Surrealist Doodle

Surrealist Doodle
This was used as the cover of Karawane in 2006 and I have included it in on a number of bags and postcards over the years. Someone on the subway asked me if it was a Miro. I was very flattered!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Draft of a poem for my mother on her deathbed.

This is a poem that I found on my computer. It was written during the last days of her life, 2 1/2 years ago, while she was unable to communicate with us--at least in the way we were used to communicating with her. It's not finished. It's just a little something I dashed off.

Strange to think of you now

lying between present and past tense

between now and then, not knowing where you are

not alive and not dead, not being able to talk to you

body pumped full of morphine and

unconscious nurses full of

caring and

bad advice telling

my poor father not to talk to you

Don’t be silly telling me

I can’t talk to you I can’t help you

pass through the door I can’t say

goodbye to you and I see grandma

and your grandma and you when you were 30 and me

when I was eight a living photograph now

opening their arms to you I see you standing with them

without me and I see you in so many memories

laughing sardonically and appreciatively

sharing the joke inside.

The only way to laugh.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Life, Only Better

This was something I found in a journal that I had written a few years ago and found recently. This will be my last post for a while. I would love to know what you think.

Life, Only Better
(Tentative title for now)

Sometimes I need to just look out the window and think.

Sometimes I need to write something down and not develop it with examples, anecdotes, lists in 3s, with a thesis and a conclusion.

The thing about writers is that they can’t just have a thought. Everything has to become something. Thought is pressure to write. Not writing is guilt. Blasphemy. Squandered. What if the words (The Word) never comes back? What if in the course of remembering and recording you lose the beautiful phrase? Does the composer lose the melody sitting at the piano thye way I drop words at the keyboard? Is it not enough to have one thought? one beautiful moment? Must every note lead to a symphony, an opus? Each word the voice of a single angel raised to a cacophony?

“The problem with being a genius is that you spend a lot of time sitting around doing nothing.” --Gertrude Stein

A year ago I was looking for you.

I don’t want to write a whole book about you. My life is not a book. Too disjointed and unruly and the ending is unclear and I never seem to figure out the plot.

My mind is not a book.

No one lives in a book. Books are not “life only better”. Only anal retentives think that.

I want to write and live movie trailers, with all the good stuff pulled into split-second cutaways, glimpses of the beautiful, explosions, and a great soundtrack.

And here you are.

I was wandering the streets in the snow wondering your name.

Every day I wait for you to leave.

I wanted you to make me feel better. To love you . . . was going to make me better.

Curving back on itself . . . what is the term? Concave? Elliptical? In the story it always curves back on itself, ties everything together even when it looked like nothing fit.

Novels imply there’s a grand design to life, a plan, a plot, a logic, an author.

A reason.

I am more random than that.

Switching from story to living (life) changes the words the cadence the way you live them the experience of your palate. Do you write to live on your mind or do you write to say things outloud?

Do you want to be read or to be heard? Do you write to say everything at once, or do you write to focus?

I thought of you as a reader.

The cafe is an oasis from life. Here is the desert island you are stranded on with only 3 possessions, only the items in your purse . . . a desert island with music and tv and sofas and lattes. But only a bit of yourself.

People resent artists for wanting what they themselves are not allowed to have either.

I envy the mad addicts, so lost in themselves that they have no room for the details of daily life, have faith that their muse will provide and someone will look out for them. I with no siblings, no dowry, no spouse, must fend for myself, straddling, required to feed myself, keep a roof over my own head in a world that is increasingly harsh, that gives no quarter to those who are different, those who desire anything more than the creature comforts craved by those who resent me. My wants are not so different--a roof over my head, money for going out, a doctor when I am sick, the occasional trip to see friends or family, to be be inspired by a new city. But the audacity of expecting such things in return for my mere art, my innermost, without sanction for my labor, a CEO to sign my check, an incorporation to keep the books . . .

Nothing in my home is fixed until it affects someone else.

When the war comes I will be free of responsibility, when the creditor/landlord/collector finally has other concerns.

Is there an understanding that never fades? Even Dresden was rebuilt. The shadows of Nagasaki are monuments now. Art. Memory. Museum. All knowledge becomes memory eventually.

How will I become a stranger for 40 days?

On Tuesdays the Somalian women go to English class. They get on the bus bringing with them the smell of Sandalwood.

On Tuesday I get on the bus with my hair wild, disoriented after a night of poetry and war reports.

You make me want to write
you make me want to write
you down.

I could never write on the bus. Not because of motion sickness, but because I cannot stop looking out the window, watching moments pass and time pass in marvels. Once I was [there] and now I am [here], minutes across a city, hours across a state/country/continent.

It’s sad when you can’t [don’t][don’t want to] love someone anymore. When you feel sorry to remember. Now that the daydream is over, this is not your story anymore. It’s just something I’ve written

and I watch for you at the window mechanically, without desire
Miss you with annoyance

One year later, like always, I sit in the cafe watching for you outside the window. I have your phone number committed to memory [permission to speak] have seen your house walked your dog hugged your lover. I try to remember your mysteries. What it was to want you.


Like always I watch for you.
I forget what it was to be strange

What is the shelf-life of grief?
Anniversaries give us permission.

You are a conversation with myself.

I wrote you a letter by committee.

Is God a narcissist? to require us to love him?

Maybe god’s infinity comes from us. If god is love, and that love is unrequited, does god become finite, diminish? in existentialism, maybe god is not really dead, just burning himself up like the sun. Love is finite only when nothing comes back to you in return. It makes you stingy.

Unrequited love’s a bore--Jack Kerouac

At one I time I wanted to give you things. Take you places. Show you.

At one time.

Which is to say, not anymore.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Academics against editing

I have lost my ability to edit. I might be like the pupil in Eugene Ionesco’s The Lesson, the one who can only add and not subtract. The student who can add things to infinity but cannot subtract 4 from 7.

What does it mean to add everything the comes into your awareness, your field of vision, to a book, a performance, a poem? Especially with a poem. To set your guidelines and then only add. It does seem to be only poetry where I have lost my ability. Then again, there IS the dissertation . . .

Cheryl told me the story of a professor at Augustana whose dissertation was over 1000 pages. What if, instead of trying to edit it down, you added every element that was relevant (as if you were a poet and could rhyme element and relevant). Not that you wouldn’t be “rigorous” in choosing your arguments, but that you would throw every argument into the stew and then argue for or against one, ticking off everything possible until you got down to the core of your argument, and so then your argument that could have been expressed in a sentence or a page or one small chapter becomes a behemoth, a life’s work, of over 1000, 10000, 10000000000 pages until you lost track of the zeroes? What if you just accumulated all of the scholarship. Isn’t that what we talked about in graduate school, reading Derrida, who is only read by graduate students, half of whom (or more) don’t like or understand him? Isn’t that what Derrida was talking about in Archive Fever? The desire to archive, to accumulate, to collect knowledge? Collecting knowledge like it was garden gnomes or stamps or world coins, attempting to have every single one that is still known to human kind. What if my dissertation were like a huge giant stamp collection of every idea that was relevant to my topic? That would be a life’s work, crossing out things as they no longer become relevant, keeping a library, an archive, or all the things that have been discovered and disproven over the years.

This is what it means to be an academic that cannot edit. That leaves you with only poetry.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Untitled first draft of an old poem

some poetry is not meant
to change the world but
to be
a mash note a lover’s breath something
that would otherwise go unsaid a touch that would
otherwise go unfelt there are moments
that everything is changed. i’m struggling to
keep equilibrium my thoughts
break like bad poetry my heart beats a little too fast
strains like it wants to burst out like it might die
so exquisitely one last bang and then a stop but i know
it’s not like that yet. everything feels changed. i’m not ready. this poem
will not change the world any consciousness
except between you and me is not
to be published read shared remembered is not posterity
is only a string (of words) between your heart and mine a memory
the morning your hands your lips on my neck your hands on my skin
the reach between my legs and on the road everything
changes i don’t know if you feel it scares me to not know
the memory burns my body remembers and it’s stubborn it gets
stuck remembers you desires nothing
else won’t let me know burns remembering where your hands
were burns in my breasts my skin makes me remember everything
distracts me when i walk embarrasses me when i talk
to others when i talk to you struggle to listen over the talking of my body.
transcend. i know you want to transcend. my body wants to hold you in place
out of time to live in memory stop everything
is changing.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Candidate House: The Politics of the Future

This was a blog I wrote during the 2008 election, but it didn't get a single hit for some reason, so I am reposting it now, in the spirit of the zeitgeist.

Whatever that means.

Candidate House: Politics of the Future

Ok, so in a previous blog I outed myself as hooked on a lot of bad reality TV. Not all reality TV mind you. I, like anyone else, have my discernments here, too. But anyway . . . it seems to me, and I suggested this to friends back in January before all of the infighting and fiascos and monsters and such, that we need a primary process that responds to how Americans really make decisions, that responds to the "reality" of America as it currently stands.

So I was thinking, we should replace the primary process with one or more reality TV scenarios. Imagine Edwards and Romney and Giuliani and Huckabee and Hillary and Obama and McCain and families all living together in Candidate House. Uh huh. And then further imagine different challenges each week a la The Apprentice one week perhaps, American Idol another week, Big Brother, Fear Factor (eat those bugs, Huckabee!), etc. Depending on the number of candidates, the challenges could be weighted and candidates voted off periodically, and then the two remaining candidates campaign against one another.

I haven't worked out all the bugs yet, but we've got 4 years to work it out. And come on. If Diebold's election machines won't work properly to give us fair elections, then maybe the producers of American Idol can still guarantee us a little democracy.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Meditations on Perloff, Dworkin, and Meaning

In the US, a mass society with a large university-educated population inevitably breeds an “official verse culture” (Bernstein 1986: 246-49) – a culture whose discourse is as conventionalized as any other mass discourse from advertising to political campaign rhetoric to legal language."
Marjorie Perloff

“The tradition has always been that you may more or less describe the things that happen but nowadays everybody all day long knows what is happening and so what is happening is not really interesting, one knows it by radios cinemas newspapers biographies autobiographies until what is happening does not really thrill any one . . . . The painter can no longer say that what he does is as the world looks to him because he cannot look at the world any more, it has been photographed too much and he has to say that he does something else.”

Gertrude Stein, “What Are Master-Pieces” in Perloff, 162-3

“Writing is 50 years behind painting.”
Bryon Gysin

In 21st Century Modernism, Marjorie Perloff takes up the virtues of a literary avant garde, arguing that despite its seeming absence, despite declarations that the avant garde is a purely modernist beast murdered at the hands of post-modernism, that the avant garde of the early 20th century was only an infancy, a beginning, and that it remains relevant today, that is post-modernism that in a way, and I am massively paraphrasing, perhaps even projecting my own opinion here, wore itself out. I think of the metaphor, growing up in Illinois, of a tornado in a valley, a destructive force to be sure, but moreover, one that eventually wears itself out because it has nowhere to go, so it spins and spins until it has no more strength. The point here, and I digress, is not to engage in a debate on post-modernism vs. modernism, a debate that I am not really ready to settle at the moment. But I am very distrustful of the proclaimers that all that came before me is now dead and over. Further, my own personal take is that postmodernism itself is not contrary to the avant garde, but emerges from it. That if Futurism, for example, with its embrace of a fascistic nationalism, can be seen as the ultimate form of a modernism that is born of enlightenment values, emphasis on apparent rationalism, and the rise of the nation-state, then Dadaism, with its embrace of ir-rationalism, of nonsense and it’s highly inter- and anti-nationalism, along with its progeny Surrealism with its interest in the dark occult and the unconscious, make up the beginnings of the post-modern, of the multiplicity, of the backlash, and that therefore, modernism and post-modernism are temporal but contemporaneous to one another.

Perloff’s assessment of an unfinished literary avant garde, aborted, perhaps before it could be fully realized, when it was merely quickening, is near and dear to my heart then. If we take Bryon Gysin at his wise word that writing is 50 years behind painting, then we can look back 50 years ago to see Abstract Expressionism, particularly of the Pollock strain, all form and accident, lacking not only representation, but meaning itself. What is the meaning inscribed into a splatter painting? A chance operation? If meaning is created, if it is gleaned somehow by an audience member, it is nonetheless, not a meaning that can be “read” infallibly, deciphered authoritatively by a critic. It is an accidental meaning, a meaning created by a subconscious connection to a form or element or color within the piece, a synaptic pre- un- sub- conscious meaning, not a semiotic meaning to be read.

Where is the abstract expressionist poetry? Even a pre-splattering, Surrealist Pollock, a poetry of images to evoke imagination, idea, fully over meaning, story, intent? For all of her avant garde sympathies and apologetics, which are mighty, Perloff still spends much of her time explaining the meaning of things with a reading of poetry that still seeks to explain, that is about metaphor and enjambment and all of those things that matter most and maybe only to graduate students in English, not readers or audience hungering for the liberations (even if they don’t conceptualize it that way or don’t know that they are hungry yet) of imagination, of images. Watching her decipher a poem by Charles Bernstein, ironically, can make it harder for me, personally, to distinguish it from the non-avant garde poetry she sets up as contrast. Is it because her own avant garde of today is Language Poetry, a poetic avant garde immersed in and engaging with semiotics and teories of meaning in ways that, at the end of the day, still engage more with rather than subvert, semioitics and the tendency to “read everything as a text?” After all, if everything can be read as a text, is it possible to create a text that is not meant to be read, but felt, experienced, understood on a different level? Can we have experiences outside of language, and in particular, can we use language to create experiences outside of language? A heady question (pun appreciated, but not intended), to be sure.

Even Craig Dworkin, whose work on the avant garde I greatly admire and who has influenced and supported my own ideas immensely, has, in some of his writings on Zaum (To destroy language”, Textual Practice (18)2, 2004, 185-197) still focused on meaning. Dworkin describes the work of zaum’ as a utopian activity that seeks to circumvent what he sees as “totalitarian” desires to fix meaning. Using semiotic analysis, Dworkin suggests that zaum’ actually can be read not through the usual system of differences, but through chains of similarities and through linguistic and syllabic innuendo. In his reading, Dworkin shows that the “problem” to be solved with zaum’ is not that of making meaning, but the difficulty of limiting the number of possible meanings within each work. He places zaum’ within a matrix of nondiscursive literature including children’s nonsense rhymes as well as lettrism and experiments with concrete and sound poetry. Nonetheless, the very basis of his work shows that we have a hard time talking about poetry, even the avant garde, outside of semiotic analyses. While his work may be about “limiting” meanings, it still assumes that with enough imagination, we can learn to “read” the short syllables of zaum, to somehow understand them. To talk about them on the rational level of academic discourse seems to make it difficult, if not impossible, to talk or even think about them outside of that discourse. Is this the same criticism that writing about performance faces, that it potentially kills the very thing it seeks to examine? Is the avant garde, even a literary one, not always inherently performative, a performance, in the way in which the reader and audience must individually, privately engage with the piece, even if not necessarily on a private or personal level, the way they would with a piece of confessionalism?

Of course, I do not mean to belittle the great work and thinking done by Dworkin and Perloff and others. But it is to say that few people have been able to truly rethink poetry and language and the functions of language. If, as Perloff says, poetic culture has conventions just like advertising or journalism or all other forms of writing, and if as Stein says, those forms of writing make the “reportage” function of poetry are dated and irrelevant (100 years ago in Stein’s day—let alone today in our over-mediated cable television clear channel CNN You Tube etc etc world) then what is the new function of poetry, the Dadaist post-modernism of a poetry that is about freeplay and free association of language to generate its own pictures of a 1000 disjointed words to make the picture of a Pollock, quite outside of story, narrative or even (c)overt attempts at meanings, outside of any attempts at something that can be fixed, understood rationally, something to stimulate both left and right brain simultaneously, not only one or the other separately or sequentially.

“If we could change our language, that’s to say the way we think, we’d probably be able to swing the revolution.” (John Cage, M 210)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Fluffy's Run

There is a dream. It is a recurring dream I’ve had over the years. Sometimes just every once in a while, sometimes more frequently. I’ve had it twice in the past two weeks. I am always on the lam. Sometimes someone is trying to kill me. Sometimes it is more graphic than others. Sometimes someone comes along in my sleep and stabs my mother or Cheryl, the two women who have been most important in my life. Then they come and stab me in the back. The dream is so real, that I feel the terror. I am pinned in my sleep, unable to move. I hear the sound of the knife enter. It takes me several minutes of panic and terror before I can get to a lucid place from which to wake myself. I try to force my limbs to move, my eyes to open.

Other times, killers are chasing me down and I am always just one step ahead of them. They always manage to find me, yet I do escape just before they arrive. Sometimes I am a fugitive from the law. Sometimes I am caught up in intrigue. The most recent time I had this dream, there was some kind of underground railroad trying to help me, yet the men who were trying to kill me had still managed to find me. There is never an end to this dream. I am always just a step, or a half a step ahead, and they are relentless in their pursuit. I always wake up in the middle, exhausted, like a cop drama that has no ending. I have had this recurring dream since I was eight years old.

My dog used to run in her sleep. But I think it was a more pleasant running than mine. She would yelp and kick her feet and you knew she was dreaming of chasing a cat or running with a pack of freewheeling dingos. Maybe she was being chased by other larger, meaner dogs, and maybe she, too, woke up tired and that might have been why she slept all day.

It’s not that I believe that people are out to get me, and this is not a proving my mettle dream. It’s just a tiring running to keep up with things, to stay one step ahead of everyone -- maybe of expectations, of the bill collectors. Maybe it's a need to escape and the person chasing me is the life, the history, the baggage that I can't get away from. Maybe it's a symbol for everything that would try and distract me from the things that really matter. And the running is a distraction. When you are on the run, the only thing you can think of is safety. In life, as in dreaming, I am always grateful for a brief period of respite.

Untitled draft of poem

I am never away from you.
Coming home brings me no refuge
angry posted notes
on my forehead bleeding backwards into
my brain I wish I had a mirror in my head
for deciphering or my teeth would turn to a paper shredder

I no longer write notes by hand like an artist
instead of typing like a secretary feel the curve of the letters
beneath my wrist fluid and beautiful when you talk to me
I draw jagged lines the rocks I want to jump off
cliff dive into another place into a blue ocean
not a shallow brown river where you split
my head shoot between the ideas William Burroughs Tell
s me to hold still while you
hold me down waiting for bubbles
to stop bubbles are not for children
but for breathing you take away all my bubbles

Vesuvius and its many dead virgins
are now ash left behind drawn on my forehead
to remember like an angry posted note
I do penance for the sins I hope to commit
gleeful at the ones I do not
when I come home there is no respite from you
your words wake me up in the middle of the night and fuck me
while I’m half asleep
was it good
for you?

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Hidden Performances Everywhere

Conceptual/Performance Artist (is there any other kind?) Adrian Piper writes about “Hidden Performances,” about herself as a self-conscious art object. At least, I thought she had. Since studying her at NYU, I have always had the term “hidden performance” in my head, but upon returning to the text that I have been drawing from, she doesn’t ever actually use the words “hidden performance,” but “catalysis” to describe a whole range of performances that she has been engaged in. It’s a tired writer’s device to define a word in your text, except when it is an unusual word that is being used slightly out of context. Then, since the person writing the article (me) had to look up the word just to make sure that it meant what she thought it meant and was being used in the usual way, it seems appropriate. Or maybe it shows my ignorance. But I will take that chance. Catalysis is defined as “the action of a catalyst, especially an increase in the rate of a chemical reaction.”

I had also harbored the belief for a little while at least, that Piper had not necessarily intended for people to stare, to interact with her, but was just trying to see if they would. Upon revisiting at least a few of her writings in this regard, I think I had somehow come to a wrong conclusion. She did, in fact, in keeping with the nature of catalysis and of changing people, desire some sort of reaction, a kind of provocation.

In that spirit, allow me, please, to digreess with some “hidden performances,” some acts of catalysis, both of my own and of others.

I have taken to walking around town in bunny ears, lately, a kind of hidden performance, not necessarily trying to provoke or be provocative, and sometimes I even forget that I have them on, except today it is windy and I am waiting for a bus, writing this at a bus bench hunched over a notebook with the bunny ears alternately falling in my face of in the opposite direction off the back of my head.

Not trying to be deliberately provocative, but occasionally looking up at cars to see if the drivers are noticing. I know, or at least I think I know, what bunny ears symbolize. At home, they are sexual, put on for flirting purposes with lingerie or a bra and panties, at most. They conjure up images of Playboy bunnies. And so I am doubly self-conscious at times about them, since outside the walls of my home, I do not always think of myself as a particularly sexy being. But wearing them out in public, the young woman at the counter at McDonald’s gives me a smile and simply comments “nice bunny ears.” The male clerk at the mini-mart in my neighborhood silently nods at another customer, as if to say, “check this out” but the man is, deliberately or not, focused on buying some discounted candy and does not look at me. But I see the clerk, and I see that he has a slightly derisive look on his face, which causes me to feel that I have to explain myself, so I blame it on my boyfriend, who is also with me, saying that he dared me to wear them, although that is not entirely true.

Not deliberately provocative, I am trying to push my own boundaries. When I was 17, I would ride my bike around my smallish hometown wearing a bright green pair of oversized sunglasses that stuck out way far away from the sides of my head. At that time, the glasses were a true novelty, a new thing, the latest thing, and I had never heard of Adrian Piper, but I definitely knew that I was doing a performance of difference, causing passing motorists, bicycle riders, or pedestrians to come into contact with something unexpected, and was both self-conscious and unself-conscious in the process. Now, 30 years later, weighed down with social expectations, decorum, and “appropriateness” I have decided lately to take the small but highly visible step of wearing my bunny hears in public.

I knew the social significance of bunny ears, I think, and so today I have juxtaposed them with wearing a Hothead Paisan t-shirt, one from 20 years ago when I was 60 pounds heavier and so is 4 or 5 sizes too big on me. One that declares “I’m not your fucking spritzhead girlfriend!” and points a gun out of a car window at anyone who looks. In mixed company, adults and children, I wear an overshirt so that I can control the “reveal” of the t-shirt. Again, I am inside/outside, ambivalent/daring about the performance. As I leave the bus, the female bus driver says “Goodbye Bunny” and smiles. I stop to wish her a nice day.

Late at night, the bunny ears are decidedly sexual. Semiotically, they have definitely taken on a different signification. Earlier in the day, I am largely innocuous, non-threatening to women and fun, like the Easter Bunny or some other storybook creature, to children. I walk with a friend of mine around dusk and someone walking down the other side of the street says “So that’s what a Playboy Bunny looks like!” I holler back, “Not hardly, but thanks.” We laugh, but the whole social significance has changed and will continue to do so as the night wears on. Walking around the dark streets of Minneapolis, I start to get the one-honk car horn followed by the slowing down of the car in question. I have come to assume, after years of walking around at night in various neighborhoods, that this is a signal for prostitutes or “bunnies of the evening.”

Meanwhile, earlier and back on the bus, there had been a guy that I have seen around town, a type of performance artist himself. He wears a terry cloth headband and aviator shades and he carries a large boombox with him wherever he goes. He’s a nerdy looking white guy, age indeterminate, very skinny with his hair buzzed short, who goes around town playing basketball alone, boombox blaring. Sometimes he wears more outrageous shades. He is pretending to smoke on the bus today for anyone who is looking, and several young people are looking at him and smiling a little mockingly it seems to me. He is very self-conscious of doing a performance. I have seen him quite a few times over the years and he is never in public as a “private citizen,” but is always performing. He normally rides a bus down Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis, between the Stephens Square neighborhood and the Phillips neighborhood, where he can play basketball in a highly visible location. Today, he is across town in Northeast Minneapolis, headed back downtown. Today, there are two “hidden performances” and the passengers on the bus don’t know which one to conspicuously ignore.

He is possibly the better performer, playing self-consciously for anyone who will engage with him, who will even glance his way. I often pretend not to pay attention, simply because I don’t want him to change what he is doing because of me, the way light acts differently as either a particle or a wave when you look at it. I on the other hand, simultaneously don’t want to be noticed and yet am amazed when people don’t react, likely the result of living in a relatively closed culture for the past 18 years and the exact reason for my hidden performances now.

In this regard, I suddenly think back to an episode of The Simpsons where Homer, finding out that his mother had been a Hippie, starts going on “freak outs” to liberate people’s “button-down minds.”

In the sculpture garden at the Walker Art Center, a man places his own hat atop the head of a green statue of a man. I wonder if he is inspired by me wearing the bunny ears. I think of the public statue in South Minneapolis, of a man sitting on a bench in front of a row of businesses. Periodically, someone comes along and leaves a knit hat or a baseball cap on the statue’s head. I wonder if these people think of themselves as performance artists or think of themselves as somehow contributing to the world of art. The fact is that there are things like this that go on every day, in every city around the world. There are those that approach any piece of public art with such reverence that they would never dream of touching it or interacting with it, so conditioned are they that art is sacred. And then there are times when someone dares to interact with it, to intervene, and make it their own.

A few years ago I had organized what I called Coin-Op Laundry open readings at a local Laundromat that had out-of-this-world acoustics. No one ever went to this landromat and to prove that fact, it is now defunct. I told everyone to wear their “laundry clothes” and to come and do their laundry while we read. I wore on old ratting skirt and a t-shirt. I got on the bus with my plastic laundry bag full of laundry. I noticed people were trying to avoid looking at me and I realized, these people think I am homeless! So I took that as liberty to act like a crazy vagabond person, talking to myself (louder and more than usual) and rocking back and forth in my seat. I took that liberty, that wide berth that people give to someone on the margins, and I was completely unself-conscious about my performance.

I do, in some cases, want a reaction from people. I want to change their attitudes. I want them to encounter something out of their ordinary daily lives and not necessarily see the “difference” as a threat. I live in a place at the moment where people use “different” to indicate something bad. “That’s . . . different” is a way of indicating that your method is strange to them, sometimes downright threatening. Actions undertaken in this context may or may not produce an immediate reaction. But I do want people to think about what they have seen. Maybe they will loosen up and have fun, in the case of the bunny ears. Maybe they will rethink their assumptions in the case of the coin-op poetry. Maybe it will cause me to reconceptualize all of those things myself, on those nights that I am on the bus and tired and I just want to be left alone rather than being bothered or confronted with “difference,” when I don’t want to deal with a proselytizer, a rapper, or any other type of performance artist

It also seems to me, that this could also be seen that as an artist/art object, one could even be trying to get into the mind of the “art object,” of the Mona Lisa, the Venus DeMilo, the Pollock “splatter painting” to work inside-out of the art object, the way that an actor would use sense memory to get at a character. And then for the artist, they cause the public to encounter this piece of art in a new way, to encounter an “art object” as a living being. I think that this would also be part of Piper’s goal of eliminating the “art object” as a discrete entity, bringing it to life, into being, into something that the “spectator” could interact with, rather than just viewing. Is that the point of walking around with a towel in your mouth, or deliberating creating a foul odor to wear on your clothes in close quarters with others? Is it to get at the feeling of someone looking at you, feeling unable to touch you, talk to you, or even to comment on what you are doing, to break through the decorum and sense of “social appropriateness?” Is it to see just how much people can or will take or “eccentricity/madness” before they will react?

People all around me are snapping pictures in the sculpture garden. I try not to notice if anyone snaps a picture of me. They probably won’t with all of these “true” art objects around.