Five-point-nine-nine-nine of Six

ONE MORE SLEEP! OMW! One more night and then I have to put myself into that performance space in the gallery as terrifying as that may be. My forty day fast is almost done and hopefully the sheer bloody-mindness, force of will that it has taken to see it through will see me into the gallery, into my installation and before the audience. I certainly feel purified, cleansed…sparse and emptied, both physically and spiritually, as though elevated and detached from my form (small “f”). The final trial will be faced then…the ritual performance I have created as metaphor, and physical and visual representation of my concept of gender and masculinity as a performance.

Below: This has been my “food” for my 40-day fast – it looks like pond water but doesn’t taste quite as bad.

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Below: my installation almost done

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Below: some pre-performance press in the local newspaper

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Five of Six

Oh, man! Yikes, one week to go until my performance piece at the artSPACE durban Gallery! My installation is completed and I have delivered it to the gallery where it will be installed on the afternoon of 29th October, just prior to my performance. I am so AMPED! You know when you are at a funfair, and you gave gotten into a rollercoaster car and the safetybar has locked you in? You are aimed at the sky, clacking up that seemingly endless steep incline. That feeling of panic, fear, exhilaration and anticipation as you reach the peak and start tilting downward, facing that virtually 90 degree drop, straight down! Oh! Here comes gravity! There is a split second when you experience a moment of complete and utter calm… and then…release…and the rush as you hurtle downward, all control surrendered to the momentum, and the moment, and the purity of uncontrolled, unrestricted experience. This is what it is like to be a performance artwork. Gary Oldman describes that moment so well in a movie called The Professional (1998).

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I like these calm little moments before the storm. It reminds me of Beethoven, he says. Granted he is playing the role of a sociopathic policeman bent on trying to exterminate a very young Natalie Portman, but you get what I mean about those calm little moments before the storm. I think it is really going to be something to experience…not just for the viewers/audience  but also for me. A totally unique experience for all involved!

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And as much as I am looking forward to it, I am also really exhausted. However in saying that, I have found that functioning on nervous, exhausted energy is a good thing in a performance. One week of fasting left too, which I have to admit has been brutal! I have really experienced the toll when I have had to exert myself. When I have gone for runs I have especially felt it; heavy legs, like lead and jelly, all at the same time. Just no gas! Plus I have gone down two belt notches, 40RTY days is a long time! This combination of exhaustion and fasting, and the force of will to see the performance process through to the end, is what pushes you deep, deep within yourself, to that place you need to be in order to put yourself wilfully through something like this. There is a reason they say one must suffer for one’s art and nowhere is this more literal than in performance or body art.

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I have written in my posts before about my belief that the artist must have solitude. It is nice to see that I am not alone in this belief. May Sarton, the poet, writes about solitude in her aptly titled, Journals of a Solitude, and she really just expresses it so beautifully which is why I wanted to share her thoughts with you, dear reader.

In an entry from September 15, 1972, Sarton writes:

It is raining. I look out on the maple, where a few leaves have turned yellow, and listen to Punch, the parrot, talking to himself and to the rain ticking gently against the windows. I am here alone for the first time in weeks, to take up my “real” life again at last. That is what is strange—that friends, even passionate love, are not my real life unless there is time alone in which to explore and to discover what is happening or has happened. Without the interruptions, nourishing and maddening, this life would become arid. Yet I taste it fully only when I am alone…

She considers solitude as the birthing-place of self-discovery:

For a long time now, every meeting with another human being has been a collision. I feel too much, sense too much, am exhausted by the reverberations after even the simplest conversation. But the deep collision is and has been with my unregenerate, tormenting, and tormented self. I have written every poem, every novel, for the same purpose — to find out what I think, to know where I stand.

This is so me, and my life and my art…

Suzanne Vega is another artist who writes wonderfully about solitude and that is how I will end off, with the lyrics of her ode to solitude:

Solitude Standing

Solitude stands by the window

She turns her head as I walk in the room

I can see by her eyes she’s been waiting

Standing in the slant of the late afternoon

 

And she turns to me with her hand extended

Her palm is split with a flower with a flame

 

Solitude stands in the doorway

And I’m struck once again by her black silhouette

By her long cool stare and her silence

I suddenly remember each time we’ve met

 

And she turns to me with her hand extended

Her palm is split with a flower with a flame

 

And she says “I’ve come to set a twisted thing straight”

And she says “I’ve come to lighten this dark heart”

And she takes my wrist, I feel her imprint of fear

And I say “I’ve never thought of finding you here”

 

I turn to the crowd as they’re watching

They’re sitting all together in the dark in the warm

I wanted to be in there among them

I see how their eyes are gathered into one

 

And then she turns to me with her hand extended

Her palm is split with a flower with a flame

 

And she says “I’ve come to set a twisted thing straight”

And she says”l’ve come to lighten this dark heart”

And she takes my wrist, I feel her imprint of fear

And I say “I’ve never thought of finding you here”

 

Solitude stands in the doorway

And I’m struck once again by her black silhouette

By her long cool stare and her silence

I suddenly remember each time we’ve met

 

And she turns to me with her hand extended

Her palm is split with a flower with a flame

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Three of Six

To deny:

at the moment I am, by force of will, denying myself certain foods and drinks as way of purifying my body and constructing the state of mind I require in order to present a performance art piece on 29th October. The process I am going through brings to mind a quote by Andre Malraux:

The greatest mystery is not that we have been flung at random between the profusion of matter and of the stars, but that within this prison we can draw from ourselves images powerful enough to deny our nothingness.

I am at the halfway stage of my self-imposed fast, having completed 3 weeks with 3 left to go. A lot of people seem to believe that the point of a fast is to starve oneself. That is most certainly not true because although it is about setting oneself physical constraints in way of testing oneself, it is more a mental exercise. This is the interesting thing about fasting, that it is a physical act that is utilized to transcend the physical. I have actually lost weight which is a physical by-product of the process, but it is not the intent at all. Rather I think of it as a physical manifestation of the de-cluttering of my mind by the exertion of my force of will to remain focused. This is the focus I will require when I step into the gallery space, and as I am able to shut out the physical during this fasting period so I will be able to shut all out once in that space. My intensity needs to be a real force that borders on lunacy.

While I have been fasting I have been keeping myself occupied not only with the normal demands of life or with my Masters requirements, but with the construction of my installation piece for my performance ritual. Like the fasting, the making has also become part of the performance.

Below: a work-in-progress

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Below: my design sketches of the installation piece

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