Performance (Career Ender) presented at The Kitchen
Performance(Career Ender) is one of those shows that comes along every once in a great while and makes you reassess the whole nature and purpose of performance. It is as aesthetically and experientially provocative as it is grounded in performance and media theory. It’s the stuff of dissertations.
If this is indeed the last work of her performance career, it is both a fitting summary and a logical conclusion. All the Wampler hallmarks are here. Notions of presence and absence. The disappearance of the artist. And audience plants —oh the audience plants. Any number of them are scattered throughout the crowd. A spastic young man in the front spends the entire performance obnoxiously rocking out on his “air drums.” A woman offers candy to those around her. Another woman in the back row laughs too long and too loud at every on-stage provocation. A young man carrying a very large sculptural hobo-bindle meanders through the crowd searching for a seat. Entire portions of the audience disappear by walking out of the show.
Wampler’s mixing of the live and the mediated is also a big part of this performance. In the middle of the stage stands a drum set, a keyboard, and a cardboard sculpture onto which is projected the image of a bass guitar and large amplifier. Eventually, the video begins and this signals the beginning of the show. The projected images of local rock upstart John Carpenter (bass guitar, lead vocals) and his two band mates, Joey Albanese (drums), and Debbie Chou (piano), permeate through the dense smoke coming from the fog machine. The spatial configuration of the onstage objects (drums, keyboard, cardboard sculpture) creates a visual harmony with the projection—the mediated “on-screen” objects align precisely with the actual on-stage objects. The intermittent vapor allows the projections to become completely three-dimensional, giving the band members a ghostly translucent life in spite of their physical absence.
The video shows the band rehearsing a new song. We get an insider’s view on the art-making process: the sparks of ideas, the missed harmonies, the boredom, the goofing off, the improvisations, the la-la-las that substitute for eventual lyrics. We also see John Carpenter, who begins the rehearsal session dressed in a nice white suit, strip down to silver underwear. The band runs the song multiple times, each time improving. On their final run-through they are firing on all cylinders. The song is completely infectious and ultimately worth the 40-minute journey it took to get here. With the final bass guitar burst they leave their instruments and walk off camera. The exit is met with applause. Yet the audience still feels unfulfilled. They want the band. And they want them live!
When the actual band eventually comes on stage they receive an outrageous ovation. And why not? They’ve created a built-in fan base. They step up to their instruments and proceed to bring the house down. The audience claps, stomps the bleachers, dances in their seats, and sings along (by now they know every word). The audience screams encore, but there is no other song for them to sing.
When was the last time an art performance invoked this much vitality in the audience? If this reaction has been what Wampler’s art has been searching for, then it explains why she has appropriated rock & roll. It also explains why she has chosen to do this—
performance—to performance. Rock’s ability to induce sensorial immediacy and sensorial overload is something that dance, theater, and visual art performance cannot easily or adequately duplicate. The cultural currency value of rock music is something that performance cannot compete against. It exhausts itself in the attempt. Performance, as Wampler has so teasingly pointed to, ultimately gets crossed out.
Mathew Sandoval is a performance writer, practitioner, and philosopher.
Monsieur Zohore with Claude Wampler
MARCH 2023 | Critics Page
Monsieur Zohore with Claude Wampler
from The Nature BookBy Tom Comitta
MARCH 2023 | Fiction
Darwin discovered that evolution proceeds with neither direction nor purpose. The natural world is largely indifferent to plan or plot. Yet we, story-seeking creatures that we are, see the world around us as more completed, more accomplished, than what came before. Tom Comitta’s The Nature Book explores these tensions by stitching together hundreds of fragments in the history of literary writing about the natural worldthis excerpt alone is a collage of ninety-seven novels ranging from Hawthorne to Arundhati Roy. Though the text of The Nature Book is a polyphonic effort of writers, humans are absent from the actual story. In this seamless anthology, we forget that the experience of reading about nature is mediated by human voices and, when suspended in the text, succumb to the magical illusion that we are perceiving the world in itself.
Thinking with the Body: Dance and Performance at the 13th Gwangju BiennaleBy Emily May
MARCH 2021 | Dance
This years Gwangju Biennale, set to take place in Gwangju, South Korea in April, includes the work of two celebrated choreographers, Trajal Harrell and Cecilia Bengolea. Through interviews with these dance artists and the biennales curators, Emily May explores the history of Gwangju; the organizing theme of Intelligence and the Expanded Mind; and the prominence of performance in the program.
Helen Frankenthaler: Drawing within Nature: Paintings From The 1990sBy Robert C. Morgan
MARCH 2023 | ArtSeen
The exhibition of Helen Frankenthalers paintings from the early 1990s currently on view at Gagosian is a curious and provocative one. The shows title, Drawing within Nature, was a phrase once used by the artist to describe her work, which has been appropriated by the scholar Thomas Crow, who contributes an essay to the exhibition catalogue.