TIME BE MY BITCH
BILLY X. CURMANO
The “Deface Billy Project” conceptually traveled in “Time Be my Bitch”: from the past —for the present—to the future.
Program Note: In 1982, I organized the Deface Billy Project—a postal art exhibition with artists from fifteen countries altering my portrait. The project was re-activated as the announcement for the 2016 fall exhibition schedule at the Center for Book Arts (NYC). Three thousand portraits were printed with specific guidelines to be defaced and returned for the exhibition Enacting the Text: Performing with Words. Afterwards, the altered images were archived at Art Works USA (MN). Conceptually toying with time, my past project was re-created for a present moment and then archived for the future.
In keeping time with this construct, I performed “Time Be My Bitch” at the opening reception. Amid the exhibition and the display of often-clever defacements, I hoped to demonstrate the alterations and defacement simply provided by time itself.
I circulated through the galleries shadowed by violinist John Pendergast. I was costumed as my present self (Present Billy) and carried two life sized self-portrait masks. They were mounted back to back on a paddle handle reminiscent of southern portrait funeral fans that bear images of the dearly departed. The fan masks could quickly be lifted up to obliterate Present Billy … with Past Billy … or Future Billy.
Past Billy bore the 1982 Deface Billy Portrait.
Future Billy bore a printed X-ray of my skull.
John played on as I morphed through time and greeted the attendees with the mantra:
Ashes to ashes and dust to dust
Time be my bitch
But that don’t mean much.