I cancelled a performance and started asking questions instead.

Do I carry out the action regardless? What would Alvin Lucier, Allan Kaprow, William Raban do? Will the action empty itself out? Is this being ‘true’ to the work or taking self-imposed parameters to the extreme? Do I post-pone it for later in the week? Do I just simply skip this week? Why am I doing these is in a serial format? Why is the repetition of the live situation an important aspect? (Is it even important?) Do we sit in silence for an hour next week because nothing was recorded this week? And if ‘nothing’ is being played out – would it be interesting to see if ‘something’ is subsequently recorded and what this might be? Why 1 hour? Why did no one show up? Is the experience too boring? Too uncomfortable? Too confusing? Too conceptual? Are people simply just busy? Is 1 hour to long to ask of participants donating their own time and energy? Repeatedly. Would it be more effective to ask participants to determine the length of their performance? What is the artwork about again?

Last night I cancelled the third iteration of you must follow me carefully. The thing was I had a lack of participants. There were three of us. I’ve never performed this situation with only three people – I had always thought that there needed to be an intensity (and multiplicity) to the speakers to generate the ‘glitches’ that make the typed document interesting. When faced with the prospect of performing an hour-long performance, devised for a minimum of 5 people with only three – I was caught. Cancel it? Or carry on regardless? I found myself sitting in my studio at 6.30pm struggling with my options. Oh and the self-confidence blow. It is after all like having a party that no one comes to. Or playing a gig to a crowd of 1.

I decided to cancel and go home and cook myself dinner. And have a drink or two. Perhaps not a very avant-garde gesture. There was, however, no point in putting my last two (semi) willing participants through a very difficult one-hour experiment. That is the kind of thing you expect from yourself as the artist, completely invested in the work. Is it reasonable to ask that of a participant?

Even though you must follow me carefully (#3) was cancelled – I don’t see this (now) as a failure. It has forced me to be critically aware of the work. Coerced me into assessing what it is that I am doing, what it is that I am asking other people to do, and why I am doing that. It is not a pleasant space to be in (many a friend has received a phone call in the last 24hrs). As you can see there have been many questions asked – and there are many still left to answer – but perhaps this is a much more effective way of making a work than carrying something through without ever really assessing it.

Despite not being able to answer many of these questions I’ve posed for myself, one thing that I am certain about is that I need to hone in on ‘what’ the artwork is. Currently it encompasses a huge amount of conceptual ideas, stemming from a theoretical research project. Really these could be unpacked and addressed individually as their own artworks. Is it really necessary to intertwine them together in one? What is the legibility of the artwork when it begins from such a dense point?


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