CALLED TO ACTION / YOUR CONDITIONED REFLEX
“Called to Action/Your Conditioned Reflex” is a performance-based installation that presents a Pavlovian-like experiment to its audience. Looking at the ingrained history of sound as a mass-conditioning tool, the project explores how the bell has become a chief signifier for instructional language. For those who hear it, a bell, be it a recess bell or a fire-alarm, creates the expectation to act responsively and accordingly.
To signal the commencement of The Noise Project, an exhibition at 99 Gallery, I stood outside the gallery doors sharply ringing a hand bell for a minute’s duration, summoning to all passersby. I led those who heard my call into the gallery interior and proceeded to affix the bell between two steel columns of the space’s architecture in preparation for the second half of my performance.
Later in the evening, I introduced the participation and collaboration of one of the gallery’s serving staff. Over the course of a two-hour duration, every half-hour I climbed three steps to toll the affixed bell and signal the service of a custom-designed “communion tray” filled with shot glasses of a vodka and purple kool-aid mix. This beverage served as a point of reference to not only the traditional Christian practice of serving wine (Blood of Christ) during “Lord’s Supper,” but also to the cultic Jonestown Massacre, when Reverend Jim Jones instructed his followers to consume a purple kool-aid and cyanide concoction.
With every half hour session, the swarming crowds grew with anticipation for their reward. The experiment proved successful by highlighting the influence of simple power dynamics and showing the potential for conditioning in all of us.