I’m not talking about alcoholism, or binge drinking, or morning sneaks in your coffee- I’m talking about the REASON behind your minimal intake of alcoholic beverages and/or a valium or Klonopin, two hours on a treadmill, surfing the web, cleaning behind the oven three times a day, meditating, ironing your hair, redecorating, knitting, painting, writing, skiing, especially cross-country, lawn maintenance, coffee house lingering, earning a living. It’s all about time and boredom. The excrutiating boredom that comes from actually being still and clear headed in the midst of “it” – by “it” I mean, all of “it” — the endless, life-stuffed crap that attacks your sanity from your first waking moment until that glorious moment when you are under the sedation of a sleep state. Now, sure, there are positive and beautiful things about life….as the dolts insist on reminding us– oh, the sunset, your dreams come true, your child admitted to an Ivy league institution, your ability to convince yourself that you are somehow unique from the rest of the schelps that have taken part in the world circus. You may have come to terms with your accessories, and gas guzzling monster of a vehicle, your charity events, your artistic angst, your off-the-grid status and organic consistencies. Your simple struggles to be a good person. It’s all founded on your ingenius ability to rationalize, and deny, and squeeze your diseased brain into a survivalist tube. Let me just say that if you are not bored stiff with it all, people you regard as friends are bored stiff with you and wouldn’t spend a moment exchanging pleasantries unless they hoped to uprung themselves or at least have the opportunity to experience their disgust and boredom over your generous dinner party five courses. How can a person compete with the hoards who conform to the standards that are rewarded with so many worldly goodies, foremost being your score, your high ranking, which allows you to connect with other high ranking individuals who, trusting your discretion and dull demands, reward you with enough shrimp dip and the possibility of accepting your into their womb of bougeouise comforts, that, hell, who can say no? the problem is, the boredom of their conformism. It is deadly. It can kill your spirit, – you trade your spirit for a few charming dinner parties, or maybe a starring role, and yet, the boredom is excrutiating and takes its toll on your health and desperate search for autenticity. The ego’s– the soft ego’s hidden behind two goodie two shoes- marching in a row- do they have any idea how stupid they are? The sheep, in the condos, with the season tickets to the community theater, after all, their name is engraved on one of dozens of bricks paving the way, up the stairs, to the safe, solid, non confrontational theatrical performance- the price of the brick is worth the comfort of considering that one is a part of the artistic angst, the suffering of the artist, anything to disway them from the fact that they are boring as cabbages, conforming to the dullard standards of that which has already been deemed within the bounds of acceptability. Let’s put it this way. You are either fooled or not fooled. You can either support the mediocrity or stay home and read a good book. But it’s the boredom, I understand, that keeps you bouncing from one lecture to another safe theatrical adventure- in the name of sanity- your own sanity, so you are not reminded of your fear of the unknown, the cutting edge, the truth. take comfort, you are the majority and the majority will salve your midnight concerns of conformism. I can’t blame you. But still, you bore me to death and I will avoid you and your cheer leading process, your slick posters and tired reviews, your continuous regurgiation of that which has already been retired as old, yesterday, not worth a dime, not worthy of our time, for time is finite- and there lies the dilemma. to be alone, knowing that the circus continues serving up the goodies of the moment, and still refusing to participate, becoming a pariah, an outcast, and it wouldn’t be so difficult, really, if it weren’t so powerful.. the draw– the siren song of acceptability, the comfort derived from the after theater discussions- the art magazine review, the society page photo- Can art be created in a vacuum? I will soon find out.
The moon was fat and floating in a bed of pink but it was overshadowed by Irene Lawrence, Cassandra Tribe and Judith Tolnick-Champa discussing book prologues. Irene had sent a request to a famous writer, asking that he consider writing an introduction to her book, Judith had been on the telephone for an hour wih another writer who wanted Judith to write an introduction for HER book, Cassandra had a couple of books under her belt and so had insightful suggestions for both Judith and Irene, and I just sat there and ate macaroni salad thinking about my unfinished book- still stuffed inside a cardboard box in my closet. It was no matter to me. The three powerful women sitting in my apartment under the July 4th moon made me feel momentarily irrelevent, joyously so. Irrelevence is the cure for hubris, and I have found that my “artists agenda” has lately taken me far from genuine curiosity, clear observation, life “as is” – for its own sake. In an over-processed world, I over-process myself and my work- striving to be a pulsing, thriving mission statement instead of a woman eating macaroni before pushing a doggie stroller down the street to Waterfire.
I think too much. I process too little. Last night, after taking a picture of the bulbous swooning moon, and listening to the smart girls figure out how to manuever themselves through another creative pin-hole, I wanted to stop thinking. I wanted to simply “be” without being somebody. Just breathe and eat macaroni salad. The salad was pretty good because I put double pesto sauce on it and high quality parmesean cheese, and the girls seemed to like it. But then Irene gave me a painting. It was so beautiful, so real, as I gripped it in both hands, and thought, mine…mine…why? — I wanted to leave and reenter the room as another me, the me I could be when I cared and in caring could manifest a masterpiece of equal worth.
Cassandra was discussing ways to multiply blog readership numbers, Judith was discussing the critical nature of the literary interview, Irene answered a question about her use of linen canvas. It was stimulating, valuable information. It was just the way I wanted my living room to buzz. But I was tired. In fact, I realized I had been tired for about ten years, from about the time I’d abandoned the book to the cardboard box.
We walked to Waterfire. The moon followed us as the sky darkened and the fires were orange, spurting blurs of warmth that shown on hundreds of tired faces and the faces were upturned to the fires, eyes closed. The moon shone on the water, and hundreds of people were walking and laughing or sitting and leaning against each other, eyes closed. The mile of Water fires, 80 odd blazing signatures of one man, moved the night and took everyone with them and we were all floating under the dry white moon, and I think everyone was remembering, at the same time, that we had nowhere to go and nothing we really had to do.
Things I’ll do before I sit down to write: almost anything. Delayed gratification is not an option for me because I do not believe that tomorrow ever comes. So why would I do anything that requires waiting for a pay off, or worse yet, work on anything without a guarantee that I will reap some reward? I hear many drummer’s and they’re all playing a different tune. My mind jumps, so a good friend is bribing me to write a book. He is bribing me with cash per finished chapter. My response to this Pavlovian exercise has been astounding. All I have to do is write a chapter, and then another chapter, and each time I finish a chapter, I get a reward, whether or not the chapters are good, whether or not the book sells. I am just writing the book — not worrying about whether it’s good or whether it will sell. I am off my own back. Because my sponsor has no conditions other than finishing a chapter before a payment, I just sit down and the words roll out of me from an entirely different place than usual. I am free to just write the book and a book is evolving without an outline. This good friend is not a money-bag, which makes this arrangement all the more poignant. Suddenly I feel tangible– which makes me realize that I do not think of myself as authentic. More of a poltergeist, floating above a past of futile effort, bad luck, bad timing, false starts, failures heaped and hidden behind a sardonic sense of the world that I have lost faith in. I’ll admit it: I have lost hope. I feel I have some ancient Irish curse on my head which prevents me from any monetary success. And of course, now I am addicted to the money struggles– which take up a huge part of the day– just the worry and fret of it — and the time and energy it takes to worry about money detracts from the time I have to fail again. Failure takes time. You have to work at something to fail successfully. You have to dream. You have to methodically and courageously participate in that dream. You have to brainwash yourself into believing in the dream. There’s no room for second guessing or mindless worry. My past weighs so heavy on me. A realist, I don’t believe in the tooth fairy or destiny. I did, yes, long ago. Hey, look at me. I should be writing a chapter now instead of discussing why I wouldn’t bother writing a chapter if not for my Fairy Godfather.
It has come to my attention that I am being overlooked for no good reason -except that I speak out of context. I’ve had it with you charlatans. Sure this photo is 20 years old, but I will not be intimidated by your unwarranted envy. A few injections of Botox and a box of hair dye, and Voila! I’m back, so don’t count me out yet. Paul Geremia, the infamous blues musician, wrote a song about me on his “Devil something” album called “Same Old Wagon” but listen, Paul, it’s everyone else refusing to lay their wagon down, not me. Heavy with cocktail chatter and silk scarf techniques, always the jewelry or convertible, the child at Yale, the lover in Rio, the thick name droppings on the floor. Their eyes are usually too close together, like a Fox dressed in finery. Self esteem stems from a homemade apple tart, one-act play treatise, fund-raising chairmanship. They sniff out the real and deflate it. There are lessons my mother never taught me that cannot be obtained from self-help books. The real “Secret” is how they accomplish it. How low is the bar?
It is terrible that I didn’t get a good picture of Rick’s art work. It is out of this hemisphere. If only George Bush attended the gallery opening and saw the frosty blank faced soldiers, stiff in their plastic uniforms, pulled off the sale table at the local Toy’s R Us, installed and photographed and manipulated by an artist deeply connected to the reality of his time. kill, kill, kill, in a frozen sea. Kill with a frosty heart. Bliss, the soldier in uniform, with his clear cut orders and starched plastic uniform. Anonymous, he marches through the frozen dead souls of past tense heroes of foreign wars. the medals on his chest are rubber, bumpy, as army green as his body, frozen in combat, no before, no after, a continual murder machine on ice, chilled to the bone with pride, mommie has a bumper sticker: My Son is a Marine. Mommie has encouraged the crucifixion of her son for the sake of her bake sale ego. Ice crystals reflect the truth, as they melt in Global Warming trends, mommie cries. Rickhayesvt.com
Over and over, in your head, you say, what have I done? What have I done? What have I done? Standing in front of a bureau drawer you’ve been cleaning out, discovering your dead father’s driver’s license or a black and white photo of yourself, at a beach, standing knee-high to that father. You shut the drawer and go on. Maybe clean out the linen closet. Too late. The image of the face on the plastic weathered driver’s license is now lodged in the middle of your throat and when you swallow, the image sinks deeper and cuts into your center, the center from which all activity and motivation spring forth, and you want to sit down but the image might kill you, so you open the linen closet. Mice turds and urine sprinkled throughout the sheets and towels. The mice have eaten holes in your favorite sheets. Hands rip at the mess, pile it in the car for a later trip to the laundry. A temporary respite from the jabbing ache of longing, regret, loss, loss, loss. And you think, all is lost, so why bother washing the sheets? Dangerous thinking. Phone call from daughter driving a U-Haul cross country alone. Her cat is freaking out in the truck and has pissed on the seats, in her purse, on her lap. Ah, a problem, a smooth-out time-out. The gift of an unsolvable problem of the now. Will I have to pay to have the truck cleaned, she asks? Does vehicle insurance pay for cat piss cleaning? I offer to call the U-Haul people. There are no U-Haul people, just U-Haul recordings. What have I done? What have I done? Why am I standing in the middle of the living room asking what have I done? What does that mean? I have no idea. What am I going to do? What happened? What is happening? What is this? What is what? Let’s not walk to the mailbox today. Let’s not clean out any more drawers. I brush the mattes from the dogs paws. Mud season. Futile. The brush in my hand is weightless, the dog seems unreal, like a stuffed animal. In my head, full color, my father’s face on the driver’s license, resigned but dignified. One eye droops from a growing cancer of which he is unaware. Date of birth. Safe driver. Frayed, dirtied edges of plastic, a small square of plastic, impersonal, lawfully executed. My father is gone. And I will be gone. And my daughter may find my driver’s license in a drawer and your daughter or son may find your driver’s license in a drawer. But after all, we’re going to be dead and that’s perfectly natural. The lesson is: when we feel concern about mice eating our sheets, traffic jams, a neighbor’s gossip, lost job, bad credit, the inevitable broken heart, we can rest assured that someday all that will be left of us and our concerns is our driver’s license and maybe a building, some money, a novel, a good deed, our children’s and friend’s memories of our shenanigans. And so I suggest, don’t play it so safe. Live and die large. Fail large. What our children need are good stories about outrageous people who were ahead of their time. Be ahead of your time and make the discovery of your driver’s license in a drawer a cause for celebration and laughter.
There are no rules to break with performance art, because there aren’t any. This would lead one to assume that it is a farce. Sometimes it is.
Performance art encompasses so much territory that it almost consumes itself. Anything goes, and that includes an artist not showing up. I have a friend in Berlin who actually posts elaborate, expensive posters for his shows and does not show up to perform. People pay admission, sit down and wait for something to happen. And things do happen. A room full of strangers, for the most part, sit and start talking to each other. With time on their hands, frustration and confusion in their brains, they try to collectively figure out what happened. When they exit, they are given double their money back. Sometimes this artist has the whole thing taped. It has now become somewhat of a “happening” in and of itself. A party. A place to meet people who like performance art and discuss issues of the day.
I offer this example because I think it conveys what we’re dealing with. If you think you “have the right” to the normal expectations of an audience member, you’re mistaken. And that, I think, is the main difference between “legitimate” theater and performance art and cabaret — a form of performance art that always includes music and signing. Continue reading