Last week at 7 Stages there was an Art. We went along because unlike a lot of Arts I see in Creative Loafing or what have you, this one wasn’t $80 per ticket. Actually, Creative Loafing is where I’d heard about it. It was called Curious Encounters 2 and one of the artists in the article explained that it was a show especially for today’s for young people. “Young people live in an interactive world these days…”, she said, “…and they’re not satisfied sitting still and passively being entertained. They want their shows to be interactive, their world is very different from what we remember…”- good God, why do all Serious Artists sound like this? Funny ol’ thing- just the previous night Jon and I had gone to see The Giver at Regal Hollywood with some free passes we’d had lying around for awhile. The showing was loaded with teenagers and I noticed that all of them managed to sit still and quietly for the entirety of the film, being passively entertained in a non-interactive way. Guess they hadn’t read last week’s Creative Loafing.
We had dinner at the nearby Elmyr and headed to Curious Encounters 2 right after that. The first thing I needed to take care of was a restroom. I went to the nearest one, but it was locked and some attendant told me to use the other bathroom, the “interactive” bathroom. So I did. I found in our program that the bathroom was indeed part of the show, and I wasn’t ready yet. The bathroom interactive event was called “Drop a Load.”
I entered and a girl wearing all white encouraged me to write on the wall of my stall, do my business, wash my hands, then write on her. All this was under a black light and strobe light, of course. Sometimes I communicate on bathroom walls with pictures better than words, so I drew a Permian period diplocaulus, the beloved boomerang-headed amphibian.
When I returned to the bathroom attendant, she invited me to write on her next. I was out of ideas so I went with a crayfish, taking care to draw the correct number of legs. I wanted to make up by my previous timidity by being extra-bold, so I drew it straight across her chest, which made her croon. When I was all done she shrieked that the next step was for me to wash it off in the men’s room, and she grabbed me by the hand and led me there. Upon entering, the male bathroom attendants howled and cheered while I washed off that nice crayfish. Finished, I met back with Jon who was waiting at the bar and told him he ought to try the bathrooms.
Our next stop was through a corridor, where a bouncer wearing a large, heavy papier mache monster mask moved the velvet rope aside and let us in. This exhibit was called Club MSIF.
We were greeted by a curtained-off, extremely humid and pungent corridor and a 30-degree jump in ambient temperature. Several dancers were in there, sweating and partying and all wearing large papier mache monster masks. It wasn’t the sort of environment where taking pictures would have worked, but I have some stock footage in my flickr collection that should give you a basic idea of what it looked like:
Jon told me that he could empathize deeply with the dancers, having once danced for hours at a club wearing a heavy papier mache head. He reports that it’s excruciatingly hot inside that head and that he sweat so profusely that the papier mache inside the head was beginning to melt by the end of the night.
After that we visited the Dirty Peepshow room. Except it was called “I Said I Was Sorry”. The room was walled off, but numerous peepholes were drilled into the walls so you could interact. It was two or three different couple in succession, throwing rose petals on one another, making art-love in a passionate and arty way, and usually ending up getting into passionate, silent arguments expressed through body language.
What I liked about this one was that even though this was an Art and not real, being forced to spy through the peepholes made me feel like an unforgivable creep. It was kind of neat how they manipulated the viewer like that.
Next was upstairs, to a piece called “Spoons.” I was skeptical about this one after reading its description in the program.
When Jon and I approached the attendant, he said in a dripping, sensual voice “Hello. Welcome to Spoons.” I realized quickly that I wasn’t really in the mood for spooning with performance artists and tried to come up with an excuse for turning and running in the opposite direction. I said lamely, “Oh well…I think we’re going to grab a few more drinks before we’re ready to spoon…”
We ended up backtracking through the spyhole room and down the papier mache dance party corridor. Jon and I indeed each got another drink and then waited for the big finale, scheduled to occur in a few minutes.
I guess I didn’t note the name of this performance in program, but it was most likely called “Big Hippie Finale Featuring Mostly-Naked Deer Priestess, Incense, a Tambourine and a Couple of Rainsticks.”
Each and every visitor was lead by the hand to the stage within the auditorium, where everybody was intentionally separated from whomever they’d entered with and was made to sit as far away from as possible. I believe it was to shake down our previously-held beliefs and assumptions about togetherness and to experience bonding within the entire circle. Or something.
It got…ambient in there. Several people were greeted wordlessly by the spirit priests and enticed to interact with them. Some were led out of the circle and never returned. Maybe they were chopped up and served to the Guest Spoons. I was worried about what I would be roped into doing, but I got off pretty easily- a dark grey lord wrote some mysterious runes on a scroll and slowly extended his skeletal hand to turn them over to me. I took a picture later.
I guess it’s hard to write with skeleton hands on.
Jon said later to me that he too, was relieved that he got off the hook easily as well. A hippie priest dripped some flower petals on his head and moved on. Right around this time, I snapped this picture:
It’s my favorite picture of the night. I don’t know who that is on the right, but the picture shows two miserable-looking young men clearly dragged here by their wives or girlfriends, both wondering if their beers will hold out for the entire performance. *note: Jon wasn’t actually miserable that night and had agreeably taken up my offer to treat him to this event, but I still like that picture a lot.
The two reluctant husbands weren’t the only ones having an awkward and terrifying time. Somebody decided it would be enriching to bring their kid along, that the kid would find this mind-blowing and mind-expanding, but the kid’s posture made it clear that he was angry that his artsy parents dragged him along to this shit instead of getting him Burger King takeout and getting a babysitter that would let him eat Oreos and watch Phineas and Ferb all night. Poor kid.
He appeared bored for most of the performance, but as soon as a hippie priest hunkered down to interact with him, he became alarmed and asked his dad for guidance.
After all the hippies had interacted with everybody in the circle at least once, we were slowly led in a parade to the seats within the theater, where we all sat and regarded the now-empty stage in silence. Then we got up and went home.
Yes, I know if I constantly make fun of performance art, then why do I keep going? Aw, come on- you know it’s because I secretly love it. I figure if an Art makes me laugh and snigger and write funny posts about it later, then the Art was successful. I hope that’s how the artists see it, too.