MICHAEL RUBY, SAM TRUITT, JON FRIED
The original “Bicameron” was created to be a participatory experience for a series of events sponsored by the Loudmouth Collective in New York City in the early 2000s called Anti-Readings. In its original articulation, Bicameron participants would wear a headpiece with a plastic tube connected to each ear. The two readers would read different texts simultaneously into the ears of the participant so each ear heard a different text. The readers would switch texts halfway through, so that the listener would hear half of each text in one voice in one ear and the remainder of the text in another voice in the other ear.
“The Bicameron,” was first performed as part of the 2013 event “JFK (Necrosis) Jubilee: Screening, Readings, Puppetry and Dance,” a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the president’s assassination. In the performance, I stood center stage facing the audience in a Guy Fawkes (Anonymous) mask while Michael Ruby and Jon Fried stood on either side facing me and simultaneously recited texts. Ruby read from a transcript of a conversation between Jack Ruby (no relation) and Chief Justice Earl Warren included in the Warren Commission report. Ruby was dressed as Ruby was dressed when he killed Lee Harvey Oswald, in a suit and fedora. Fried wore a lab coat and read a section from “Fields,” a long poem by Ruby. Since I was the listener in the 2013 performance, “The Bicameron” was never presented in its participatory form, although ten text pairings were also recorded by Ruby and I trading texts in left and right stereo channels while Fried produced falsetto tones in the center of the stereo field.
The name Bicameron refers to the left/right split in attention required of the listener. The choice of texts—one poetry, the other usually prose—also reflects the bicameral schism between the two hemispheres of the brain, even though we are aware that the auditory system, unlike other sensory systems, does not directly engage the halves of the brain separately. Nevertheless, there is a “split” of choices on the part of the listener, and this is what we are interested in investigating—and revealing experientially to the listener. For the audience at the Necrosis event, the simultaneous texts and chaotic costuming reflected the confusion of information and misinformation that surrounds the Kennedy assassination to this day.