NATURAL DISASTERS | MISTER WHITE
“Natural Disasters,” was a mercurial performance/installation that considered the emotionality associated with the representation of those who inhabit the margins of society. Typically, one thinks of those existing on the margins or outskirts of society as uncomfortable and powerless, but aristocratic groups are also a marginal group and are associated with comfort and power. In this performance I consider the marginal archetypes of The Witch, The Alien and The Scapegoat in relationship to the archetype of Mister White.
On the wall of the gallery I hung four paintings on paper depicting central images that foreshadowed the performances to come. I arranged piles of costumes in small shrines under each of the corresponding paintings. Over the course of two hours I emerged from under each of the four piles temporarily embodying each painting. For my first embodiment, Mister White, I wore a recycled plastic garment with an empty orifice on the chest, a matching angular plastic headdress treated with white acrylic paint, and a mask made from pussy-willow buds. I left the comfort and confines of the gallery and moved to the public sphere. I made my way up the narrow stairs and positioned myself next to a lamppost. Once on the street my audience quadrupled instantaneously. I stood nearly motionless and only exerted a subtle twist of my neck, side to side, perpetually surveying the streetscape.
The first person I noticed looking at me was a middle aged woman of color inside a first floor apartment across the street. I could tell she was curious about my repetitive head movement—unsure if I was a sculpture or a person, I watched as she inched closer and closer until she was pressed against the window pane. The woman eventually came outside, stood 10 ft away from me and took a picture before heading back inside. Ambulatory viewers adjusted their glasses, passersby dissimulated not to notice me, kids ran up to take a picture. Drivers and passengers alike jerked their heads unsure if I was an animatronic device or a discarded sculpture. Over the course of one hour I noted an array of public displays of emotion in the eyes of strangers; ranging from fear and excitement to indifference, as their unsuspecting expectations grasped and interpreted the white sight before them.