PHOTOGRAPHY RESPONSE WRITING GROUP
It’s tricky to document with photography when the concept of the performance is watching photography. I wrote a script to watch pictures and cameras, to be performed in the downtown area of any city, for a “Photo Response Writing Group.” The problem with performance in public is the vague sense of an audience dismissing the performance, or not even noticing it. Public performance risks suspicion, perhaps from its lack of ready context. Not to mention, there isn’t an air of respect or trust for contemporary art without mainstream validation in the U.S. It is difficult for public art performers not to enter an antagonistic relationship with strangers and tourists on the streets of a city.
Some excerpts: I entered a drug store to face the magazine rack where a customer was holding Men’s Health. I turned my head sideways to fixate on the cover photo. He talked to me in a slow voice-“It’s a magazine”-as if teaching the word. I held a performance script out to him but he didn’t take it. Some members of the group wrote in camera stores, one went to hide in alleyways and a bathroom, a pair hallucinated pictures in reflections of themselves. We performed for each other: narrating the event redeemed its privacy or invisibility in the present. More enactments of the script: I held my wallet open so my picture ID was visible through its plastic slot. I put it up to my face. I approached people, as if proving my identity or giving permission to access a picture that looks nothing like me. I stepped up to cars. I pushed my wallet against café windows, as if it were because of the picture that I was lost. I seemed to scare people. They looked away. I put my wallet away. I went into an art gallery, briskly walked the perimeter, and got very close to all the photos. The executive director of a local art nonprofit was there. We sort of know each other. I handed her a script, without responding to routine greetings. She looked confused. After 45 minutes of performing the script, the participants: Jen Benka, David Buuck, Lara Durback, Tanya Hollis, Carol Mirakove, Erin Morrill, Chrstian Nagler, Jocelyn Saidenberg, Cassie Thornton, Stephen Vincent, and Erin Wilson, returned to SF Camerawork, where the nonsite collective had a residency, to write silently for 30 minutes. We then talked for an hour. I talked about resisting my own no-cameras rule while performing. I faced the desire to re-stage the performance as soon as it was over.