Action: Unseen Performance

June 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

Georgia Wall’s Unseen Performance 6-13-11

I saw this invitation on Rhizome:

CALL FOR PARTICIPATION: INVITATION FOR AN EXCHANGE.

I perform for you & you provide an account of what you saw.
1. Before the event:  Together we (you & I) choose a date/time and public location where the event will take place.
2. The event: I perform on the given street at the given time.
3. After the event: You then provide an account of what occurred during the event.

If you are interested in participating or have any questions please email unseenperformance@gmail.com

: : : : : : : : : :

When I wrote to her, she asked me to go to a small park at the intersection of Rivington and Attorney on the Lower East Side at 4pm and take a seat in one of three benches facing the street.

June 13, 3:55 PM.

Sunny afternoon, shady park.  The benches are crowded. I find a seat next to a well dressed, white-haired man. I glance at him, but he doesn’t make eye contact. A few kids, neighbors talking and hanging out. One guy is kidding another about how many brothers and sisters he has: “your father, he was a bull!.” One punches the other on the arm. Breezy in the shade, fat maple leaves hanging down. Half the voices in Spanish, half in English. The  park is a fenced strip concrete and paving stones, but plentifully supplied with trees and pigeons.  A group of teenagers talk and sway. A cart with striped umbrellas, red and yellow, blue and white, is selling ices across the street. There’s a pawnbroker, “buy, pawn, sell” and “LOANS” in big letters on the awning, framed by fistfuls of dollars. An ice cream truck pulls up in front of the park.

4:01 PM.

Kids chasing pigeons. The old man next to me gets up to leave.  A small asian boy buys a huge soft ice cream covered with jimmies.  Will I see the event when it happens? Will I know it? A hipster couple walks past with an economy candy bag.  A lone boy dribbles behind me on the empty basketball courts. A mom tries to pick up a flock of white paper napkins that have blown across the park – her hair is bleached to a caramel  color; she’s wearing a flag T-shirt. She leaves with her kids, a reluctant toddler squirming in his stroller, a pair of 6 year olds with black pigtails and bright red and pink shirts.

Suddenly I notice a young woman walking up Attorney street straight towards me, carrying a blue plastic pail in her right hand. There’s nothing odd about her, except that she’s walking slowly, deliberately, but that’s enough to tell me this is what I’m here for.  She’s wearing a short-sleeved black dress, almost a shift, that drops loosely to her ankles. It hangs like linen. Flat black shoes.

She turns to her left at the street corner, then turns again so her back is towards me and stands facing the blue wall of the building across from where I sit.  A little girl tries to talk to her, smiles looking into her face, but I can’t see any gesture of reply. The woman with the pail takes a few slow steps forward to the wall, stands still, head a little bowed to the left.  A bystander with a styrofoam coffee cup in one hand smiles and watches her, tries to ask her something, but again, it seems, receives silence, and moves on down the street.

She is still standing, facing the wall. Then she reaches her left hand across the front of her body and tilts the pail to pour out a thin stream of water against the place where the blue wall meets the sidewalk.  Then she stops, and stands again, arms at her sides, one holding the bucket.  This repeats in a slow rhythm: a little water is poured, a few minutes of standing, more water, more stillness.  The song of the ice cream truck goes on. The wind lifts her hair from time to time. No one watches her except me, just a few glances from people walking by.  She shifts the bucket from her right to her left hand, pours again. It looks heavy by now – she bends the arm holding the water. The wind blows against her dress. Now a turned head, then another, but no one stops.  She stands with both arms down, patient.

A guy in a white apron walks through the park, “Seedless grapes a dahllah! Seedless grapes a dahllah!”  No one buys any. She pours out a little more water. Stands again. Her stillness, the street’s movement. Two girls in maroon school uniforms pause and point but only for a second, barely slowing. This time when she pours the bucket goes horizontal, and the water streams out a little longer. Emptying.  She turns and walks away down Rivington, going slowly, bucket swinging a a little.  The last I see of her is the dark top of her head through past some parked cars.

4:16 PM.

I walk a couple of blocks to the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center, where I’ve sent to give my account.  The curator greets me on the steps, under extensive scaffolding, leads me up what feel like big elementary school stairs to a small bathroom on the 4th floor. The light’s good in there, she says, and you’ll have some privacy.  She turns a video camera on, and leaves me to tell my story. I’ve been asked to say anything I want, but not to use the words “performance” or “performer,” instead I’ve been offered “event” and “she.”  The curator tells me the videos will be part of a show, which I hadn’t known, opening at a gallery in the building next week.

Catch it if you can:  “Performing Coordinates” June 22-July 6, 2011. Abrazo Interno Gallery, Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center, 107 Suffolk Street, NY

More on Wall’s Unseen Performances.

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