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WRITING AS PERFORMANCE Volume 1


WRITING AS PERFORMANCE Volume 1

Featuring writing by Amanda Lovell

Erin Briddick Maggie Snyder Si Chen


AMANDA LOVELL


My drawings portray the human figure within a dynamic of concurring emotions, identities and psychosocial relationships. I investigate my own background while evoking themes of gender, fairy tale, family and personal growth. Compositions reveal characters engaged in an ambiguous narrative. For many of these characters I use Barbie as my model, thus employing my childhood ideas of female identity in the conceptual content of my work. Multiple forms interact with each other, representing different personalities or thought processes as they conflict and/or collaborate in every day life.

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In my heart of hearts I know that I don’t belong. Not just here, but anywhere. Here but displaced and homeless. They all connect, build, grow, while I sit, melt, puddle disperse. He connects me, holds me, contains me, and yet the separtness remains. A cow in a flock of sheep. Not realizing, but slightly feeling that this herd isn’t my own. Existing in black and white, like my dreams, but submersed in a kalediscope of color, pattern, design that all say one of these things is not like the other, tag! You’re it. Secrets don’t make friends but these ones keep them. Held and faked for so long that the tight rope has become a catwalk and the balancing act has become a strut. Just keep swimming? Stop? Go back? Turn right? Veer left? Suck it in, inhale so deeply that you disappear? You’re already invisible right? Getting “lost”? Didn’t know a billboard was needed in order to be found. A gargantuan statement of awesomeness. An epic story, complete with a stroll through hell. My battle’s bigger than your battle. Bring back the hero. The one who loves this cow, not in words but in actions. The one who commands exhale! Bulldoze forward! Don’t stop ‘til you get enough! The cow wants to but the burger’s already been made complete with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, ketchup, hold the mustard. That’s already been done. How is a comeback possible after being ground up, chewed up, swallowed and pooped out? The hero says “add a dab of Chester orange to your white.” Outrun the butcher. Blow past the owls perched on their billboards as they hoot “who?” Not a bored, uncaring who but a construction worker whistle “ I gotta know who.” A now it’s too-far-gone hoot sputters in the wind. A tiger can’t change it’s stripes but this cow changed the outline of its spots. Oversight is On Bucky, On Wisconsin, and on those damn owls.

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Painting by Alexandra Carter


The loss of a father, brought on fast and dragged out slow. Her face has life color with an underlying silver leaf skeleton. Her face resting on this forehead. His face is a silver leaf skeleton with the last of the color fading, draining through the eye socket. The last color leaving is cranberry red into a pool of blue that the skeleton is floating on. The red of life force of this man, this family. Years of blood, sweat, tears poured out, invested in cranberry bogs. From dust and to dust you shall become. From cranberries and to cranberries he shall become. Teeth fall off, fall away into the bogs that broke his body for years. Fuel for works for the daughter. Connection and appreciation to what has passed. Eyes of suffering are the only features defined. Much like the eyes of Mary as she gazed upon her son’s broken, beaten body. They are connected. Always attached. Not through an umbilical cord but through 9125 days of life, now followed by 1095 days of death. Now an accessory. An earring that dangles and with movements of living, occasionally kisses her cheek. A reminder. A forget me not. Not that these things are ever forgotten.

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You grow up thinking there’s only one. It’s what you’re told, what you believed. There’s a shattering, a breaking, that takes place that leads to the next, then another and this is the river where the balls get rolling until the hatred sets in. The hatred builds on the hurt. Enough. “T” tells you “give R a chance.” So a chance is given. The rut is in full swing, a battle of the wills takes place. What felt dispersed, spread thin, lost, becomes protected, held in, contained. While an eraser can’t clean this slate, unnotch a bedpost or belt, it can dam the river where only two balls remain. And while “R” will never lie alone, the “D” drops off and you believe.

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These bones are my bones. Only one in 248 is truly mine but that one feels the least connected now. Living, breathing, packing, processing, unpacking, handing over, have all lead to them taking root in me. Fusing into me. Up, down, staggered sparadicness of the good, the bad, the ugly. And there are some real uglies. You must be blind and I hope you didn’t go to art school kind of uglies. I could poop and it would be better looking uglies. Thanks for wasting hours of my time. I’m really glad a tree died for that. But those rare, beautiful, awe inspiring pieces live right beside them, casting shadows for those doing a driveby viewing. Work that makes me question can I ever achieve something that grand? Do I want to? Can you make numerous things that feel that good or do you spend forever trying to recreate the wheel? Bone Mandala #5. A simplistic circle of rubber stamped skulls that makes me choke back tears. There’s a circle-of-life kind of feel. All great things come to an end but here there is no end. You just get to keep being awesome. Of all the colorful distractions surrounding it, its black and white draws me in and mutes the noise. If it wasn’t so big, I would contemplate stealing it. I want to be near it, longer and maybe always. The second I step away I feel its loss and mourn it. I want that beauty, those feelings it inspired to exist forever. The rage is calmed by one single piece.

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Cursive lesson by Amanda


Cursive lesson worksheet


ERIN BRIDDICK

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Russel Sorgi Suicide at the Genesee Hotel 1942


She sits on the window’s splintered ledge, feels the hard molding against her tendons, moving them to one side and the other until she swings her legs over. The penultimate choice before the decisive moment: to sit or to stand? Standing, a replica of Hollywood: reddened cheeks and an agenda larger than the self. Sitting, a replica of childhood: the diving board, the swing set, her mother’s lap, sandalwood and rose hips. To sit, then. She will be going, so her hands press only lightly on the framing.
 Her legs are getting wet. Pale skin, her mother taught her how to shave. This direction, she’d said. Like brushing crumbs from a table, she’d said.
 This is the burden of memory, placed back upon our shoulders, our spines curving under the weight. The machine forgot. In between photographs are gaps, like the darkness between the fireflies. When does the black-cat-shaped hole in the universe become the black cat?
 She’d gotten off the number 108, gotten a room for a dollar-ten, used it to sit. Had been indifferent to the comforts of Main Street: the ten-cent sandwich, the milkshakes, soda fountains, and coffee. The barber pole—the red twisting upwards, upwards in illusion only--the five red bars just turn around clockwise, set in a repetitive cycle meant to trick the eye, trick the populace into seeing something that isn’t there. She’d paused to look at it, as a reminder of the world’s fictions: pools of water appearing at the crest of a hill on a hot day, the flawlessness of pantyhose and make-up, apologies, god, heaven, and safety.
 She’d set her curlers, put on a dress, the crinoline familiar. Left the hose off to feel the material. The air tastes close and damp and the crinoline settles.
 The flickering countdown of the film reel: 5: Her bedroom and those who came and went; the laundry in the grass; the chimney in the fog. 4: FDR, war, genocide. 3: That crinoline again, her hat pins. 2: The odor, the overwhelming scent of sandalwood and rose hips coming from the bathroom—her mother on the edge of the tub, running water, that scent, her mother’s hand in the water, moving, evening the temperature: “in the gloaming, oh my darling, when the lights are dim and low, and the quiet shadows falling, softly come and softly go.” She is captured, kept on the tea table. Kept suspended in air by the Genesee Hotel. The lamp in the window stays on forever. Kept hovering, kept pretty--her legs, her underwear. Kept. Without the darkness, there are no fireflies.

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Romare Bearden Odysseus and Penelope Reunited Watercolor and graphite on paper 1978


Matisse left his coat on the hook by the door before walking out of it and into the endless darkness. Bearden lifted it, felt its heft in his two hands, donned it, and settled into its creases—the elbows stiff, the collar hard. Improvisational jazz left her scent throughout the house, but most pungently on the clothes in the attic. Bearden unpacked them, cut them into pieces, and stitched a new garment for Penelope to wear. Racism leaves its prints everywhere, on every surface, in every system, and Bearden watches its unctuous spoors, taking notes, and painting. Romare Bearden remembered that Odysseus told the Cyclops that he was called Nobody, and in saying such a thing, so denied the truth of his character. For Odysseus was never nobody, was propelled instead from greatness into mythological heroism—a template for masculinity and cunning. He is not without flaw, narcissistic as he is, but certainly without blame, always forgivable and thus, apart. There is a story here in this painting. Title: Odysseus and Penelope Reunited. Year: 1978. Materials: Watercolor, graphite, paper. Lore. Mythology. Waiting. The epic and the unsaid. Penelope and Odysseus wear golden yellow crowns. They sit next to one another—here, in this frame, they will always sit next to one another—betrothed and bound by word and ink and paint. Odysseus, black of skin and white of cloth, cradles a slaughtered goat like one holds a dog with a broken leg, protective and gentle. Blood from the animal escapes the veins in its cut throat and seeps down Odysseus’s arm, but the man looks straight ahead: his eyes, so like his wife’s, white with no pupils. A swarthy Penelope is at his side; her right arm holds a bowl of greens with similar delicateness to her husband with his own bounty, her left hand rests atop the goat’s head. One eye the same blank white, the other: a hint of a pupil, rectangular: a downward brush stroke or a mirror of the beast at her side? That blank gaze—there is nothing here, nothing but the stillness of the paper. Nothing, nobody. Who is the real Nobody here? Penelope’s tapestry, a performance of protest, destroyed. Her maids murdered, her suitors vanquished. She wove for the man twenty years gone, the man who showed fealty to his home and faithlessness to his partner both under charm and not. And what of those dead maids, hanging in a row? Where is fairness here? Justice averts her eyes not for impartiality but to save herself from bearing witness to rape, to abuse, to the hands of Telemachus tying thirteen slipknots into each of twelve nooses, the friction of the wooden beam and the ropes pulled taught by the weight of the women’s swaying bodies, the friction creaking an elegy for these nobodies. Bearden painted their skin dark here, these two newlyweds in the aftermath of massacre; the characters universal, the storyline consistent: sexism, classism, racism, slavery. Slavery then and now, genocide, rape, infanticide as altruism: so many have seen through the eyes of the maids, not pictured here. What is in Penelope’s half-blank stare? Cyclops herself, one eye blind to the hellishness she lives, the other eye bearing testament to cruelty and oppression. And what would their eyes look like, those maids? Dilated from the trauma, their pupils wide—they have witnessed it all, and their eyes will remain open.

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Mary Hassert Briddick Waiting Screenprint


The first snow always came in November. It wasn’t any different this year. He woke during the night all night and slept on the living room floor to keep from waking her. He walked to the kitchen door to look at the porch. The snow made it up to the third step. He fought back the urge to go out, to walk, to be the first to touch the white. The snow whispered down in the stillness and his breath rose and caught and fell in the eternal night. In the morning she was already awake but not in sight. He saw her chair on the porch, and he stared at its woven seat. Wondered who wove it, whose hands. She’d left her scarf draped over its back, and he thought about her shoulders. How he preferred her back to the chair’s in that scarf now catching the orange light in the pinnacles of its folds. Her shoes sat at the chair’s foot. The toes angled inwards unlike her gait; she must have knocked one while walking away. He found her at the face of the woods in her snow boots. Have you seen the hawk? he asked her. I was waiting for it. She stood there, hands in the pockets of her father’s coat. When did the dog find its mate, three days ago? What? Thursday. He scanned the heavy branches. So, four. Its mourning woke me up. Take these. He handed her the good gloves. She put them on and they walked back up. They made their way out to the edge of the property. She and he both stood looking at the field next door. They could see a few abrupt remains of the stalks of corn harvested in the late summer still showing above the line of the snow. They studied the sky, cued by one another. The days were rare now when the ashen overcast thinned enough to allow trees to cast the faintest of shadows over the snow. I made coffee. Good. They went in. They both heard the hawk’s mourning later in the afternoon, and took turns watching it through the binoculars from the porch. Its mate had been killed earlier in the week. They suspected a coyote. The dog found its body—bloodied feathers, broken neck—and my father had yanked the leash to keep her from getting too close. Poor thing, my mother said, leaning close to my father because the cord of the binoculars was around his neck, though she was the one looking. She studied what she could from this distance, and compared the shadows of its plumage to her sketch hanging in the stairway. My father watched her watching. Sometimes in the night they’ll both wake up. He in the living room to preserve her sleep; she in the bedroom. They’ll turn on lamps and watch the room. He’ll think about the hawk, about how its keening is too close to that of a human, how the wailing of any creature is too akin. She’ll think about their parents, his long gone, hers gone now, and sleep only when her mind settles on him, downstairs, her thoughts like a blanket over his body in the winter.

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Poetry from Erin’s Oulipo poetry lesson


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MAGGIE SNYDER


as a performer I am fixated on the body as a site of gestural language and the subtle violence of disconnection. These are fleeting moments that I see and perform across multiple contexts of life and art. Most of my work comes from directly from my life but that is not to say that everything is necessarily true.

as a photographer I use the boundaries of the camera frame to hold the body, or evidence of where the body has been interacting with a space, in a state of permanent suspension and with a specific gaze. This allows the audience to decode the gestural language through repeated viewings and appreciate the gaze, a place where reality breaks and fantasy is constructed.

as a director

It’s important to follow an idea with an open mind. I love the way ideas reveal themselves and in order to not impede that process, I work pretty intuitively, from my gut. Most of the prep work I do is technical so that I know I can document the process and the piece itself in the best possible way. My greatest thrill is working in collaboration with enthusiastic participants no matter their level of training in a particular medium or form. If they are perfect for a part, willingness to play usually trumps training or experience.


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AP Photo/Colorado Heli-Ops, Dennis Pierce


Hey cows. Whatcha doing? Why are you all clumped up on that one dirt circle? This looks entirely arranged by a human hand, not an act of God. There seems to be an organizing principle at work here that I feel like I should be able to tease out if I just look at this long enough. It looks like a site-specific installation and I’m trying to find the meaning in it. Probably a lot of people are feeling this way about flood pictures right about now. Like they could make sense of what happened if they just look at the pictures long enough, or return to stare at the wreckage of their house a few more times. Cows, you are inhabiting the most peaceful and slightly comical picture of the flood I’ve seen. You are just all hanging out, looking pretty chill in the water, maybe a little bemused at the ridiculousness of the whole situation. What do you think of all this water appearing all of a sudden? Were you afraid? Are you enjoying the vast amount you now have to drink? Is the water cold or warm? Even the way some of you are lined up against that washed out road is pleasing to the eye. Organized and orderly. The way you are all distributed throughout this image makes it almost look like the aerial view of a stage production, with the most action downstage and minor action happening up toward the back and on the sides. I wish I could see this exact shot taken today as well, as a follow up. Have the waters rolled back? Are you foundering in the mud? Is it squelching under your hooves? Were some of you afraid of venturing off your tiny mud islands? Did the cows up by the road call out to you, urging you off your dark circles of safety to join their little line by the road? What was it like, standing there while the water rushed up? Were you afraid? Did you perceive it as a threat, or like a joke you didn’t think was very funny but tolerated it to keep the social peace? I love looking at all of you like this. You are all so different. Different clusters of black on white, all white, all black. Seeing you frozen in mid-mill in a photograph like this made me feel better about the whole flood thing. Cows, let me tell you something: I had a pretty sleepless night the other night, trying to figure out what was going on in Colorado there. At about midnight here, I heard that a wall of rocks, mud and debris 40 feet high were coming down the mountain and were going to erupt from the mouth of the canyon. Luckily it petered down to about a seven foot wall by the time it hit Boulder Creek an hour later. It was still scary, the way things like this are in the middle of the night. My mom had been sending me video-texts of the waters encroaching on her backyard and everyone on social media that I grew up with were checking in on each other to make sure everyone had heard from their families. It was one of those rare times that I was grateful for Facebook, cows, because it made me feel like what I see of you here: part of a bigger group, a community, we the people of the Republic of Boulder, whose roots are there even if we are not. I hope you’re all drying out. I’d hate for you to get foot-rot. I’d also hate to think that you were scared to venture off those islands when there’s some really nice-looking grass over there in that field. Other than the rough water in the left side of this image, it looks pretty calm now. It looks like you did OK for yourselves and I’m glad.

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Justin Cooper Top: Paranormaldise Bottom: Board Installations


Justin Cooper, known to his friends as Winkle, began working in performance and installation in 2001, developing a distinct visual language and amassing a body of performative work that included an arrest by the Chicago Transport Authorities for taping his head to a train station railing in 2003 as part of a piece. Refusing to break character and abandon the performance, his then-girlfriend, documentary photographer Mary Rachel Fanning, was tasked with convincing the psych ward of a Chicago hospital to release the artist. The same kind of obsessive commitment that borders on madness is evident in some of Cooper’s more recent works on paper, intensely detailed and patterned drawings that both reference and incorporate the language of some of his performances and installations. These works are compelling and jangling, and retain the same can’t-look-away energy that his live work is known for. The visual language Cooper has developed utilizes common objects that function in uncommon ways. In his 2009 installation Paranormaldise, green gardening hoses gracefully arc nearly 10 feet in the air, culminating in the leg of an ordinary folding chair that engages other folding chairs at the peak of their own arc. This piece, titled Climax, is typical of Cooper’s desire to recontextualize common objects in order to point to how totally strange they actually are. Climax is also a prime example of Cooper’s sly humor—combining the literal hose with the metaphorical hose and layering this meaning to reference his complicated viewpoints about male sexuality, fertility and active versus passive participation in sexual arousal and performance. A similar humor and intensity assaults the viewer in the 2009 video called Studio Visit (http://youtu. be/yU8E_X-Z1uo), part of a drawing and video installation for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago’s tour of resident artists in the spring of 2009. Studio Visit is at first a quizzical view from a camera lying in the grass. Footsteps suddenly and rapidly approach the camera that is then scooped up by an apparently frantic creature that runs towards a building and enters a room while grunting in a bizarre subhuman way. Various views of the studio can be glimpsed as the camera ducks, jitters and whirls around, resting only briefly on agonized linemaking, the viewer’s only clue that this savage beast holding the camera is the artist himself, frantically inhabiting his studio environment. The most intriguing element of this piece is Cooper’s use of voice. Where his earlier performances were propelled by strong storytelling and narrative, Studio Visit uses the human voice and a lack of recognizable language in a way that references the chaos and weirdness of the rest of his visual language, an interesting graft of technique across divergent mediums. Brought together in the video format, the combination of visual and auditory hysteria is as compelling as it is hilarious, and highly relatable to those who know the stress of an impending studio visit or show. Mixing two-dimensional and three-dimensional work is becoming one of Cooper’s specialties. Board, a 2012 solo show at the Monique Meloche Gallery in Chicago found the artist using the language of line on paper echoed by joined lines of PVC pipe occupying the adjacent a physical space of the gallery. In a deviation from his typical work, Cooper painted the PVC pipe white. Cooper has subsequently expressed that in retrospect, the paint was a mistake in light of how raw he tries to leave materials that he uses in his work. While this is true, some of his earlier works suggest such intervention on his materials, so viewers should perhaps see this as a resurgence of an old impulse rather than a true betrayal of his personal work ethos. Regardless, the conversation that Board presents the viewer at a material level is a fascinating one of line, depth and how space is filled and framed across various mediums. No matter what discipline he taps into, Cooper’s work contains an inherent weirdness and frenetic energy that even if confusing, means it is never boring. His visual language continues to root and grow in such a way that the spaces between media and mediums are blurred into one wild vine of vision and personal expression.

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Maggie’s lesson in Australian vs American English and how to correctly make Vegemite sandwiches. Bonus: A lesson in making party sandwiches using butter and hundreds and thousands (or as the Yanks say, ‘sprinkles’)


SI CHEN


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Still of Ai Wei Wei in his music video Dumbass


1. When and Where? This picture was taken on May 22, 2013 in Beijing, China 2. Form of the image? Photography 3. Description of axis? Vertical 4. Usage? It is from Ai WeiWei’s new heavy metal single, Dumbass, the first piece of Ai Wei Wei’s forthcoming music album The Divine Comedy. 5. What is Dumbass talking about? The five-minute music video features the burly, bearded artist recreating his time in jail to expletive-laden lyrics denouncing government repression. 6. What is happening in the picture? Ai Wei Wei is suffering from the secret detention. 7. Who are the people in the scene? Ai Wei Wei and guards. 8. Relationships between shapes? Dark and bright, back and forth.

13. What does it mean? This is Ai Wei Wei’s reflection on the struggle of protecting human rights and the freedom of expression in China. 14. Why did the artist create it? He said the song may help him overcome the trauma of his detention, which he described as “extremely difficult.” He said as an artist, it’s his job to find a way to bring hope and warmth into the world. 15. Patronage? This art piece is created for people who care about the Chinese future, liberation and human rights. Especially for young people around the ages of 19-20—music can spark their imagination and passion. 16. Follow-up? Ai’s detention led to high profile protests from international media, diplomats, as well as galleries and museums, which quickly spread across the public sphere. In response to the pressure worldwide, Ai Wei Wei was released on June 22, but around the same time the government proposed amendments to its criminal procedure law, article 83, stating that the police may put suspects for subversion of state power under house arrest at secret locations without notice to his/her family members.

9. Style? Black comedy. 10. What happened to Ai Wei Wei during the detention? He being taken into jail with a black hood to being perpetually accompanied by two guards while eating, sleeping and using the bathroom. 11. Context? He was detained for an 81-day secret detention between April and June 2011. Ai was released on June 22, around the same time Ai was accused of tax evasion. The move was widely believed to be inspired by his woeful detention by the government two years ago. 12. Where the idea comes from? The idea first came when the artist was in detention and the guards watching him quietly inquired if he could sing. That makes Ai realized that both the guards and he were being detained; in their three years in the army, they had never been allowed to leave this place. 47


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Above is a picture of 110,000 people that braved the rain and smog gathering at Tianaman Square to watch the National Day flag raising. And that excitement is nothing compared to yesterday’s conferences. On the opposite page, these picture shows us a very typical National Day celebration. All the bureaucrats suited up, sitting in a circle. The reluctant smile can’t cover up their numbness and tension. 2012 National Day celebration was so simliiar that it looks lik someone may have just photoshopped some of 2011’s photos. The same people, the same sitting order and the same face emotion. The only difference may be relaxation saved themselves the little work of throwing the annual party. This year’s celebration, under the Xi Jiuping’s new leaderhsip and relaxed style, we can see more people in the picture. The wide-angled glassy-eyed frowning bureaucrats sitting in a circle. Below, when people enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of President Xi Jingping in the middle of making a toast, Premier Li Keqiong (far left) totally drinks anyways. At the annual party, the government always tries to show us a harmonious and peaceful vision, but in my heart of hearts, I know that it’s not true.

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For more information, please contact Douglas Rosenberg rosend@education.wisc.edu 2013


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