—>Beth Heinly steps us through a series of 17 performances over two nights that took place at Little Berlin in July, 2013. Garbage World included local and national artist/performers and if you’re trying to figure out how art performance differs from theater performance, like we are, you will find Beth’s write-up and the photos she took helpful. –the artblog editors—————————–>
Anything goes was the evening’s sentiment at “Garbage World NEVER NOTHING NOW” at Little Berlin, last July 26 and 27, the 7th installment of Garbage World. The two day festival featured 17 performances, giving you a broad insight into contemporary performance art practice. The underlying theme throughout the Garbage Fest was either using the body in a ritualistic act involving food or using the body in a dissected narrative involving food. Food or not, a penchant for mess, bodily fluids and subversive behavior was all embraced at Garbage World. Though Garbage World is seemingly un-curated, each night of the Fest delightfully coalesced, perhaps adding validity to Shakespeare’s famous adage, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players.”
Some background — Garbage World is a performance series curated and hosted by performance artist Eileen Doyle, who as master of ceremonies goes by the name Gertie Garbage. The Garbage World stage has gone through many phases, in basements, theaters, and art galleries, each time bordering on pandemonium — with permission from the landlord of course. Coincidently, Brooklyn’s International Performance Art Festival synchronized with Garbage Fest 2, and within the sphere of celebrating performance art the audience was ripe to consume.
Gertie Garbage, your evening’s host, day one
Initiating the start of the Garbage Fest was Gertie Garbage. She walked out in clear-plastic stripper heels wearing a half-pink, half-purple wig, a sequined mask and some sort of doily that was supposedly a dress. She was holding a cake that said, “I’ve lost all hope.” As she wandered around the gallery the audience trailed behind her as if Gertie were their only refuge. Like a pleasant hostess she demurely thanked everyone for coming before spastically screaming, “I SHOULD BE GOOD AT THIS BY NOW!!!!” throwing her cake against the aluminum-foiled wall. Perhaps covering the walls in tinfoil was not the Garbage Fest’s overarching display of post-modern ideologies, but a mere convenience, like, you know, tinfoil. Amidst her tantrum Gertie kicked off one of her stripper heels and confidently circled on one heel and one bare foot while announcing the upcoming performances.
The atmosphere was all the more jaunty where the audience was both spectator and participant. You found you were constantly being cued to play along. There were no chairs, a random wall in the middle of the gallery and a stage that was constantly being moved around the gallery for each performance, that is, if the performer chose to use a stage. You were forced to move if you wanted to watch. By the end I felt bonded with everyone who had attended the spectacle we had survived.
One performance that was exemplary was Reverend Eric Clark’s “Bitter Tantrum.” (See YouTube clip above.) Eric stripped down naked and dove into a long plastic bag filled with balloons and then proceeded to crawl around the room popping balloons in the process. The audience proceeded to follow him, stomping and popping the balloons as he slithered across the floor until there was nothing left, but himself, naked, trying to squeeze out of the plastic bag on the floor, something that resembled a calf being born. The only noise heard during the performance was balloons popping and the mischievous laughter emanating from the audience. There was no clear cue to spur you to pop the balloons, except the prospect of seeing Eric naked. The noise of Eric popping the balloons I’m sure spurred the audience as well. Later I noticed Eric had a black eye undoubtedly from a popped balloon in the face.
Two performances, fetishes galore
Jake Dibeler’s piece entitled, “Fuck You Andrew” incorporated creative writing, pop music and performance. Andrew is described as the person responsible for Jake’s recent knee injury that led to his performance being completely changed and performed seated. Jake sat between two folding chairs dressed in his tighty-whities and white tshirt, his braced-leg delicately propped up on a feathered pillow. The props set out on stage were a knife, Hershey’s chocolate syrup, a can of Pepsi, and an aloe plant. Facing the computer screen he proceeded to read what could be described as his journal, though it was disjointed with phrases like “I’ve heard people say you should practice stabbing people using a pillow, so that you can get used to the feeling of a blade penetrating flesh.”
While reading aloud to the audience he contemplatively smoked a cigarette using his underwear as an ashtray, and then, smiling, he put the cigarette put out on his wrist. A sacrifice. Thankfully there was an aloe plant on stand by. Skipping between his narrating Jake plays and sings along to pop music and first up is SVW “Rain,” cue Hershey’s chocolate syrup. While singing he was pouring the chocolate syrup over his head. No really. A perfect mashup. A chocolate rain. Before this he had chugged a whole can of Pepsi then threw it at the wall at the precise spot Gertie had thrown her cake. After covering oneself in chocolate syrup what could come next?
Jake’s clever writing foreshadows the inevitable where he begins to stab the feather pillow thus tar and feathering himself. You can imagine how I did not see this coming. The conclusion, Mariah Carey’s “I Can’t Live Without You,” was an homage to Jake Dibeler’s audience. He then crawled on the floor and on his back pushed himself through the seated crowd fervently belting, “I can’t live if living without you! I can’t give, I can’t give anymore!!!” I believe the room was buzzing at this point.
A parallel to Jake Dibeler’s piece was Will Haughery and Kris Harzinski’s “Something About Party.” In their respective viewpoints both performances have a proclivity towards homosexual identity. Jake Dibeler’s performance was a window into his imagined bedroom where Will and Kris’s performance offered a glimpse into leather bar subculture.
Will and Kris’s performance opened with a folding table covered with a sheer black tablecloth. Kris and Will lay out their props: two cans of Coors, two stainless steel tumblers full of whiskey, a white flag, a black flag, a leather belt, a knife, a jar of Crisco and a jar of Nutella. Kris and Will are wearing white tshirts and in their underwear though instead of whitey-tighties it’s grey boxer briefs, which become eventually a functional part of the performance. The sheer black tablecloth may as well be part costume, as it playfully suggests peeking in a voyeuristic way and/or interprets as them wearing black stockings.
After setting the table Kris picked up the leather belt and strapped it around Will’s neck then bent him over on the table. Kris picked up the knife and cut into Will’s tshirt. Will repeated the acts on Kris. They then meet eye to eye and rip each other’s shirts off. I was wondering at this point if it’s wrong being a selfdescribed heterosexual female and turned on by the display of flagrantly violent homosexual behavior being played out before me. Whatever. The acts, the props, it’s all so intentional screaming of fetish.
Eventually the pair linked by weaving the flags through each other’s underwear and they began to exchange in bodily embrace smearing Nutella and Crisco over one another. The flags showed that this performance was an act of ceremony and, as a whole, ritualistic. Kris covered in Crisco and Will in Nutella they each took a finger to the other to taste. They seemed like one clump as they simultaneously took a shot of whiskey. Still clumped together, the finale was pouring Coors on one another. A citywide special. At the end they awkwardly exited, walking off sideways still connected by the flags.
Performance puts the audience in the present moment
One exciting part of performance art is using the body to help place the performer and audience in a present moment. This particular sensibility is a highlight of the Garbage World series (I smell a sequel). Scent is an effective way to do this, and chocolate in general is a favorite consumable in performance due to its visual similarity to fecal matter and its strong sweet odor. Chocolate was at the forefront of quite a few performances in Garbage World 7, which led me to ask Will his reason for choosing Nutella. It was explained to me that Will has a fondness for Nutella and that Crisco is ceremoniously used to aid anal fisting. It’s no doubt that Hershey’s chocolate syrup’s liquid viscosity served Jake well.
Theater is the predecessor of performance art
Because of the audience, theater is arguably the predecessor to performance art. Adam Rose’s performance entitled “Free Fallen” was exemplary of theater, based on his personification of a character and separation from the audience. You were not present in the gallery space in the same way you were for the other performances, but transported to someone’s back porch. Adam Rose was on stage standing with a wicker chair flexing his entire body and face. His eyes were rolling around nervously. Adam was wearing no shirt and was covered in baby oil, which exaggerated his uncomfortable posture. His jeans were cut in the middle like he was attempting to make cutoffs and lazily left the bottoms. Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin” began to play at an anxiously slow pace.
Interludes of sound included crickets chirping, and you began to understand you were in the middle of nowhere watching this hillbilly stereotype going through some sort of nervous drunken breakdown. Finally, the scene came to climax when Adam began taking his intensity out on a wicker chair rather his own body or perhaps the destruction of the chair was both. After destroying the wicker chair Adam exited, leaving the audience in the room feeling apprehensive. Adam’s performance paired with music and nature sounds from middle America effectively painted a picture of a country boy gone awry. There was no dialog yet you were transported to a specific place and time by means of just a performer, music and a chair. You were captivated by what might happen and what had happened. Did he lose his job? Have a fight with a lover? In the end it’s not really any of your business, you were just watching. The audience was most certainly the voyeur.
The following night Garbage World 7 NEVER NOTHING NOW opened with Alexandra Jo Sutton’s piece, “A Study in Becoming.” Projected on the gallery wall was a black and white video depicting house cats in being, well, house cats. There was a comical melancholy-like music accompanying the video and I only first noticed Alexandra topless wearing black boxer briefs sitting on a bag at someone’s feet. I knew at once what this study in becoming was all about, and from there we all watched in wide-eyed wonder as Alexandra wandered around the gallery space, ate food from her bowl and cleaned herself. Perhaps my moment of self-awareness appeared once I realized that watching my own cats was much better. Though Alexandra’s performance as a cat was spot on, her performance displayed humankind as well, especially humanity’s collective obsession with cats. I could not help but perceive the spectacle of the audience and not Alexandra. Through her pretending, I was able to achieve consciousness.
If you are still reading this, Bravo! I could not write about each of the 17 performances without giving them their deserved critical attention. The Garbage Fest had ten performances Day 1 and seven performances Day 2. To read more about the performances go to gertiegarbage.tumblr.com.