For the performance I was asked to work with the theme of the 2012 festival: great first books. I chose Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. One of the central questions I tried to explore in a 15-minute performance was: what does it take to embody the spirit of an original voice? I wanted to respond in two ways simultaneously: 1.) To embody the optimistic, macrocosmic and cosmological instinct, and to channel that into a performance that might work as a model for how we might reenvision the future of art. 2.) To use the performance to invite Walt Whitman and his poem “Song of Myself”_ _into my body to become a spirit guide so that my art making might be changed forever.
I “limited” myself to only Whitman’s language—using four sections of the poem. I also attempted to find activities that were true to my own performance process, such as creating juxtapositions that challenge the text. In this case, popping strawberries and spraying whipped cream into my mouth while Whitman asks questions like “what is a man anyhow? What am I and what are you?” as a nod to Whitman’s abundant willingness to indulge.
The performance took place in the lobby of the university art museum in the same space and at the same time as a book fair. I decided to be dragged into the lobby in a body bag. This meant the beginning of the performance constituted an interruption of a pleasant event in the well-lit lobby. The performance ended when I returned to the body bag at the end and was dragged outside.