July 17th, 2009 → 2 Comments
The trails of Space Shuttle Endeavor as seen from New Smyrna Beach.
It’s my last full day at this three-week residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts and it’s been a full and idea-filled three weeks but I must say, I am ready to go home.
I’m bug eaten, 10 pounds heavier, attempted to watch the shuttle launch twice before a real lift-off, and I’ve not gotten much of my own creative work done. I’ve seen so much craziness that if I don’t get a grip on reality soon, I may start smoking crack. I also randomly started work on a screenplay… which is kind of in a swirl now but if I get the time to keep working on it, it should look pretty good.
Everyone here is running around with cameras, projectors, or big messy props… and I found myself focused inward and just focusing on getting writing done. This particular residency is very active and distracting because we’re made up of solo performers and performance artists (very needy and need attention), video artists (very nerdy and need space), and experimental composers (very noisy and need noise).
I think I said the best line this week is when I asked the master artist-in-residence, experimental composer Mark Applebaum: “So when reviewing work samples, how do you distinguish bad experimental composition from VERY bad experimental compostion?”
(Relax folks, he laughed.)
It’s a group that knows no conventions or rules. And there’s trash everywhere that people are using for their projects. I have just relinquished my hoarding ways in this move to Silverlake, so it’s hard to watch so many of these artists accumulate so much crap for use in their work. A few artists drove from across the country so they could have their cars handy to drive to stores to buy things for projects and drag the stuff they make back home. The thrift stores here are insane (imagine how many retirees are dropping dead every second in Florida and the stuff they leave behind). I don’t want to become a walking Sanford and Son again, so now when I travel, I purposely pack small carry-on sized bags to prevent accumulation.
One of the locals agrees to be a kitschy prop for my photo.
Tonight, we’re putting on a showing of our works-in-progress for what will probably be about 30 residents in the local community and it’s turning into a full on carnival of video projections and walk through performances. Chaos everywhere and I’m not sure how many of the artists (including myself) will get to see each others’ work. I’ve opted to do something I never do in performance situations– scale the f*ck down. I’m doing a five minute character based scene that I’ll perform alone. With no props, no projections, no audience interaction, and no signature overhead projector. For the first time in my entire life, I feel like the most simple and conventional artist of the entire lot. Next thing you know I’ll be doing hokey one person multi-character shows where I educate people about diversity and how we’re all the same inside. (“There’s only one race folks. Human.”)
My project tonight is modest. I am having folks audition to be “the pick up artist” and I’ll possibly use the footage to be part of my development for CAT LADY. I have scripts from pick-up artist instruction manuals that people will read on-camera like audition sides. Just borrowing a camera, tripod, etc is becoming a ridiculous ordeal. There are some people here who know how to sodder machines together to make movement sensitive lights. I can’t even find a freaking tripod for my fake audition.
Last night Brian Feldman (Think of him as Orlando, FL’s balder, broker, and more brilliant version of David Blaine, if David Blaine didn’t actually have magic powers but just an intense need to put himself in strange situations for long stretches of time) started yet another project here. He decided to jump for 24 straight hours in the amphitheater. Mind you, it’s Florida in the Summer so the amphitheater is full of bugs, very humid, and lonely.
Why would someone do something so seemingly organ-failure inducing?
Well, duh, because he was trying to enact the situation from an obscure film created by an Italian filmmaker who was in residence here 10 years ago. In that obscure film, the artist describes jumping up and down for 24 hours straight. He didn’t actually do this in real life, but for the plot of the film, he does. So Brian thought he’d reference it using the same area of the compound as the Italian artist.
It seemed very amusing and like it might be fun to watch Brian hopping up and down at 4am. But I guess we (well, mostly he he) did not factor in that staying up 24 hours straight causes delirium and for even the most motivated of artists, is a task that is not actually physically possible. Even with breaks (especially if you have not slept the night before), it’s completely and totally physically dangerous and could cause death.
At lunch before Brian started, I became concerned. Brian was carbing up with wet noodles and bread. Add to all of this… Brian is a vegan too– yes, that’s right, a vegan jumping non-stop for 24 hrs (Eat your heart out drunk guy who lost his arm when he went swimming in a swamp of alligators) ! Brian was eating with his bare hands. He was shaking and his eyes were flittering back and forth– he hadn’t slept the night before because he was working so hard on preparing for this piece.
I normally am so embroiled in my nutsy productions that I can’t help do production for other people, but I found myself saying to him, “Ok, please dude, let me help you. ” I bought him VHS tapes at Walmart so he could document the jumping on this old camcorder for two hours at a time. Mind you, I just shed dozens of new VHS tapes at last month’s yard sale, so having to buy more was heartbreaking. Brian had no money, so I just bought them for him, and now he says I have full rights to the work. (Yay, I’m rich?)
PTA Mom of performance art, I also helped Dawn Weleski sew her costume. She’s another one of the artists who is doing 6 million things while she is here. Her project is her going around dressed as Dr. Andrew Turnbull, the founder of New Smyrna Beach, FL and doing historical re-enactments of his journey in public areas around the city. She got kicked out of the Publix but for some reason, the people at the local pub took to her quite well.
Here’s Dawn as Dr. Turnbull at a bar telling the locals about her contributions to New Smyrna Beach.
When we returned to the compound at 1am, I became very concerned about Brian who had been jumping for over five hours. He was clutching his stomach saying that he was cramping, and a few times would kneel in ways that looked like he was collapsing. I’d scream, “Brian! Brian!” And he’d get up and say, “Don’t take a picture of this!” And give his minimum jump per minute.
The fans were blowing on either side of him, it was hard for him to hear, plus he was delirious, and he was wearing sunglasses (as the actor does in the film being referenced in the piece). I’d scream, “Brian, you don’t have to do this all night.” And he’d mutter, “No, I can keep doing this” and punctuate it with a very sickly jump.
I imagined us at 4am, someone coming to check on Brian, him collapsed on a pedastal. And us having to explain to the paramedic:
“Ok, so what happened here? He looks exhausted, malnourished and he’s balding.”
“Listen, he wanted to jump up and down for 24 hours straight. I guess he had already been doing it for 7 hours before he collapsed.”
“Why was he jumping up and down so long? Is he mentally ill?”
“No mentally ill people aren’t as theatrically lit and thoroughly self-documented as Brian is. This was art.”
“It was art?”
“You see, he was trying to re-enact this fake performance in the video.”
“You mean like kids who jump out of windows so they can fly like TV superheroes?”
“Yes, but in a post post meta way, yes.”
It was turning very quickly into a bad sitcom. He was smelling of sweat from 25 feet away. He was clutching his stomach in pain. He was wobbling. It was at first amusing to watch, then exhausting, then worrisome.
I pulled Heather aside and said, “We can’t let this continue. This is seriously a lawsuit waiting to happen. I was shaking watching him. He’s going to die. If I have to throw him over my shoulder and tie him into a bed I will.”
And then I thought, hmmm… maybe this is what Brian wanted. It wasn’t art. It was getting women to fetch him fans and water to cool him down, to update his twitter for him, and insist with sweet coddling voices, “Please Brian Feldman, go to bed. Please we need you to go to bed.”
The women gathered round him. And after what was apparently, quite an intervention, and a lot of reasoning that “Yes Brian, it’s still art, even if it wasn’t for 24 full hours,” he was coaxed to bed.
After speculation at lunch that he might be dead, I am happy to report that Brian Feldman is alive and scheming. And he’s planning to resume jumping as people arrive for tonight’s festivities. And next week that crazy SOB plans to stay inside a Vegan restaurant in Orlando (what may be up to five days) until he’s eaten every item off the menu. This means he will be sleeping and passing waste in the same space 600 square feet until he’s eaten every dish they offer.
This can only illuminate the Vegan lifestyle.
Tonight, we are singing a duet of “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” as part of his redux of “Under the Covers”… the site-specific cabaret in his room where all the singing is done under the sheets.
And then I get to go home.
Oh! I’m counting down.