Last night I performed the 2nd of my durational readings. This time at Velocity Dance Center in Seattle, WA as part of their Fall Kick Off series, the Big Bang. It was a hell of a lot of fun. 30 acts spread across the venue all going off at the same time.
I positioned myself in a broom/liquor closet. I sat on a (false) toilet just inside the door, but mostly out of sight unless you looked in. If you walked up to the door you saw a video I’d made. It consists of my hands in various scenarios: opening doors; buttoning my shirt; drawing; popping a beer… But if you peered in, there I was, on the toilet, pants and underwear around my ankles reading from a book.
To keep people out I positioned a box with 30lbs of bananas in the doorway. A sign near them read, “Free Bananas (enjoy!).” On the floor next to the box lay a towel and that’s where all the banana peels ended up; a sign of detritus, one of the ways you know a performance art piece is in the room.
The book I chose was Samuel R. Delany’s ‘Tales of Neveryon.’ I’d never read it before, but had always planned to. Ostensibly it’s a sword and fantasy text, but it’s actually a Plato meets Socrates fable (at times) that dwells on the nature of language, sign and symbology, slavery, economics, and gender relations. If you know the work of Mr. Delaney then you probably guessed this. What a treat to read this in the bathroom in public.
I had a microphone in front of me wired to a small amplifier to throw my voice out to anyone listening. The reading lasted 3.5 hours. The last one was for 12. This time my throat was ok at the end.
My thinking: black guy in the closet; toilet is a position of vulnerability that’s universal; black bodies are in a constant state of vulnerability as the State and its actors cannot see/treat us as ‘normal’ or ‘regular’ citizens; the video is an act of normalization (“Check it out America. Black people are just like you. We wear clothes, open doors, tie our shoes. Our lives are fucking mundane. Black people are you.”) showing my hands performing simple gestures as an act of normalizing perceptions of Black people.
My favorite part of the action/activity is that the viewer has to actively look into the closet to see me on the toilet. Nothing is sacred or profane when you’re black.
Here’s the video and thanks for reading!
[Direct link to the video at Youtube: https://youtu.be/yzM81z1OT9I]