and I cut you out because I didn’t want to lose you (dot) Because if I didn’t cut you out I might forget all about you (dot) and because I’d seen you before (dot dot) I’d seen you before in another show (dot) I was sure I’d seen you in another show (dot) In another show about ('d) bee farming and the manufacturing process of honey (dot dot) I’m sure you had something to do with bees and beehives (dot dot) I remember that wallpaper


I liked you because you had words written all over you (dot) They went up the screen like credits for an art house movie about communal living in Scandinavia



I was mostly concerned with how it all looked from the outside ('d) the surfaces (dot) if you could see my lips ('d) my arse ('d) my holes

I’d forgotten all about her (dot) I thought that anyone could do it (dot dot) I thought that anyone could take her part ('d) but they couldn’t (dot dot) No one else could do it like she did

I asked someone what it was about her (dot) about her exactly that made it work (dot dot) They said it was the sheer abandonment (dot) The intimacy (dot dot) The hair (dot) The confidence (dot dot) And the glamour


There’s one thing I’ve always really wanted to do as an audience member at the theatre

I’ve always wanted to piss myself (piss piss) To sit in the dark amongst the other audience members and pee (pee pee) Especially In a really silent moment in a performance

Imagine (dot) two performers ('d) whatever/whoever tickles your fancy (dot) sat opposite each other ('d) staring into each others eyes (dot) a sultry moment just before they kiss (dot dot) and then (dot) relax (dot dot dot dot dot) let it out


He posted it on facebook (dot) A photograph of him pissing on the street outside the Joiners on a Saturday night (dot dot) In the line of piss on the image (dot) he tagged my name (dot dot) He tagged me ('d) and the names of nine other boys



Voiceover: Stop stretching (there's nothing there)





You just talked (dot) You just talked and talked and the performance was just you talking (dot dot) Talking shit (dot) Talking about yourself (dot) Talking like you didn’t care if anyone was listening (dot dot) You were so good at talking (dot) You were bitter about something ('d) you were angry ('d) like someone had stolen your puppy

You were so good at doing it crap (dot dot) You were so fucking good at making it look amateur (dot) You were a pro at making it look like turd (dot) You just “kind of knew your lines” but didn’t learn them all on purpose (dot dot) You were so talky talky (dot dot) You were so talky talky (dot dot) Talky talky talky talky (dot dot) Talky (dot) Talky



If you want articulate I said (dot dot) then go and suck your mother's breast dirt bag (dot) Ok?



I like a performance with a loaded gun in it (dot dot) Everyone forgets that he didn’t shoot himself in the arm (dot) Everyone forgets that it was his assistant who shot him (dot dot) It was his assistant who had the guts to pull the fucking trigger


I’m always looking at you (dot) You (dot dot) Beautiful you (dot dot) Creeping Jesus (dot) The unsung hero (dot) The silent one (dot) The one without any lines (dot) Without a care in the world (dot) You (dot) The one who moves things around the stage (dot dot) Comes to two rehearsals (dot) Brings things on and off (dot dot) Appears out of a hat (dot) Holds up cards ('d) gets sawed in half ('d) that kind of thing

I like the way you operate (dot dot) I like watching you (dot dot) I think it’s because you’re just doing it (dot dot) I appreciate it (dot) Just do it (dot) That’s your moto ('d) Just do it

You always have an amazing costume too (dot dot) Often very understated ('d) like head to toe in black when you’re in the theatre (dot dot) Or a white lab coat when you’re in the gallery (dot dot) Or a short sequin boob tube dress with a diamante encrusted fringe when you’re on TV (dot) I love your makeup (dot dot) I love your ‘mucilage’ (dot dot) Can I just say ('d) I think you’re amazing (dot dot) I think you are wondeful (dot dot) I think you are beautiful (dot dot) And I think that everyone here has got a lot to learn from you






Garnett, R. In: 'Abstract Humour, Humorous Abstraction', Deleuze and Contemporary Art, Edinburgh University Press, 2010. P.117

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