Monday, June 5, 2017

Rapid Pulse 17: Day Three

Rapid Pulse 17: Day Three

Sarah Grabner's essays on Crocetta and Reese and Eli K. Gold can be seen by clicking on the names of the artists.

ATOM-r + Julia Pello
Sandrine Schaefer
Jess Dobkin
Shana Moulton
Endam Nihan
Andrei Venghiac

Since I began the blog post with the end of the evening for RP17 Day 2, it seems appropriate to continue that way for the remaining two nights of the festival, especially since the artists responsible for stŬ have worked so hard to make such good food that is served up beautifully. JGV/WAR's offering was a chickpea curry, served over rice, with toppings of fresh cilantro and homemade mango chutney. It was accompanied by nan with a hint of anise. This time I took a picture of my bowl before I ate it. I wish I could have had this for breakfast on Sunday morning as well. My advice to future Rapid Pulse attendees is to bring along your own tupperware container since there are usually leftovers.

Lucky Pierre/Michael Thomas American Slut

The third day of Rapid Pulse kicked off with Michael Thomas/Lucky Pierre's offsite performance American Slut. The performance took place at Thomas's studio on Fulton Street, about a 25 minute walk from Defibrillator. Fulton Street is located in the industrial area of Chicago. Walking to Thomas's studio from the Ashland Subway stop, I was struck by the degree to which most of the businesses appeared to be outdated relics from a different era and how deserted the streets were. The neighborhood looked a lot more like small town Ohio, where the steel industry is only a faint memory, than it did like Chicago, a rapidly expanding global capitalist city. Thomas's studio, which was a long distance from the Ashland stop (the nearest stop), felt like a final outpost, slated for destruction but in the meantime hanging on, its denizens continuing to use the space for as long as they could continue doing so. The performance that unfolded American Slut, also felt like it was a long distance from what the world is today. As Thomas's succinct description of the piece that is posted on his website states, it includes "The American Sniper, Pasties, Guns, Madonna, refreshments."

Thomas is a founder and member of the collective Lucky Pierre. For Rapid Pulse 2012 and again in 2017 he performed work that he devised himself. He did employ an actor, Alex Stein, for American Slut, which was part of the reason that the performance was offered twice in one day (5 p.m. and again at 9 p.m.). Stein was only available on Saturday evening as he was busy filming a movie. 

At the 5 p.m. performance, people slowly trickled into the space, after walking up a flight of stairs and through several artist's studios. Thomas/Lucky Pierre has a very large studio, which was taken up by a table cum runway around which people sat. Refreshments were provided and most people were drinking wine or beer when the performance begin. placed at one end of the table was a binder with the title tenure review on the cover. The performance began with Thomas seating himself in front of the binder and beginning to read from its pages. The title tenure review has academic associations with which many of us are familiar--generally it implies the dossier that one has compiled prior to applying for tenure, which gives the applicant job security. But in this case it was unclear what Thomas was applying for and why he was applying. The review began with an imagined interrogation of Chris Kyle, the deadliest marksman in history and the subject of the book and movie American Sniper. In between asking Kyle why he made the movie and wrote the book, Thomas asked him to take off all of his clothes. The tenure review turned out to be a kind of stream of consciousness rant of truth and half truths--the names were real, Thomas really is gay (?), and David Foster Wallace (who was also mentioned) and Chris Kyle really existed. But Thomas was never an academic, and never applied for tenure. So perhaps the "tenure review" was meant to be a review of his tenure as an artist, a queer (who was told that he wasn't queer enough), and a social activist. It was a review laced with queer desire, some Madonna (as promised in the description), and an implicit challenge to the toxic class-based masculinities. Thomas's desire was clearly for Kyle. Wallace, the subject of a posthumous movie, perhaps served as Thomas's amanuenses. 

A lot happened in the performance. In no particular order: Thomas read from his tenure review, he passed out multiple photographs of two images, one of Chris Kyle, the other of what looked like a close up of skin cancer, after reading captions that indicated that each of these photographs was linked to a specific time and place in his life. He then gave the audience many more photographs, which were spread all over the table. He donned an S&M type blindfold, and then walked along the table to the other side while holding onto the hands of the audience. He read again from his tenure review once he reached the opposite side of the table. He crossed the table again to unroll a large oil cloth banner that read "Beautiful Photo" and covered the table. At some point his pants came off, and he danced back across the table to the strains of Borderline by Madonna revealing glittery star pasties that were underneath his shirt. Thomas seemingly plucked a random audience member from the audience to join him. This turned out to be Alex Stein. An exchange ensued between the two. Stein held a plastic rifle over his head, becoming Chris Kyle. Stein asked if he really had to take off his shorts (he had already taken off his pants). When told he did not, Stein reversed the exchange. Taking a seat at the end of the table, he repeated the dialogue from the beginning of the performance. The piece concluded, more or less, with Stein removing two more star pasties that Thomas has placed on his t shirt while he held the rifle earlier. Stein closed the book and the tenure review was over. 

The Lucky Pierre website home page includes a quotation from Antonio Gramsci: 

The crisis consists precisely of the fact that the old is dying and new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great number of morbid symptoms appear.

This quotation, from which Thomas/Lucky Pierre has taken the title of his upcoming gallery show/performance at Roman Susan Gallery June 10-30,  can apply as well to American Slut, a performance about queerness that finds itself in a strange place of the queer and not so queer, the past and the future, and the interregnum in which all seems chaotic. In a tenure review that is never resolved or passed, Thomas asks us to consider where we are going and what we want to become.

Alison Crocetta and Peter Reese

Crocetta and Reese initially performed On and On in the Electrodes Window Gallery at the first DFB location in 2014. For Rapid Pulse 17, they became a living music box. Standing on an elegant spinning platform with handles that they used to turn themselves, the artists, dressed simply in matching brown clothing with metal megaphones attached to their heads, sang the the song that never ends. 

We started singing it aware of what it was
And we'll continue singing it forever just because
This is the song that never ends
It just goes on and on my friends

No one knew when and if the song actually ended as the audience was asked to leave after about 45 minutes. It was an understated and elegant piece that addressed duration, the voice, longing, and desire without anything much happening.

Sarah Grabner on Crocetta and Reese

Eli K Gold

For Rapid Pulse 17, Eli K Gold, or Eli Kabir, set up a border checkpoint in the basement of Rapid Pulse. In this case the border crossed was that of the festival. Audience members who left the Crocetta and Reese performance were asked to walk out to the back of the building where they were confronted by a border patrol agent and a barking dog wearing a vest that said "working dog." As people walked past the "agent" they were told to not pet the dog, and commanded to wait quietly in the holding area. Eventually the audience was told to walk single file down the basement steps, where they again were asked to wait in a long underground corridor. One by one, people were called forward and asked to produce their driver's license or some other form of id. They were questioned about their participation in the festival and their knowledge of DFB and either permitted to enter the basement proper or told to return to the back of the line. Unlike people who are actually detained or are refugees, the audience members were able to leave at any time. But the entire process showed the degree to which we as a group comply with those in authority as well as suggesting the completely arbitrary nature of who is, and who is not, admitted.

Sarah Grabner on Eli K. Gold

Video Program: Re-Imagining/Re-Imaging

ATOM-r and Julia Pello, Sandrine Schaefer, Jess Dobkin, Shana Moulton, Endam Nihan, Andrei Venghiac

The Video Program for Day 2 was much lighter than the previous evening. It kicked off with the sumptuous Kjell Theøry (pictured below) by ATOM-r and Julia Pello. Other highlights included Jess Dobkin's singing vagina/Neil Diamond. For more information on the video series, click here.

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