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A SEMIOTIC ANALYSIS OF RITUAL, PLACE, & COSTUME IN THE PERFORMANCE ART OF NATE HILL Juliana Hardesty New College of Florida, 2012 ABSTRACT -
i A SEMIOTIC ANALYSIS OF RITUAL, PLACE, & COSTUME IN THE PERFORMANCE ART OF NATE HILL BY JULIANA HARDESTY A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Dr. Nova Myhill Sarasota, Florida February 2012
iiTable of Contents Chapter 1 Mrs. Peanut, Mr. Dropout, an d the Theoretical Crises They Gave Me....1 Chapter 2 Case Studies of Nate Hill's Ch aracters ...30 Punch Me Panda.......40 Death Bear52 Chapter 3 Original Performance Prospect us...65 Works Cited ..73 Works Consulted ..77
Hardesty 1 Chapter 1 Introduction: Mrs. Peanut, Mr. Dropout, and the Theoretical Crises They Gave Me At the beginning of my thesis process, I thought I wanted to write about costume. A semester spent in Paris had me considering a career in the fashion industry, and I became interested in the transformative qualities of costume when considered in urban space. My educational background in literature informed my interest in crises of representation, while my background in theater gave my research pursuits a performati ve angle though I was certain I did not want to write about costume in the sense of its role in the traditional theater. I was more compelled by the role of outlandish dress in the everyday: how avant garde garments, when displayed in an otherwise ordinar y context like the street, could alter the trajectory of the average sidewalk with their jagged silhouettes and abstract shapes. What shadow did they leave behind, and how could they change how we think about shared, urban, otherwise non theatrical space? What would be the 'audience reception' of a display so invested in inspiring drama, and could it alter how spectators chose to navigate their space? I found all of these elements at play in the work of late Australian performer and nightlife personality Leigh Bowery. Two years ago now, I was discussing these ideas as potential thesis topics with a friend in Paris who thought I might get inspired by Bowery's unique brand of self Peanut Visits one of his very first trips to the United States in the early 1990s. He wears a floor length floral dress with a huge slit up one leg and matching top hat, with a head covering body sto cking underneath (see fig. 1). Over his stockinged face are painted a pair of upturned,
Hardesty 2 abstract eyes and red, o shaped lips, with no other features discernible. The costume is finished off by one molded, elephantine leg, which is covered by a stocking s o it extends outward from knee to sole, hiding the ankle. Bowery was famous for wearing platform high heels inside plain old trainers to achieve this look. He was also a man of large stature, so in this get up he towered over six feet tall. F ig. 1. with all the commuters going to work. The passers by stared at him in amazement and one shouted out 'Mrs. Peanut Head' which made Charlie [Atlas, director] crease up laug 2751). The yelling man was alluding to Mr. Peanut, the well known advertising mascot for American brand Planter's Peanuts, who also wears a top hat at a jaunty angle and so this 'look' was named. The reference also in spired Atlas's soundtrack to the film, a collection of peanut
Hardesty 3 creature we are about to watch, set loose from the nightclubs of London to run amok in Manhattan. Not entirely human like, but more of an abstract cartoon, Mrs. Peanut looked inexplicable and more than a little disturbing no matter how friendly her wave. Back then, I didn't know exactly what I was looking at it wasn't quite drag, it wasn't quite street theater but I knew something was going on there that I wanted to grapple with critically. This uncanny, grotesque sense of style and disruption of typica l gender presentation drew me into further research of Leigh Bowery's life and work, which ranged from fashion design, modeling (notably for painter Lucian Freud), hair and makeup styling to theater, film, dance, and a brief stint with a punk rap group tha t aspired to pop stardom. Though he is widely identified as a main figure of the 1980s 1990s stuck on him for convenience's sake, as it does not fully describe the nat ure of Bowery's costume play. Though he donned wigs, prosthetic breasts, wore sequined dresses and sometimes lip synced as traditional drag queens do, more often than not his 'looks' went beyond that kind of easily readable, biological male presenting as female drag. Bowery would distort gender signifiers beyond recognition, morphing his body into inhuman, abstract shapes. In the early days of his experimentation, he shocked people with his facial piercings, sometimes even ripping them out to up the ante during club shows later he'd wear toilet seats around his neck, or cover his face entirely with a ball of flowers. He used belts, corsets, even gaffer tape to constrict and displace his considerable weight, thus fashioning himself new silhouettes every m onth or every week. During one such
Hardesty 4 The Legend of Le igh Bowery ). Bowery also struggled with his thinning hair, but chose to resolve this problem in a unique sartorial way: he shaved it off, painted his whole head [often white or yellow polka dot], and then dripped paint over his bare scalp in its place. B owery would trot out these looks to gain notoriety on the London underground midnight, drink dance till the early light, preen for one another, and generally be socia lly aberrant amongst their ilk At 19, Leigh Bowery left his family home in suburban Australia to join this glitzy but gritty gro wing society of young creatives; many of whom were on the fashion track at prestigious local art college Central St. Martins (notable McQueen). Bowery had briefly pursued such a course back in Australia, but dropped it or picking up anyhow. Naturally straight away, b ut once established, he got to host his own club night : cheekily indicating a place where no outfit or behavior was too outr. Its notoriety earned him some famous friends, including pop star Boy George, through whom Bowery became associated with the post New Romantics glam revival. Inspired by the fashion and music of '80s synth pop and disco groups, this capricious subculture was born of London nightlife but quickly spread to youth all over the world. Bowery designed stage
Hardesty 5 costumes and danced in music videos for Boy George, while also collabo rating with experimental choreographer Michael Clark on almost every level of his dance productions. Despite his increasingly scatological displays, which tended to scare off potential benefactors, Leigh Bowery's star was steadily on the rise at the turn of the decade. Tragically, he died young in 1994 from an AIDS related illness. Since then, his influence has grown pervasive in the worlds of avant garde fashion and art albeit under documented and sometimes uncredited. Indeed, critics hardly seem to k New York contribution 'art'...or is he one of those transgressive, hard to like popular culture fig ures who lives only in cult recognition, later to achieve vast acceptance for representing the heavy handed borrowing from Bowery's archive, are evidence that he belongs to the latter group: misunderstood in his day by all except his peers and cloistered admirers from afar, only for his imagery to serve as an underpainting on the canvas of glob al pop art or life t hat propels this energetic work corporeal vulnerability he mentions was central to the effect of Bowery's presence as performance (Martin). Whether Leigh was tripping over his own heels or causing passersby to scurry off in fright, Bowery used the fragile existence of the body to mock, subvert, and destroy the dominant imagery of personhood, d susceptibility to these prevailing standards in order to make an impact. On a typ ical club night, Bowery would abuse the boundaries of social, personal,
Hardesty 6 and public space to the fullest. With his yo yoing weight and outfits with their various to damaged his look ( Legend ). The more extreme and gender bending outfits required Bowery to tape up his genitals, rendering him unable to urinate for the duration of the evenin g. Close friend and biographer Sue Tilley says that he drank vodka to dull the pain going to the toilet...'If you want something enough,' he replied, 'you can do anyt hing. I 3). Queer theorist Alison endurance his costumes required attests to a transcendence or ascesis tha t comes from comment that resonates with my first impression of Mrs. Peanut as something potentially you can...put them in a box of 'offensive' and 'fluffy' you know that...they won't threaten you, but someone Legend ). George goes on to describe how he noticed that even street hooligans we re afraid of his friend as they walked about London. Bowery's gleeful public acts of disrupting the status quo appealed to me more and more, but it seemed like something in the very nature of his performance identity defied academic justification. His fr Legend ). This comment seemed to affirm my suspicion that he executed his performances without
Hardesty 7 caring whether they c ould be understood and reframed by the general public, let alone by academics. Bowery's own words seem to both confirm and deny: 'I always say that I stay clear from art as much as I possibly can. I say this because most art has such hoity toity connotat ions and appeals to really boring middle class people. I don't want my stuff to do that. To be truthful tho ugh, I do think of it as art.' So Leigh told an Italian magazine in 1985. 'I think that when I'm dressed up I reach more people than a painting i n a gallery.' (Tilley 2814 7) Bowery's biography reveals a love for visiting museums of classical painting and for stealing as many books as he could from their gift shops on his way out His upbringing was solidly middle class, which could explain a rebellious attitude, but the connections he later made through world renowned painter Lucian Freud apparently turned him snobbish about the prestige (or lack thereof) of his friends F o r the purposes of a semiotic analysis of the audience/performer relationship which I will base on the writing of Keir Elam, it is important to know how exactly the artist framed his work: did he explicitly label it as such? Did he emphasize or encourage genre classification? Were there some he expressly wished would not look at it/him? The answer is, for the most part, probably not, although documentatio comments above are contradictory at best, but reveal his con fusion over what exactly the 'point' or value was at worst. Despite thinking of reaching more people by parading himself down the street, it seems Bowery 'The Artist' could have it either way which he did four years
Hardesty 8 later, when invited to do his first gal lery performance. At the Anthony d'Offay Gallery in 1988, Bowery executed his first and only institutionally commissioned work. He stationed himself for a few hours every day in a room behind a one way mirror, which the audience could see through but he could not see out of. Bowery preened on a chaise longue before the looking glass while wearing different costumes, experimenting with funny faces and poses. The spectator's experience of the display was akin to a trip to the zoo, wherein one ogles exotic creatures behind panes of glass a similarity exacerbated by the Dalmatian print, Cruella de Vil esque head masked cloak Bowery sometimes wore, while he was probably as hot and bored as many zoo animals appear. When asked to discuss the piece, Bowery call ed it Legend ). Despite this being was again struck by the one sided ness of the piece; his dismissal of the notion of an audience needing to 'get' anything out of it at all. I w as committed to exploring how My attention then turned towards contemporary performance artist Nate Hill, whose work I had begun following the summer before my fourth year of college. Like Leigh Bowery's, many of his perform ance pieces utilized an identity obscuring costume the difference being that Hill took advantage of the anonymity to enable curious social experim ents. Bowery was once quoted limiting place to do things...the ni ghtclub i by w hich he meant a
Hardesty 9 good place to execute and hybridize art, music, fashio n, and performance though his use of the catch ication ( Legend ). Yet this is a point on which the tw o artists seem to agree, as a nightclub was where Nate Hill did performance art for the first time (at least, the first he was documented ). With his now disbanded performance collective, Club Animals, Hill and company donned animal mascot heads and penned an area around themselves in the middle of a Brooklyn night club would shriek and squawk for attention and physica l affection from the club goers ( Club Animals 1:59 2:53). Indeed, nightclub spaces are uniquely suit ed to house experimental performance, as they combine an understanding and [in the case of institutions like Taboo,] encouragement of aberrant behavior, with darkness as cover and four walls to shield its patrons from the social mores instituted outside. Some clubs have their own stages, but the purposes of Club Animals, and Leigh Bowery in his early stages are better served by planting themselves on the dance floor By using their bodies to draw new boundaries in already relaxed, the performers create an atmosphere of heightened spatial tension that naturally draws more spectatorial interest than they c ould get on most streets for the simple reason that people are packed in together, making it hard if not physical ly impossible to ignore a spectacle happening on the dance floor. The level of personal boundary privately held by each witness is crucial to ratcheting up crowd excitement, as clubs are often sites where these rules get violated. Th is fear was acutely a ddressed by the coded behaviors often used by clubbers to attract others, turning this covert mating ritual on
Hardesty 10 affection. Thei r wails effectively put whoever found themselves facing them in the hot seat, in which they assumedly would have to pause and debate over wheth er to participate over whether they would be okay with the elimination of their own personal space. Another inte making house calls arranged via text message, during which they would sell people plastic baggies with food colored sugar clumps for a dollar apiece, playing at a childish, inane version of a drug deal. The prospect of entering a stranger's home (the Club was typically texted by party goers looking for a laugh) is understandably nerve wracking, and Hill admitted to drinking a little much like Leigh Bowery wit h his cherished vodka ( ) After Club Animals disbanded Hill subway platforms, during which he encouraged passer s by to sit on his lap fo r a quick but vigorous bo unce. Neither of these bizarre experiments got him arrested, so Hill kept dressing up and invented the character of Death Bear, a silent man with a giant, black plastic bear head who offered to come to your house and take away objects that brought painfu l memories (see fig. 2). It was this performance that marked my discovery of Hill, as it received an intriguing write But at the time I began writing, Hill had retired Death Bear and was instead walking the streets of New York as Mr. Dropout, an enigmatic character dressed head to toe in white (see fig. 3), whose only mode of communication was a meditative Twitter feed which essentially functioned as the performance text.
Hardesty 11 Fig. 2 (above), Fig. 3 (below).
Hardesty 12 Around this time, Hill tweeted that he was largely inspired by Leigh Bowery in appe arance reminded me so much of that clip of Mrs. Peanut, who ignored anyone she startled as she passed. The salient difference between these two street performances, however, is that Bowery did not supply a written component to ba ck up his conceptual inten tions, like Hill did with Mr. Dropout's Twitter. Admittedly, given the records we have of the time Bowery spent filming it, it looks like he had none beyond the desire to shock strangers on a new level, in a foreign city. s hard to believe that when Leigh died he didn't have a mobile phone, a computer, Internet...He played enough havoc with just a landline so I often think about what mischief he could have wrought if he had access to all the ways we have of (4016 9). Nevertheless, there is a strong likeness between these costumes' silent journeys through urban space; they seem to express a similar purpose. What that purpose was was definitely not readily apparent to their live spectators. Nate Hill freque walking street performance is just a reminder that this is still happening behind closed existed (Hi Like Bowery before him, Hill basically admitted that the fieldi
Hardesty 13 here is something automatically limiting about this ch oice to because such a negating statement will ultimately mirror how the audience understands Dropout and if it is not art, why pay attention, if Following this logic, Mr. Dropout's lifespan greatly exceeded the minimum amount of time it would have taken to make his mark as such. Of course, Hill was trying to project the illusion that the walking symbolized the time he was taking to come up with a new performance identity, but this was not in fact t rue. He revealed his plan to resurface as a panda fairly early on, by accident, in These conflicting issues complicated my initial academic reading of Mr. Dropout. Like Leigh Bowery did with his many costumes Dropout presents himself as a mostly self sufficient aesthetic entity; his audience's interpretation or understanding of what they see is irrelevant, insofar as Nate Hill's own satisfaction with the work goes. By negating the audience's interpretive voice as part of an artistic dialogue that could further the me aningfulness of the work, Mrs. Peanut and Mr. Dropout are essentially saying that we are nothing but a gaze to them, merely passive onlookers. If it weren't for us, they would get dressed up anyway af ter all, that is typically what club kids were wont to do, even if they c t afford to go out that night. This is also supposi ng that Hill's claim of Mr. Dropout being a meditative experience is entirely true, though he opened up about his thought process a little bit on his Twitter. There he also belied fragments of his personality by making ir tweets, thus undermining the idea of Mr. Dropout as a walking total identity erasure.
Hardesty 14 These observations led me to ask the bigger questions, like what constitutes perfo rmance art? It certainly seems to me that an audience is necessary, but how does an aud ience grapple with costum ed performers who ignore them? Human statues, who se feigned indifference is accepted conventionally are common performers on the streets of Paris, but they usually will acknowledge you or change pos e in response to a coin dropped in their bucket. Monetary compensation is firmly beside the point in the case of Dropout and Peanut While t he fourth wall is an accepted convention of the traditional theater, there is none established for the street; everybody stands on the same plane there is no stage to mark the difference If performer and spectator literally stand on a level achievemen t of artistic unity and not undermined? In order to craft a defini tion of performance art for myself I watched interviews a stalwart of the field, well established in the academy's eyes, regularly hosted by the New York Museum of Modern Art who defines performance art as: the moment when the performer, with his own idea, ste ps in his own mental, physical construction in the front [sic] of the audience in particular [sic] t ime. This is not the theater; theater you repeat. Theater, you play somebody else. Theater is a b lack box. Performance is t expect the audience any s expectation [sic] to be there 100%...and it is up to audience [sic] how they take it or not.
Hardesty 15 Nate Hill's Mr. Dropout, for one, does not entirely live up to this description. Thoug h he [presumably] didn't expect an Hill himself was conceptual ly, The point of Dropout's costume was erasure of artist and as a person whenever she steps before a crowd. I also presume he was not entirely mentally present on the basis of the following evidence: his use of Twitter reveals a fractured means of resp onse to an expression of his time spent really living in the event that was each Walk his attention was divided. In addition, he claims to have used some of that difference between performance art and theater in the latter's use of role play; Mr. Dropout was more than the opposite of Nate Hill playing himself, Mr. D ropout was Hill doesn't belong in a theater either. Either Mr. Dropout wa s the establishment of something enigmatic and new, or an imperfect, recalcitrant example of attempted performance art. Nevertheless, there i s plenty to discuss critically about his costume and its curious signifying qualities. By embodying a blank canva s, Mr. Dropout could practically mean anything to anyone. Some saw his veil as a religious head covering while others were reminded of a condom both suggestions were yelled at him in passing on the street. The allusion to the Muslim burqa in particular w as reinforced in observer's minds by the proximity of their memories of 9/11 a comparison that Hill, who claims this persona is apolitical, report edly does not appreciate ( Dropout clouds his ability to codify his presence by wearing such an ambiguous costume, which gene rates an atmosphere of unease. W ithout gesticulation or facial expression, the only
Hardesty 16 way the spectator human ness is his general shape and ability to walk. It is un known wheth er Nate Hill intended to p s sense of the uncanny in this manner. S ki masks, gloves, and full body concealment of most kinds tend to read culturally as burglars or bank robbers in the West as such moves toward identity erasure tend to su ggest that one has something to run away from or hide. Yet Mr. Dropout's whiteness functions like reverse camouflage, making him stick out as the brightest thing on the sidewalk which would not bode well for a real criminal on the lam. If a passerby were to recognize his get up as a costume meant to signify Hill playing a dramatic role, and recognize his presence as an event distinct from the regularly scheduled programming of people walking by, they would still struggle to read him as a source of dramati c information. Spectators expect to be given more signifying clues as to what's going on when they commit to watching [or even just paying attention to] something, like a sign overhead bearing the title of the performance, or giving some sort of reassuran ce of its prestige. But because all Mr. Dropout does is walk on by, they are left with nothing to work with. Likewise, people want to see some structure, or at least an outcome, to whatever intentional happening they witness, but his seemingly aimless wa lks and voiceless inner dialogue only prolong this expectation, if not completely lose not aware of his Twitter presence.) Though the particular placement and tr ajectory of each Dropout walk may have had personal significance and necessity to Nate Hill, to the random witness he is essentially nonsensical. Expectations regarding the ordering of dramatic information manifest themselves
Hardesty 17 in the faces of passersby as l ooks of confusion, double takes, etc. Used to seeing street performers at least delineate their space or announce their piece befo re they begin, most t immediately sure whether there can be any information, dramatic or oth erwise, to be gleane s public pieces like this one. In addition, Mr. s performance exhibits no chain of cause and effect, no concept of time (unless you happen to witness the end of his walk, there's no telling where he's going next), and no other activity than forward motion. His behavioral patterns are esse ntially the same as s who may pass him, so at least superficially, Dropout does not give people cause to recognize his presence as any more special than their own. The only thing that trul y sets him apart is his costume, which encroaches on the popular dress code to a degree that will vary from spectator to spectator. Since Mr. Dropout treats the public space the same physical way as everyone el s minds over whether he should be al lowed to dress that way; if the combined will of everyone else using that street ought to be enough to defy it, or if he ought to be left alone. Mr. Dropout thus raises the question: what rules exist in public space to govern such c onduct? Site specific performance naturally bends these rules, often overstepping boundaries social, behavioral and spatial. Eventually, street performers must realize that everywhere already to some body, and they co on this notion at any given time. The directive they may have in mind for the space is, in most cases, going to be very different from the one for which it was originally d esigned. Site specific performance is extremely generative of signs: the multipl e meanings and readings of activity and site intermingle, amending and
Hardesty 18 compromising one another. The y reveal, celebrate, confound, criticize, and make manifest the specifics of the site which b egins to resemble a kind of saturated space or of crime is potentially So where do these multiple meanings and activities intersect in the eyes of the spectator? What is their react ion when these points do meet? The followi ng are s ome q uestions posed and then abandoned by Fiona Wilkie in her essay, that I believe would prove specific performance art : how are the new rules of the performance communicated ? What if the spa ce is no t clearly delineated? And h ow much is the performance actually cha nging the rules of that space? Wilkie briefly considers how such displays orient themselves toward the audience in closing her article, but for the sake of understanding s intera ctive, even confrontational performances, I shall expand upon her analysis. His animal t extremely ta s desire to maintain distance as well as the muffling qualities of his masks. Other than his b rief online advertisements, there is no place for an explicit explanation of how the pro ceedings are meant to work between performer and spectator. Whether he is situated in a private home or on the street Hill claims the intent of his characters Punch M e Panda (which is what it sounds like Hill wore a panda suit and invited people to punch him; see fig. 4 ) and Death Bear is to affect the participant on a personal level, although the surrounding area is also affected somehow [inadvertently or not.] The e nigmatic Mr. Dropout approaches no one individually, but instead exists as a walking commentary on the surrounding area itself.
Hardesty 19 Both of these situations render an everyday reading of their spaces complicated, leaving passersby amused, worried, irritated, or even relieved. No matter wha t, something about s internal and/or external trajectories is changed; veered off course in a s theory of the intrinsic behavioral rules one observes when taking advantage of a publ ic space, with Keir Elam's study of dramatic competency in his Semiotics of Theatre and Drama I hope to illuminate the significance of some of these permutations. Fig. 4 Wilkie opens which discusses how th e presentation of a certain space affects how people move through and treat it, by identifying the various dichotomies residing within the park she has chosen for her study: 43). Given that a person would be subconsciously aware of at least a few of these attributes upon
Hardesty 20 what tactics would be used (243). She considers the space syntax m ethod, an architectural and spatial planning theory which posits that movement and communication are essential to the socioeconomic success of any designed private or public space. This applies to site specific performance in that a certain level of commu nication must exist between spectators and actors in order to regulate how each group will navigate that space. In addition, individual experiences of and expectations for a certain place will invoke certain rules in the eye of the beholder, which will le ad them to perform their own choice within the that order being the physical barriers which govern the path although he or she may have his or her o wn internal associations with the place, which might influence his or her behavior inside it (247) Wilkie quotes Michel de a highly suggestive term, it evokes the idea of psychological re pression regarding public behavior. From this point Wilkie establishes that spatial rules emerge from being in dialogue with one another. Certain rules predominate depending on how th e place is functioning at any given time, while other s r emain constant to available to people in any which is created in part by what has passed befo re in that place. For example, knowledge of a famous historical event that happened there will probably have some effect on the list of behaviors deemed appropriate. In short, in any given place. Calling upon theater anthropologist Richard Schechner, Wilkie ace means to construct a theater ;
Hardesty 21 this tra as the cave art of the Paleolithic period demonstrates s make on the definition of place, for it implies that it s purpose is always inherently Supposing that the creation of place foremost means to tame a space in order to give it signifyi ng qualities readable to other humans, it follows that the transformation of anonymous space into meaning laden place also establishes a venue for interpersonal contact. Assuming that the type of place being dealt with here is not domestic but public, fro m this point we can suppose that Schechner also means to say that all interpersonal contact has potential theatricality. We can read this transformation as humanity's attempt to perform its impact on the world; to create new boundaries within which to per form for each other. In the course of human history, we 'write over' places that have already been written upon and rubbed out at least once before. In so doing, site specific performers must watch out for making their endeavors a 'colonizing' act; Wilki e uses the example of performers brushing broken bottles out of their site so that spectators may watch comfortably, as if attempting to sanitize the area. barriers and constr aints (both man made and natural) that restrict and channel movement; explicit rules stated by controllers of the site; borrowed codes that are brought to bear on particular types of place; and the implicit conventions that work to affect and organize beha vior through communal agreement (248). On top of these, we each have our own interact wit h other sets of inner rules? In effect, this negotiation between the rules of the
Hardesty 22 site, the performance, and the spectators serves as Wilkie's model for analyzing site specific performance. Hill remarked on Twitter that the only time he was stopped by th e police in his 20 they only wanted to take his picture and ask if he was doin g Yorkers, accustomed to the sartorially bizarre, probably don't even register Mr. Dropout as a deliberate performance piece. Hill was quick with a response to this when art critics was meant to be a quiet street performance. I am supposed to be dramatizing nothing. Not shocking. I achieved it performative sense nonetheless. Wheth er or not his act was successful or compelling at all seems to be the issue with which Hill is grappling himself. Refusal, rejection, and negation are the core tenets of Mr. Dropout's existence, or if you will. It began with his vocal re fusal to interact with his spectators in the flesh as he had before, instead delegating all communication to Twitter; he felt he had as it were. The costume is also an im p t ignore a 6 foot something figure covered in white in a throng of colorful bodies, like an ex friend meticulously cut out of a group photo. Nate Hill characteristically rejects criticism and in terpretations of what he is doing, making it difficult to maintain a dialogue beyond the 140 some characters allowed per tweet sent his way. Lastly, the costume negates his personhood and identity, thus negating the place
Hardesty 23 Hill occupies in society when not dressed as Mr. Dropout, while still occupying a place in physical reality. These concepts, while indeterminate, seemed emblematic of the tenuous relationship between costume and public space, as well as between performance art and urban space. Mrs. Pean ut and Mr. Dropout both dress in public, but not by going out scantily clad, as we are accustomed to seeing people hey go the opposite route by covering up so much that they deny thei r personhood. Perhaps this alone is ample reason to pay attention to their efforts the simple fact that they try to succeed at a new method of disturbing the idea of a socially acceptable uniform. But is this an inherently dramatic endeavor? One could a rgue that it is because costume inevitably has the same function when it operates outside the walls of the theater as it does within; that is, to be symbolic of some thematic, social, or economic meaning, in which case Mr. Dropout passes the test, as his w hite suit is symbolic of nothingness. Let us examine further the signifying capabilities of different kinds of costume. For example, a businesswoman in a sharp suit works in a realm far removed from the theater, yet her costume executes a similar kind of semiosis. She consciously chooses what she wears to denote her professionalism, seriousness, rank, earning power, or even her specific role, as in certain governmental divisions like the FBI, which is known for wearing black suits, white shirts and black ties. Using s tripartite typology of si gns (the icon, index and symbol), we can understand the business suit as being comprised of indexical signs, which are linked causally to their object. The restricti veness of the tailored suit, often paired with not so comfortable heels on women, physiologically indicate the formality of her profession
Hardesty 24 and depending on the cut and quality of the suit, may indicate her salary too. Similarly, pointed we can read the s suit indexically because it exists both as an effect of her chosen profession and as an indicat or of it. Moving along the typology, Peirce defines a symbol as a sign that denotes its object because it has been decreed to do so by some preexisting generally do not s costume, unless she happens to be wearing, for example, a breas t cancer awareness pin for a charity function that day S ymbols appear less in our dressing for everyday life than they do in the theater, where depending on the size of the budget and a host of other creative and interpretive choices one object can substitute for another. For example, a rectangular block of wood could be used for a phone, or a pillow [in particularly dire circumstances.] However, actors arguably transform such symbols into indexical constructs before our very eyes, by virtue of their ability to the meaning or intended purpose of the thing because the actors are physical bodies with agency of their own, their interaction with the given symbolic thing establishes a physiological, effectual relationship (hand presses block of wood to ear, it becomes a phone through which a voice travels; head presses cheek to wood and closes eyes, it becomes a pillow upon which t he actor sleeps). The third and most recognizably theatrical category is the icon which represents its object by the similarity between the sign vehicle and its signified. As the theater is a playhouse for interactions, t he actors themselves stand in as icons for the fictional or historical characters of whom they strive
Hardesty 25 t o establish verisimilitude. T hough a businesswoman may be perceived as wearing a icons like Jacqueline Onassis or Coco Chanel, what ultimately separates her costume from an expressly dramatic one is that she herself, unless she herself is Jackie O. or Chanel, is not standing in as a reference to another person; she is the only person who can represent herself. This is where costume derives dramatic semiotic meaning. As evidenced by my own set of examples and cross referencing, Peirce acknowledges that there is no such e theater appears...to be the perfect domain of the icon: where better to look for direct similitude between sign vehicle and signified than in the actor charact (19 20). Elam quotes Jan Kott, t s ideas to t he theater, in identifying the primary happens to Elam's understanding of the theater s unique ability to exploit not sportin g rich silk costume, but are entirely obscured by a costume that gives off entirely different associative signals? vehicle (head to toe white fabric) essentially represents all possibility by virtu e of its blankness. So what happens to iconic identit y in s use of his body and voice do not at all synchronize with that which his external appearanc e signifies? In the case of Punch Me Panda and Death Bear, there is no similit ude between the sign mascot costume) and the object of their relationship is not even to represent a real istic bear, nor an actual sports mascot The sign
Hardesty 26 symbolic, not iconic relationship, however the relationship between Hill and his costumed alter ego is still basically an actor we may address the discrepancy created in the sign typology when applied to such unconventional performance Thinking back to moment in which a steps in his own mental, physical construction strangers: for Nate Hill, this is the moment where he dons costume in order to represent an alter ego ritual conductor, which remains an iconic relationship through the synchronicity of his movement (though body is obscured) and voice. Thus I establish s terminology falters befo re the needs of my analys is, which is in part why I hybridize it with Wilkie theories novelty at his time of publication, so Elam occupied himself with traditional theater analysis in order to establish a foundation for the field. He was not looking at the short duration performance art with which I am dealing; a style that does not act upon a written storyline s semiotics is obviously based on scripted play s and though Nate Hill might have spoken some stock lines when in disguise, his work cannot be analyzed with the exact same method. However, each Death Bear and Punch Me Panda encounter followed a basic formula which coul d essentially stand in for a perf ormance text in my semiotic analysis. Earlier, I identified the two bears completely separate characters, as he does no t use an affected voice when under the mask. He in fact speaks ve ry casually with his client s as if the only inequality between them was the power to confiscate (D.B.) or the power of viole nce (bestowed on the
Hardesty 27 participant by P.M.P.) Thus, I argue that Hill's constructed identities occupy the liminal space first identified by Richard Schechner when he observed the deer dance of the Arizona Yaqui: his non emotionally transform their spectators in some way ( 19 85: 4). Though Nate brand of performance art was not what Schechner was seeking to define I think his readings validate D.B. and P.M.P. as contributions to the genre. Schechner claims that each performance must exhibit oexist [ing] in an unreso lved dialectical negotiate between their position and his own as an individual (6). Death Bear and Punch Me Panda also provide mo re material th an Mr. Dropout to discuss in terms of site specific or itinerant performance art which puts them in the spotlight of my thesis The roles they play are conceptually clearer to the onlooker, partially because their costumes signify with more concrete imag ery : instea d of just dressing as a man in white, Hill deliberately appears as a creature familiar to academic and athletic campuses, or to theme parks. Death Bear advertised himself in local publications online and in print, as someone who could take awa y whatever physical objects were giving you pain an assertion that dissembles previous assumptions about the power held by people wearing mascot costumes. Nate Hill listed his personal cellphone number and availability so that individuals could text him t o set up a meeting in their home. During these meetings, the client would typically proffer the object(s) with a great deal of solemnity, then feel compelled to tell the story of why exactly these things were so painful to them. The session would conclud e with Death Bear stuffing the
Hardesty 28 objects in his black sack, which he assured were to be hidd en in the dark recesses of his never to be s t make private calls (except for in the month of March 2011 of which there is lit tle documentation ), but offered his protected belly on the streets of New York for cathartic blows. One link between these two acts is the reductive quality of their services; Death Bear [theoretically, if not literally] extracts pain and sorrow, while th e Panda takes away anger, frustration, or just plain excess energy, sublimating it in the guise of a sm iley caregiver. These acts of instant sublimation, if you will, places Nate Hill in a uniquely p owerful position as a performance artist, as he is creating without any religious or institutional credentials. Hill has even proven he can do so in a realm as intimate as an apartment or as vast, frigh tening, and impersonal as a New York avenue. In the next chapter, I will begin by expanding upon the relation between Hill's performances and their use of space and place, using Fiona Wilkie's critical work to support my analysis The primary area of con cern regarding the audience is how happenstance spectators incorporate their unconscious understandings of a given public area into their behavioral response to whatever occurs to them in that space. This entails a deliberate passive to active bodied tran I shorten this actor explicate the unique responsibilities of the audience member who witnesses his Theater of the Oppressed. Though the performances in question here are not necessarily intended
Hardesty 29 to affect social change, I pos it that the moment in which a spectator approaches Punch characters are asking pedestrians to do when he entices them to break from coded behavior, which essentially de mechanizes their bodies. Moving on, I tie these sets of rules into the criteria of specta torial competence established by Elam to paint a clearer picture of the possibili s can be perceived. Having established my theoretical base, I move into case study style analyses of Death Bear and Punch Me Panda.
Hardesty 30 Chapter 2 Case Studies of Nate Hill's Characters The specific change that his costumed characters [usually] manage to effect in pe ople is, in a word, catharsis. To explain the title of her essay Catharsis in 20 th Century Performance Elin Diamond in cludes this illuminating epigraph with the words of T.W. Adorno: The subject is lifeless except when it is able to shudder in response to the total spell. And only the s s shudder can transcend that spell...without shudder, conscious ness is trapped in reification. Shudder is a kind of premonition of subjectivity, a sens e of being touched by the other. (161 2) to Death Bear and Punch Me Panda in videos of Na te telling Bear the emotional story behind what punch Panda without much experience in hand to hand combat can expect to rebound a bit off his springy chest protector. B oth characters thus cause their spect actors to reflect on themselves in a new light, giving them the possibility of a new subjectivity: one in which they could live without constant visual reminders of their dearly departed, or one in which they could tak e a mugger in a fight if they so choose. performance artist to effect a 180 degree transformation entire life All Nate Hill can do with his costumes is offer the anonym ity (or at least, a buffer for recognition) that they afford him, which supposedly assures the individual that they are
Hardesty 31 touching & being touched by a total Other. The shudder could feel more violent on the mundane trajectory each individual is following to places like work and school, where conduct is strictly monitored and thoughts are not always as free. It is in this moment that Punch Me Panda offers himself typically catching them off guard. Death Bear finds his clients in a similar state of vulnerability, but in this case it is premeditated, for the client has consciously summoned him and is aware s/he is letting a stranger into her/his private space. As soon as th spectator becomes a spect actor), Hill in costume and his participa nt stand together in liminality. From this point on, the former may guide the latter through the exchange to t he other side where [ideally] catharsis lies. Richard Schechner was briefly mentioned in my introduction but his concept s of and ritua listic transportation will be central to my analysis of cathartic moments in this second chapter ( 2003: 129) In his words, genuine if temporary transformation gives way to is regarded as evidence of the strength of t n be a spirit or even just an The perfor mer does not seem to be ( 1985: 41). Not only did Schechner c o found the Performance Studies department at the Tisch School of th e Arts in NYU, he is a founding father of the genre itself and is thus indispensable to such a thesis as this I found his concept of restored behavior of
Hardesty 32 actualities: the processes of framing, editing, and rehearsing; the making and to be especially useful in dealing with Death Bear encounters with whom are both expected and prepared for (1985: 33). This is unlike th e Panda, who greets an audience that is mostly uninitiated; surely Hill is joined by a few fans at any given performance. This notion of ch can be repeated and modified was originally written by sociologist Erving Goffman, but the most salient contributi on Schechner makes to a dramatic application of Frame Analysis are his process m odel diagrams. Fig. 5. This is a reproduction of his master qua drant, exhibiting progress lines which demonstrate various kinds of fig. 5 ; 38). In so doing, Schechner argues that each restoration starts with the performer herself ( point 1: and progresses through the appropriate tenses until she
Hardesty 33 emerges with a performa nce event, or non event, in the future. I will map this idea of restored behavior competency for two purposes: to unpack how people respond to the unlikely or unusual stimuli that are Nate Hill's per formances, reaction Schechner states that theater of social, religious, aesthetic, medical and educational process. Performance first sen s claim not only validat s pieces by recognizing their actions and attitudes as performative on their own consciously or not but it also acknowledges the dramatic medium as being ever present in the otherwise mundane realm of the everyday. The idea that all these other frameworks which make up civilization can enact and enforce themselves throug s supports my claim to the emotional, psychological, and soc ial efficacy of his work. The above statement also says a lot about how these otherwise invisible structures or forces can make themselves visible through our routine behaviors. There is something to be investigated about this image of reflexive behavior it seems to me that it is this very rigidity of definition that Hill toys with. Punch Me Panda in particular challenges the status quo of h processes. Mr. Dropout existed as a meditation on the performativity of the social identification process itself. Death Bear induces the symbolic behavior required of the social and aesthetic processes, by getting his clients to
Hardesty 34 produce objects that are personally relevant, and then explain the social and/o r aesthetic complications behind the object(s) that have led to their decision to give it/them away. s work is not without its contradictions and confusions, however. Just a mask or provide more food for thought regarding Nate Hill. Something about the not ion of these social processes being transformable like the creepy bear mask or identity effacing costumes he dons s characters might function as reflective surfaces to the behaviors of the people he is coming into contact wi th. Of course, this depends on how each individual receives the character he happens to be performing that day, which in turn depends on their personal methods of observation and interpretation. Any given number of backgrou nd circumstances in that person s life could shape this Though I am writing about the effects of social rules on performativity while Schechner writes more widely about the differences from cultu re to culture, the reflexivity of these coded reactions helps predict the outcome of such exchanges, and another. But in recognizing that there are certain modes of response common amongst most peoples, ways of responding that are expected of certain situations, Schechner helps me comment on how that plays s visits as a new type of transformative ritual. This I claim on the basis of the following definition of the ritual to theater and efficacy to ed by Schechner in Performance Theory :
Hardesty 35 The basic polarity is between efficacy and entertainment, not between ritual and theater...A performance is called theater or ritual because of where it is performed, by whom, and under what cir cumstances. If the per s purpose is to e ffect transformations to be efficacious then the will most probably also be present, and the performance is a ritual...No perfor mance is pure efficacy or pure entertainment. The matter is complicated because one can look at specific performances from several vantages; changing perspectives changes classification. (2003: 130) The matter is complicated in s work, which occupies a grey area between the two tables of efficacy and entertainment traits that Schechner draws up in his book ( 1985: fig. 4.4, p. 130) Where exactly Death Bear and Punch Me Panda stand on this continuum will be discussed in their following individual studies. c lassifying the different effects of theatrical, cultural, and dramatic subcodes on performance help analyze the degree of efficacy in P.M.P. and D.B. provide a framewor and imagining the various semiotic cues they could be responding to when seeing a Nate Hill piece for the first time. My introduction focused more on categorization of rules which does somewhat resemble E his is the process in drama whereby
Hardesty 36 norms in order to characterize a phenomenon which is not fully understood or which is only vaguely differ t know how to deal with a new theatrical experience, and therefore can only use vague terms to subcode pro observing, making and bre s hierarchy of inner rules, each performance privileges one of these three code modifications over the o thers (49). In addition, performances are subject to overcoding, whereby anyone important to the theatrical production will inevitably impose their own personal, psychol ogical, ideological and stylistic traits which makes a written text recognizable within the category of so performance at le ast in the eye of the actor, designer, or whoever is imposing it. Altogether, these layers form a standard of theatrical competency in each spectator. Elam further breaks down these codes into theatrical, cultural, and dramatic categories, to show how ea ch type relat s mind. This organization is helpful in understanding how N s performances are bracketed off in the eyes of the spectator, according to what aspects of his activity the spectator recognizes, or at least relates to something else familiar. In his book, Elam provides charts which break down the categories according to t heir unifying characteristics. This is a useful way for him to illustrate his ideas, as we may understand the range of the ncy for understanding semiotic signals as a framework
Hardesty 37 imagined as having a catchall shape, like a box. Charts are naturally reflective of the ithin certain ch aracteristics are bracketed off, and further still. The qualifying nuances that surround each characteristic can be drawn fro watch es a drama transpire; s/he may then file any new observances that identify with previously f categorization is useful to the purposes of my particular analysis, though on a subject divorced from scripted drama, for the very reason that most witnesses to ognize his behavior as Pe rformance Art with a capital P or even as the acts of a sane citizen. However, the sheer proliferation of signs and signals that Hill exudes each time means that the witness is bound to pick up on a familiar semiotic thread at som e point and when they do, they are going to pull from a mental reserve of primarily cultural and social experiences in order to put a name on it, and to decide how it makes them fee l. By marking off different columns for the different subcodes, Elam allow s us to narrow focus on the various source genres witnesses are drawing from. Moving from the image of a square to a circle, when prioritizing the three columns, it helps to think of cultural coding as the largest circle, encompassing the dramatic circle, which then houses the theatrical. I have ordered them in this way as performance art is in the realm of the dramatic, and borrows codes from the theatrical, thus exemplifying the potential for dramatic worlds outside the four walls of a traditional theat er. Both of these witness reactions are of interest to me, because I am studying the treatment of public space the Panda and Death Bear costumes are the first and most
Hardesty 38 sa lient semiotic frontier between Hill and his spectator. It is how Hill animates each whether they open themselves to Schechnerian t ransportation or transformation. It is t he actors, and thus validate unstructured, unfamiliar, even threatening public realm. I will partiall y reproduce the charts I consi s work here, formal, ideological and historical categories are not applicable to the performances in question. Th eatrical Subcodes Cultural Codes Dramatic Subcodes Conventions governing gesture, movement, expression General kinesic codes Rules for interpretation of movement in terms of character, etc Spatial conventions (regarding playhouse, set, configurations of bodies, etc ) Proxemic codes Constraints on reading of spatial arrangements in terms of inter relationships, dramatic space, etc Rules for theatrical costume and its connotations Vestimentary codes Rules for interpreting costume in terms of status, char acter, etc Stage and playhouse norms, etc Architectural codes etc Stage and playhouse as sources of dramatic information, etc (Elam 51). The above chart is relevant to my study because of its questioning of spatial boundaries and its columns regardin g expression, movement and costume, all three of which send out a multitude of ambiguous semiotic messages s oeuvre. Also, because his performances deny the audience a typical stage space thus rendering useless their architectural levels of c ompetency by not taking place in a traditional theater, but
Hardesty 39 instead on the street or in the home (a realm not expressly intended for performative expression, which in fact typically functions as an escape from the pressures of social performativity), the s pectator may not know whether dramatic information c an be gleaned from what s/he is witnessing at all. The next code grouping through which I have chosen to interpret these three performances is that of linguistics and verbal communication. These will mo stly only be applied to Death Bear, who is the most talkative of the three characters: Theatrical Cultural Dramatic Conventions governing modes of performer audience address (in theatrical context) Pragmatic rules (conversation and contextual rules, etc ) Conventions relating to the interpretation of interpersonal communication (in dramatic context) Influence o factors on performance Dialectal Geographical and class constraints on characterization (Elam 52). The second to last gro uping of codes in this book is more applicable to performance art because of its more pragmatic, less conventional theater oriented language; this chart deals with conventions that are recognizably used across a wide range of framed experiences, like when an individual is viewing a piece of 2D art, or just conversing with someone. The first two rows Elam identifies as epistemic code, the next two as aesthetic, and the final three as logical code. These categories are pertinent for this study because when taking place in the wide openness that is a public street, Hill ca s concept of the n ormalcy regarding the place s/he is approaching, as well as her/his personal preferences regarding what can and cannot reasonably interfere with this understanding.
Hardesty 40 Theatrical Cultural Dramatic Theatrical frame (definition of the theatrical situation as such) Episteme (conceptual organization of world) Drama tic frame (construction of the drama as such) Definition of performance elements as such Encyclopedia (ensemble of points of reference, items of knowledge) Construction of dramatic (ensemble of referents) Preferences for and conventions regarding signal information Aesthetic principles E xpectations concerning kinds and ordering of dramatic information Preferences regarding performance structure, acting modes, etc Preferences regarding dramatic structure, necessity, etc in dramatic worlds Constraints on the logic of representation, t emporal ordering of performance, etc General principles of cause and effect, necessity and possibility, etc Conventions regarding causation, action structure, necessity, etc in dramatic worlds (Elam 54). With these theoretical frameworks established, I will now g o into individual discussions of how each character demonstrates them to different degrees. Punch Me Panda Fig. 6. A large part of the attraction s performative offering of different modes of interaction to his fello w citizens is the fact that their actions will have no real consequence. Punch Me Panda gives complete strangers the opportunity to hit him with no retaliation; he certainly see
Hardesty 41 do not hit him anywhere other than his stomach.) The moment in which the spect actor realizes they are allowed to strike someone without penalty is the very moment they shift into the d ramatic world, out of the conventional framework for behavior. What separates this recognition from the disbelief viewers typically suspend in the traditional theater is that the We attend a play like Othello expecting none of the actors to experience conseque nces onstage, because we implicitly agree that the proceedings of the drama will be taken care of and end within the four walls of the th eater. s has no convenient buffer space like a darkened house, lobby, and exit between its dramatic world and the real world, thus people experience an immediate popping in and popping out of its reality. The result is a sped up journey across liminal thresholds, one that occurs so quickly that participants hardly have a moment to process the action that is taking place and its effects on them. Instead of having a clear distinction between the world of the theater, the world of the drama and participants in Hill's pieces experience all th ree compacted onto one another. O n the street, there is no line drawn between his performative t erritory and the pedestrian one, so that all are essentially suscept ible to react to him, whether with an indifferen t glance or an engaging gesture. However, this latter act of gesture is required to make the pedestrian into a spect actor; unless s/he touches, speaks, or externalizes their reaction in such a way that is r achieve a transport/formative and/or cathartic experience for that individual person.
Hardesty 42 Instead, Punch Me Panda will only be remembered by that particular spectator as a bizarre amalgam of visual and per fo rmative signals; just an amusing diversion from their everyday lives. Some might experience secondhand cathartic relief from merely watching Panda get punched from the sidelines, but this is not the same as the ritualistic transportation that can occur in the most successful of cases. With the bustling street now established as a realm of open possibilities, liminal space Despite this ambiguity, we still find Fiona W even though she observes them in a much smaller, more contained and peaceful place in her own analysis. To begin with, pedestrians are usually very conscious of the e xplicit rules stated by controllers of the site which they cannot break without legal consequence: including (but not limited to) no parking, jaywalking in traffic, biking or skateboarding, no erection of food carts without a permit, and as in any other governed area, no fighting, stealing or killing. There is some crossover here with the borrowed codes that are brought to bear on this particular type of place, that type bei suggests that these are rules which are not explicitly stated in the law boo ks so to speak, and probably include culturally understood gestures of courtesy such as not blocking foot traffic in an obnox s voice or drawing disruptive attention to oneself. category : the implicit conventions that work to affect and organize behavior through communal agreement. Such conventions are primarily interpersonal, or regulating the interaction between the individual and the masses walking by pedestrians all essentially agree to go one way or the other. People also generally accept that a sidewalk is not
Hardesty 43 meant to be a stoppin g or meeting place, because one would get yelled at for blocking gallery performance in Harlem, th e courtyard indenting the building ed to such usage, as we witness it briefly used in a video clip ( #PunchMe ) This hollow, which intercuts the sidewalk running parallel to the Studio Museum becomes significant in the clip as its particular spatial quality enables a successful cathartic exchange betw een Panda and spect actor. At 3:25 a woman enters the scene who jokingly boxes with Panda before sidestepping into this square, where he follows her. Once they are s eparated f rom the microphone range, a brief verbal exchange happens between them. Afterwards, the Panda gives the woman a big hug a noteworthy departure from his treatm ent of the other participants. In training for trad itional theater scene work, a ctors are sometime s order to enliven their bodies and connection to each other, so that the audience will be convinced of the gravity o f whatever conflict they are acting out We can interpret the hug moment in this video as the artist as Panda as transportative guide achieving a similar benchmark; it is the denouement of their specific encounter, proving that a progression like that whi ch Schechner postulates for ritual has taken place. The space has also proven itself as a key player in that exchange, as s omething about that square hollow allowed a threshold of intimacy that the bustling sidewalk did not, so ostensibly this woman felt comfortable enough to embrace an anonymous person inside a panda suit. Others who choose not to directly engage with Punch Me Panda instead try to get around him with as wide a berth as possible, no easy feat considering the narrowness of the
Hardesty 44 sidewalk and how ma ny people are coming to and fro. Indeed, while hopping up and down to attract at rather imposing figure on the Chappell )). This could eit intimidate them (as admittedly, some guides do) and ward them off. s understanding of the space syntax planning method, I will now consider what level of comm unication exists between Hill and his audience, and whether or not he succeeds in establishing a new way of regulating their movement in this space. Evidently, those who glare at him or simply ignore what is going on are concerned most with the performanc of the space, and are not allowing other they are thus overcoding the space, to residents, s hopkeepers, or daily commuters on their path, walking in the same direction as them inner rule regarding behavior on this sidewalk does not expand far past walking straight ahead, talking on a phone, entering or exiting thr ough a door, Hill succeeds with most of his audience in adding to that repertoire the allowance of performative physical aggression a set of gestures normally prohibited by federal law, and to a varying degree, a popularly held conception of right and wron g, appropriate and inappropriate. So what is the dialogue between these various sets of no matter what the space is being used for, is simply that of a walk path. Hill does not aim nor attempt to change this in his performance. Howeve expectations, this is also most likely the predominating rule, because more pas sersby are
Hardesty 45 ignoring or avoiding than are engaging with the Pand a. The s repertoire that Hill is seeking to affect pertains to socially permissible interpersonal behavior perhaps certain users of this sidewalk, say, late at night and up to no good, may exercise physical aggression upon others this is s omething that could have happened. Yet in the middle of the day, on the ir way to work or school, most users are not considering this nor cathartic exorcism as options for this area. An example of how Punch Me Panda establishes his staging and line of com munication with his audience would be the basic gesture of hitting his padded stomach with a boxing glove in invitation. Cert the space like those performers who Fiona Wilkie watched ge t rid of broken glass on the street his i ntroduction of violence, albeit playful and superficial, into the space does not colonize, but aims instead to liberate these individuals. By breaking out of their everyday mechanized bodies, literally exercising muscles that typically would not be used o n this trajectory, patrons of Punch Me Panda are agreeing to perform before strangers as well as to express whatever rage or frustration they hold inside. This implicit agreement varies in levels of commitment; there are those who giggle and give the Pan da a weak punch, then w as a boxer, and let him have it with multiple punches, unabashedly snarling and growling. The latter group of participants often pushes Hill back into oncoming pedestrian traffic, ap pearing to startle the artist. Punch Me Panda does not err on the side of colonizing or inducting this sidewalk into a certain typification or ideology, but seeks to engage on an individual level that sidewalk via e ndorphin rush, if not socially and psychologically too. Some of these participants are probably more conscious of their
Hardesty 46 inner rule regarding what can be done in front of strangers than others. We ca n assume are more co mfortable with making gestures which may seem socially controversial, or even just silly. Some of them may have theatrical experience themselves. This is not Nate Hill colonizing their minds; this is a picture of the artist expanding their daily repertoi re, giving them a new avenue on which to express their frustrations on a visceral, immediate, and presumably satisfying level programmed for cooperation, bu t prepared for conflict. The primordial and perennial provide a framework for analyzing the reactions of certain patrons of Punch Me Panda, who approach his invitation with false he sitancy and meekness, only to prove themselves perfectly ready to beat him up moments later. Susan Bennett remarks that in the West, onfront superiors, meddle with the progress of time, and refute widely held societal values and mores (Bennett 105). Paradoxically, Punch Me Panda uses performance and spectacle to enable access to such processes while s till ; the life of the pedestrian street, where we are not accustomed to accessing the darker sides of human interaction. Indeed, depending ad daylight, but Nate Hill rarely stations himself anywhere so threatening. s claim could be seen to manifest itself i n the video depicting Punch Me turn at Astor Place. The journalist who is filming hails two young men bedecked in spikes and leather who have
Hardesty 47 effectively sets an expectation for them to perform a certain identity, in which they ought to be tough, brooding, presumably ready to hit something. They smile in reaction, then d utifully punch the Panda so hard and in such quick succession that Hill is forced b s eternal smile, Hill demonstrates how easily that preparation for conflict can be brought to the surface. Anothe to her In a day a nd age t think twice of snapping a strange happening on their camera phone this request seems superfluous. Her hesitancy on both counts could be read as a apprehensive of the possibility of entering this social drama, particularly of the notion of hav ing to assume an agonistic role, thus placing herself center stage if, of course, we consider the of t he moment his stage of sorts. In another clip filmed by a writer for Young Manhattanite an online literary ne wspaper/collective that covers cultural activities in NYC, the videographer (dressed as Santa Claus) witnesses participants attempt to punch or kick Hill in areas other than his protected belly; some asking first, others just doing it Laughing, he exclai yo s letting you punch Punch...12/3/10 ). This is exemplary of a new category of behavior, one that Hill was perhaps only mildly wary of encountering namely, that shown by those greedy enough to p ush the boundaries of who guess that more opportunities are available than are ex s usual greeting gesture of slapping his stomach with a boxing glove might be enough for some to realize that they are i nvited only to hit this
Hardesty 48 most protected area, this doe s not seem like enough for other participants to immediately understand what they are not allowe d to do in this new situation. s category of kinesic competency in Punch Me Panda: cultura lly, we understand his belly slapping gesture and offering of a boxing mitt as an invitation to hit him. That much is obvious. This coincides with the theatrical kinesic subcode, but deviates from the standard dramatic rules for interpreting movement in terms of character; people dressed up in mascot costumes are typically only seen cheering at sports games, n ot goading you to strike them. To give an example of spatial relationship: one would accept the sight of someone dancing in a phone costume by the side of the road, so long as they were positioned in front of their sponsoring store, thus helmet heads is decidedly strange. The are not ju st eerie (see figs. 6 7 ); they represent a communicative disconnect to the person standing before him. Hill will speak with his clients, but being unable to access his face and read expressions there is a type of cultural or dramatic conduct most [America n] spectators will not be accustomed to. Thoug s theater use masks liberally, rhetoric and expressive movement are usually emphasized to compensate. Punch Me Panda nullifies the spatial theatrical cod es li corresponding chart for he is always moving about trying to find new participants. As previously discussed, there is no recognizable stage. Dramatic coding is made difficult because of the constantly shifting spatial relationships of pass ersby. A cultural reading proves the most fruitful, because the spectator will understand that the Panda wants a
Hardesty 49 response from him/her because he/she happens to be nearby; by physically approaching his participants, Hill communicates this on a basic level All three coding categories on the costuming row would lead a person to the conclusion that the Panda is some sort of mascot or walking advertisement. At first, this might cause the uninitiated to believe him a poor sap, stuck in an animal costume for low pay by a local vend or which would be an assessment of status based on all three codes. Diale s work is highly dependent on the given locale of each performance, which, in the case of Punch Me Panda and Mr. Dropout, is co s initial interpretation of the Panda, in that mascotting is typically seen as grunt work for low pay something only a desperate individual or inexperienced teenager would eng age in. Otherwise, Hill makes this type of coding impossible to use by eliminating any trace of his class, race, or age via disguise; the only thing left is that he is fairly obviously male. Preferences regarding dramatic necessity are hig hly pertinent t s success as an act. Even if no one strikes him in a given session, his activity can still be however, the average spectator would probabl y not consider it This is because the duration of h is performance would be nothing but a build before a non existent climax, if we are to think in traditional dramatic structural terms. An audience would prefer to witness others act out and actually punch him, maximizing their voyeuristic enjoyment, and p erhaps even inducing secondhand catharsis. Therefore, the individual sp s preference dictates how well they receive Punch Me Panda as creating a new, dramatic world on the ordinary street level. Likewise, the open ended use of public space here co mplicates how we apply coding to
Hardesty 50 how he frames this character. As I suggested earlier, people seeing Panda on the street would epistemically deduce that he is some sort of walking advertisement, based on their prior knowledge of that sort of costume. If off an event that ought to occupy a specific space, then Punch Me Panda does not comply. This persona does not privilege any particular constructed space, rather, he privil eges the dramatic space created between himself and another person when t hat person assumes the role of aggressor and strikes hi m. Herein is constructed the Elam 54), where lies the ent ertainment or use value of Hi s performance. In this world, the same rules of consequence from daily life do not apply, in that the participant will suffer no recourse for, and is indeed encouraged, to get violent with another person. Even if the situation were to get slightly out o f hand, s commitment to his work would stop him from destroying the new set of possibilities he had created by condemning his aggressor, say, to the law. As with his other characters, Panda is much easier to recognize as having p erformance elements and comes with his own ensemble of referents (the boxing glove, the gesticulation) which also satisfies preferences regarding signal information. In a sense, this also satisfies preferences regarding structure and necessity in dramatic worlds; considering each one on in itself, each has a clear beginning, middle and end the Panda beckons, the pedestrian approaches, throws a punch, feels relief and is applauded by Hill, then each continues on his/her way. Let and process in Punch Me Panda events (see p. 28) Its usefulness here is doub le fold as
Hardesty 51 Nate Hill is not the only performer with a potential through line on this quadrant, but t he spect actor can follow one too. Hill as Panda follows the 1 5 a 5 b formulation: though Schechner illustrates it with the example of plays like Richard III which seek to restore a 5 a via me ntal and physical preparation (e.g. making sure his chest protector is securely fastened, checking in with his health and vigor that day) Such preparation takes place in the past subjunctive as it entails an exploration of moods: sources that may inspire the physical violence that Panda Hill has restored in himself is not representative of any preexisting time, place or person, but only indicative of his performat ive enthusiasm. The spect actor, before s/he even knows it, either follows the same path or that of 1 3 5 b which would happen if they the blow they deal the Panda This could take the shape of a layoff at work, a domestic squabble, etc. The moment s invitation is u nderstood by the spectator, s/he can understand his standard of dramatic necessity even if s/he is questioning his sanity for choosing to do what he does. S/he is not punched, there is no show for the audience and if s/he humors him past this moment, s/he will also realize that a good p unch is potentially cathartic. However, if s/he conti nues to ignore Punch Me Panda, he serves no purpose This is the crisis point in a entertainment continuum, which can tip the by the two ideas, I conclude that Panda encounters are mostly efficacious A lthough they
Hardesty 52 exhibit many of the entertaining qualities listed by Schechner (executed for fun, for those hes & appr eciates), the enlivening qualities of the ritual side tend to prevail by creating a more enriching performance dynamic for everyone involved (2003: 130) history, inclu ding its successful and not so successful moments seve n out of eight efficacious/ritualistic traits are demonstrated: results, link to an absent Other, performer (spect actor) possessed (in this case by mood, not trance), audience participates, audience believes, and collective creativity (130) A link to an absent Other may not be readily apparent to anyone on the scene, but a Panda attacker may punch him as a symbolic gesture meant for someone else. Though we never see anyone criticize Hill in the videos, I posit that it is implicitly discouraged by virtue of the unedited behavior Punch Me Panda asks of people. Death Bear Fig. 7.
Hardesty 53 Cultural dialectal competency is useful in decoding Death Bear, who speaks rather pragmatically with clients, using simple phrases and not adding much inflection or c haracter to his voice with the exception of his oft repeated response to the question, ll hide it s min d after the encounter, when they reflect on what it is that transpired between them, outside the superficial level of a material exchange. What does their mean to them? ause Death Bear appears so stoic his voice is characteristically calm, even monotonous ( When Death Bear Calls ) his departure often leaves the client feeling confused; she may have just invited this thing into her home, exposing some painful aspect of her p ersonal history, but he has both taken her painful object while depriving her of the most relatable aspect of our human ness the face. Indeed, Death Bear is practically unreadable kinestheti cally. s visit, the client is given no c lues a s to who he really is or why s doing this there is only the mask, and the agreed upon fact that he has come to take something away. Now, with a bit of online research, the person could qu ickly learn about Nate Hill himself but for the purposes of using Elam's typology, t his is not something I consider as part of the duration of their performance event. Death Bear only truly aligns with the theatrical column in the first subcode chart, in that the participant goes into their encounter fully expect ing a bear costume. Unlike the Panda, h e is difficult to read kinesthetically because Death Bear has no distinctive gesture or expression other than the move he makes to place the objects in his sack. The attempt to apply proxemic subcoding results in a n interrogation of the co mpetency
Hardesty 54 categories themselves: is a s placement of himself next to the client on their couch warranted ? Would this be a thought that woul d automatically come up for him/her ? This is an area of inquiry w here analysis gets hazy, because we cannot read the minds of every client. However, in most video documentation I have encountered, Death Bear is often invited to sit down while the client explains the story behind the object(s) they are giving away. Per haps it would be more helpful to apply a s proxemic relation during a Death Bear visit, which would produce allusions to ceremony a s mind events that match up better with the image of two people sit ting together to make a formal exchange of goods, than with the image of a traditional theatrical performance, which spectators usually register as tableaux in which they cannot participate. s work makes problematic the notion of theatrical fram e, as does most if not all performance art especially those acts whose perceived relevance depe nds on the All three of his characters diffuse or delay the s recognition of such in its own way. In short Death Be ar may never register as a theatrical event in the minds of some participants. People are not in the practice of summoning actors to their homes to perform interactive play pieces, so the standard of competency for understanding the exchange that goes on between them is not yet there. In fact, the level of understandin s cultural epistemic knowledge; one who is more accustomed to s events in creative or alternative ways will be more likely to recogniz e Death Bear s theatrical frame as such. Those who have never seen an interactive play before most likely will not. However, his claim to a secret cave where these precious objects are hidden immedi ately constructs the
Hardesty 55 idea of a possible world where th is is actually true. As the receiver of this statement, the client acquiescently en s dramatic frame; otherwise they would not have bothered to in in him at this most basic level that he will take away phy sical remnants of their pain in order for t heir exchange to have meaning. This phenomenon is s aesthetic sensib ilities. Death Bear speaks to general preferences for ostentatious displays of sign information one can tell by h is all black ensemble and over sized, eerily retro teddy bear head that Hill is not conventions regarding signal house call because this coding is entirely defined by the individual in question. To elaborate: the item she has chosen to give the Bear is the determining sign and sign ifier of their mutual event ; the memories it holds are like symbolic props, which are used to te ll the story similarly to how props would be used in a conventional pl ay. The degree of the symbolism defines the gravity of the exchange happening between artist and client. That much of t s court. This evocatio n of special signifying props leads me to consider Schech s comparison of the dramatic workshop rehearsal and the ritual process. Wh en discussing the secondary, twice done trips of are not themsel 1985: 35). In the case of Death Bear, the items people choose to give him inform their participation strip s of restored behavior Death Bear is then privy to. For example, journalist Loren
Hardesty 56 Berlin describes the process her friend Diana went through to decide which items would legged on the floor, surrounded by the scattered l etters, cards and photos. She must have gathered them in the drawer after the breakup photo of her and her ex. Her eyes filled with tea rs, her face flushed Though Dia na is not deliberately rehearsing the act of crying, as in the usual theatrical sense of restored behavior (rehearsal), the combined value of looking through these materials while considering the symbolic, liminoid space she has deliberately placed herself in in order to look at them a s visit is indeed to restore a specific behavior. The space Diana occupies at this point is liminoid modern and postmodern circumstances...performances are more likely to be voluntary, s wor me in preparatory gestures leading up to a Bear visit as corollary to this theory (37). Restored combine Diana as sh e is experiencing the negative the v oid created by her former love and the in behaviors could have been re performed in order to generate a differe nt present, thus a different outcome (1985: 37). of social performative actions that are sufficient prepar ations for entering trance we can assume that Death Bear's customized, secular ritual is capable of achieving a simi lar level s homes as did the trance dancing that Schechner observed at the Institutional Church in Brooklyn ( 41) During this transportative event, he witnessed
Hardesty 57 dozens of entranced patrons become increasingly frenzied as the gospel music reached its climax. Other churchgoers were on hand to make sure no one hurt themselves by photos to Death Bear, said she before his visit, and she knew When I gave him those thin gs, the exorcism kind of Like the singers at the Institutional Church, Nate Hill instigates the trance, but is not i mmersed himself propelling the dancers into tran refers to a state b visit, or if it was due to her preoccupation with the memories attached to the objects to be given away, does no t matter s ritual proved efficacious in her case as a transportative (potentially transformative) process, while also following a climactic structure similar to thos e in Schechne s ritual cases. alidity s self styled exorcism by Death Bear, even though we cannot tell for sure what level of consciousness she was operating at: We might even say that there are two kinds of transportations, the voluntary and the involuntary, and that character acting belongs to the first category and t rance to the second. However, having watched trance...I suspect that the differences between these kinds of transportations have been overemphasized...trance performers are
Hardesty 58 frequently conscious of thei r actions e ven while performing them; and they too prepare themselves by training and warm up. The difference between these kinds of performance may be more in l abeling, framing, and cultural expecta tions than in their performance processes. (1985: 127) The liminal phase Tsai en s arrival was naturally informal, as it was not an experience previously recognized by any structural authority (as some trance dances are by their native culture) so there were no expectations for her to adopt a certain behavior. Nevertheless, her commentary reveals that it functioned as a warm up period as her anticipation brewed, and her nostalgia for the chosen objects took an emotional chokehold. Thus, her entire experience of Death Bear followed a similar performance process to that of a ritualistic trance dance, the main difference being a preexisting cultural frame. It is tempting to say here that the ambiguity over the in/ voluntariness of the client s comportment is culturally universal, which is a sid e on which Schechner seems to err as hi s references to trance styles become waveringly oblique throughout his writing. However it would be wrong to make such a statement without the knowledge of ever y set of rules existing for any and all trance rites ar ound the world. of these things Schechner validates his offering of this ceremony on the grounds that h persons achieve ( When Death Bear Calls ) ( 1985: 127). In
Hardesty 59 these first person accounts of meetings with the Bear, we observe the same transformative progression Schechner describes in his anthropological study o f theater: the individual to be initiated starts out in a liminoid space excluded from the regular composition of socie ty by their uninitiated status which in the case of most Death Bear clients means they are excluded by their sorrow and/or preoccupation with the pa st, s b and yet not not over it, once they cross the threshold of this emotional territory by sitting down and talking with the Bear, who functions as a patient, if not aloof guide through this process. After the personal items have been packed in a black duffle bag and Bear leaves with them, the client is then free to decompress, hopefully alleviated of some of the pain that they represented a status equivalent to the reinteg ration stage of Schechner s transformative process. Kezia Kamenetz, a Williamsburg resident whose apartment the Bear visits in a video profile filmed by two Columbia University graduate students ( Art of Darkness ) describes wanting desperately to believe and live in the reality that she considers him to to create and then live out your own world. All of the speeches and performance I had gone over and over in my head the night befo re seemed to be jumbling in my mind as we waited for his themselves for Death Bear in a traditional, dram s blog post about the experience iro n s services as a performer herself rather than a passive receptor. The post depicts her working just as hard to stage the event if not even more than Hill himself, who is known to be awkwardly taciturn in
Hardesty 60 the guise of the accordingly (Death Bear Gets Sad So You Don't Have To). Another benefit of restored behav ior that Death Bear exploits is its potential to or even, and (38). This is certainly true in th e case of Kamenetz, who sought closure on her New York experience through her visit with Death Bear. A New Orleans native, she moved north just a week before Hurricane Katrina hit. After living in NYC for four years, Kamenetz decided it was time to go ho me. She explains why s he gave the Bear what she did: Without a winter coat that I liked so much, my incentive to return to the Northeast would be a lot lower, my exit more final. The truth is, my arrival in the northeast was fueled mostly by my own geogr aphic insecurity: growing up in New Orleans, no matter how much I loved it, I felt that if I wanted to do something important or interesting in the world I had to get out of the South and go to the Northeast. This myth was a very difficult one for me to s hake, as both Northerner s and Southerners perpetuate it. The meeting between performer and client thus offers a platform for Kamenetz on which to stage or confirm her rebecoming as a proud New Orleans native, which is at once what she already is, but in the Schechnerian sense, still what she wishes to become her
Hardesty 61 display of emotion upon handing over the coat hints that she still harbors some doubt over leaving the life she has made for herself in New York. The elements of geographic displacement and complicated cultural identity in her story make it particularly ripe for the application of this ritual theory, whose basis Schechner rooted in examples culled ple from one status or undergone by Gahuku boys in Papua New Guinea shares this aspect of travel (they must abscond to the bush for several weeks to train), as well as the ability to survive a gauntlet of personal attacks. Although those endured by Kamenetz were ideological in nature, perhaps even verbal, Gahuku boys must literally escape a charging mob of armed women upon their return to the village. They do so with the h elp of their already initiated male guides, and several weeks afterward, a ceremony is held in which the women re welcome them with open arms (128). This is the peculiar but necessary double eously private and social which is most tenuously the cas e between Loren Berlin and her friend Diana (Schechner 1985: 112). Wordlessly, she handed the stack to Death Bear. Then she began to cry. I did not go to comfort Diana. Instead, I remained seated at the tiny dinette table where I had been since cried and Death Bear tucked the letters into his duffel bag.
Hardesty 62 She looked up at him, tears streaming down her face. He was bent over his bag, rearranging items. Finally Death Bear zipped the duffel ba g cl osed and stood to face Diana. I hope that I She smiled back, unable to spea k, and no one said anything. s emotional display suggests that she may have unconsciously acceded the guiding r ole she would otherwise occupy for her frien d, in s higher authority in this particular ritual process. Like the Brooklyn churchgoers and the older Gahuku men, the Bear has already experienced this emotive stage in the process, a nd therefore knows what kind of distance to take from the frenzied epicenter of her transportation/formation; he meets her cries with detached silence, making the transition to his exit with a mild expression of goodwill. The relative a wkwardness of the t s tears is also exemplary of the tension between the private and social in restored behavior; the pain that she once enacted in private has now become an experience shared with a complete stranger, to whom she has giv en symbolic stand ins for the real source of her heartbreak. While the act of handing over the photographs was the li s tears, the original source of her pain will remain her private kno wledge (in a manner of speaking ) Thu s, the emotive character of this event is both not Diana and not not Diana. To conclude this discussion of restored behavior i n Death Bear: I believe that his client follows the process route 1 5 a c This describes dramatic happenings that occur with no view toward public performance at all. Some of
Hardesty 63 these workshops are therapeutic (dance therapy and psychodrama). But others fall into the category of ae personal This last is hard to pin down beyond saying that the rapeutic techniques are used people but to extend their range of self expression, to help them relate to each other, and simply as a source of pleasure. (Schechner 1985: 51) I am treating Death Bear visits as non public because they take pl ace in private residences, and the proceedings of each exchange are for the benefit of the client more than anyone else in the room who could be watching. With the therapeutic bent of his work, Death Bear could be seen as a one on one workshop facilitator of sorts. I have inc luded the last sentence of the Schechner excerpt because it is important to recognize the limits of such activity; in no way am I or Nate Hill trying to pass off these visits as legitimate psychotherapy. Indeed, many of his patrons probably experience his visits as an exercise in self a is the evocative mood stirred up in the client by the reason they have summoned Death Bear. This performance might be thought to mov e in fact towards point 3, the indicative past event, because the person is assumedly drawing upon real life experiences in order to provide the materials they will hand over today. However, it is impo what was. 4 can never match (51). Finally, 5 c Bear visit, which is not pu
Hardesty 64 performativity and the restoration of thought materi als (i.e. strips of behavior.) Hill as Death Bear, on the other hand, follows the same route as Punch Me Panda. Once again, I conclude that Death Bear encounters are efficacious as they exhibit almost all those corresponding qualities emphasis on the pr esent moment, created by the mutual setting of time and place for the encounter, but the duration of each visit can be symbolic, too takes an especially long time, this could be symbolic of the importance attached to the obj ect however schematic their idea of which may be upon closure of their Death Bear visit is w ords, their commitment to the liminoid realm determines the level of efficacy achievable.
Hardesty 65 Chapter 3: Original Performance Prospectus I had planned for an original performance art piece and its aftermath to take up a significant portion of my the sis, but because of time constraints and personal issues this did not come to fruition. I struggled to come up with an act that could match the semiotic complexity and r s work. This chapter shall catalog the various ideas I had, and attempt to project what could be done in the event of unlimited time and resources (within reason). My intention was to execute a service oriented, character based performance in the style of Punch Me Panda, Death Bear or even Club Ca ndy Crack Delivery Service I seek to manipulate the site and time specific elements of interpersonal exchange that Nate Hill worked with, but hopefully in a fresh way. In doing so, I would explore what can be lost and/or gained during the meeting and who comes out with what. Ideally, my ritual performance would demonstrate such efficacious traits as resu lts, audience participation, suspension of their dis belief, and collective creativity. This latter quality is particularly important to me, as I beli eve collectivity bears more dynamic results by virtue of its multi voiced ness. For certain, I would wear an identity effacing costume. Of the various reasons why disguise would be so important to the performance, the most pertinent is that it would allo w me to be a great deal bolder than I probably would be if I were approaching people as my own person. My countenance would either prejudice people against, or incline them toward me as an individual, which would undesirably bring my identity into the equ ation of the performance. This would change the nature of the game entirely, as both sides of the exchange would be exposed and vulnerable, which would undermine my position as an experience s
Hardesty 66 studies of individuals in the role of ritual guide do not usually mention costume, but in my personal quest for effic acy, I believe it necessary. A ritualistic framework does not already exist for strangers on the street as it does for the boys and men of Gahuku, so a strong signifier is necessary. Once hidden by a costume, my reactions to the event would not be visible to the spect actor, thus s/he would be able to walk away from the experience with the sense that something truly outside the frame of eve ryday life had swept her/him up, rather than walking away feeling like s/he had just met some bizarre student on the street. In order for the spect actor to experience that popping out of frame into a dramatic frame, regardless of the semiotic cues s/he ty pically recognizes when on the street, I as performer must use a vehicle native to the theater to ensure an immediate recognition outside the realm of the everyday; something that could at least briefly override the existing rules of place described by Fio na Wilkie in my first chapter. A full body costume is certainly a very quick way of making oneself s tand out in a crowd. Nate s animal mascot costumes are so effective because they invite spectators to suspend disbelief automatically (though they ma y not initially understand what they are in fact suspending it for), as they have done before most people in NYC or Sarasota have probably accepted flyers from dancing mobile phones, been to a theme park, or bought snacks from a concessions salesperson in a tiger outfit, at some point in their lives. The theme park mascot association is a particularly strong one, in that suc h characters remind many of a time when they looked up in awe at Mickey Mouse, deferring their smallness to his big, fuzzy e mbrace; evo king memories of when they either believed s existence and magical powers, or it was
Hardesty 67 just easier and more fun for them to ignore any creeping suspicion that he might just be a man in a mouse suit. The point is that children tend to trust such characters, which their grown selves presumably remember, so having such a similar loo k makes it easier for Death Bear or Punch Me Panda to draw people in, and to establish the level of curious trust that encourages their patrons to giv e them personal possessions or allow their physical proximity. It would be amusing for me to manipulate that trust in a devious way, which w jointly produced result of my exchang e with the spect actor would be all the more astonishing if it comes about by way of me subverting his/he r expectations, or tricking him/her into doing something (but nothing illegal or extensively damaging of course.) Costumes on their own are easier fo r me to imagine than rehearsed dialogues or symbolic offerings, so I thought of dressing in a creepy rabbit mask in the style of Death costume with a giant mascot head, most likely custom made by me to be mildly disturbing. s is reminiscent of the retro cheery masks worn by mascots in 1960s Disneyworld, but by painting it all over black, Hill looked like a looming herald of, well, Death. Thus I wanted an antique toy like bunny head. Rabbits from the Uncanny Vall ey have also figured heavily in pop culture for the past 10 years the doom ed Frank, with his toothy rabbit mask in the 2001 film Donnie Darko (fig. 8 bottom right ) ; popular video game franchise BioShock features a homicidal sculptor
Hardesty 68 whose trademark is the sinister rabbit mask he and his frankensteined henchmen wear (fig. 9 top right ) ; there are even multiple blogs dedicated to posting found photos and family album castoffs of crying babies posing with mall hires dressed as positi vely frightening Easter Bu nnies (fig. 10 bottom left ) By taking this once familiar, commercially and seasonally releva nt image from childhood memory twisting it in such a way that it becomes new and noticeable again in the way that your average mall photo Easter Bunny is not a truly s triking costume could be made. Because of the brevity of t his model of performance art, my costume would need to be truly memora ble to have the proper effect. I would like to capture this sensation of faded nove lty revitalized by the revelation o f a new, perverse truth. Children revere figures like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, but when they grow up, those same children will probably only pity the people wearing the stuffy costumes, if not ignore them
Hardesty 69 completely (unless they have their own of fspring to photograph) I wanted to recharge that sense of reverence, using the se asonality to which it was once attributed, to imbue the performance event with that much m t think it i s a s look is so reminiscent of a teddy bear dropped in the soot of a hastily put out family hearth, and that he must have collected a teddy bear or two in his burden lifting career. To pick apart other potential signifiers of a rabbit costume, I began with this myt h of the Easter Bunny and his basket of eggs. I could have given my Easter egg suggests decoration, ornamentation, tradition, practice what could I take from these patro ns in turn that would fulfill such criteria? Perhaps I could have made house calls by advertising free chocolate on the condition that the patron provide me with an egg they had decorated but it would have to be done with somethin g special, something that ve genuinely taken something away from or out of the person making it. Maybe they would hide a secret inside the egg? A bad habit of theirs? Maybe each participant to get out chocolate will encourage you to get the person out of your life, and that the making and giving away of the egg provided you with some mild sense of s t evoke the same high stakes as those present in a Death t really be giving anything away, and people would mostly be doing it for the chocolate. I would also have to provide eg gs somehow (probably those plastic hinged kinds sold at party stores); there would have to be a contact list; it would be a longer, drawn out, and more involved affair than the carefully
Hardesty 70 coordinate d summits of Death Bear. Transport ation of the Schechner s ort seems possible in Death Bear meetings because the social stakes tend to be so high, but I could not think of a way of ratcheting up my own through this particular idea vehicle. One of the first ideas I had in the course of writing my thesis was to dres s up as, essentially, a human disco ball. I was going to buy a black zentai suit (a full body stocking that covers the face, originally made in Japan and popular with fetishists), cover it in mirror tiles, then walk around bu sy town centers like St. Arman s weekend markets, a s natural sunniness. I would sit next to people on benches and sparkle on them. I wo d be a walking s s eye, a dose of dazzle for your everyday or an eyesore, an irritating flake of glitter caught under the skin. Obviously I was inspired by Leigh Bowery to induce such contradicting reactions in people; a French TV presenter once jokingly put on sunglasses during an in terview Bains de minuit ). The sweat I would inevitably excrete would be my tongue in waxed on about how much he gave of himself to his public when he performed D eath Bear, and this would be my equivalent, of sorts. The notion of self sacrifice could be made exponentially tenser combined with site affluent rarely like the insinuation that someone else is sacrificing on their behalf. In enabling and undermining : New York City is far more encouraging than Sarasota of aberrant public behavior, but that sometimes means that Hill in t seem that weird to the locals. The other spatial quality
Hardesty 71 bodies in proximity of one another. Death Bear transformed the possessions he was to receive into dramatic props, and thus they became instrumental to the ritual. In addition, the client has to believe in his that s/he will never see her/his thing(s) again after their meeting, because it/they now exist (s) in a different psychic space In this case, dr essing up as a creepy rabbit would be conceptually better than simply covering myself in mirror tiles; not only might the latter costume come off as a mere fashion statement, it does not have the mythic, enrapturing connotations of a spirit animal. I also considered executing a collaborative online art project, for which the main performance event would be meeting with the patron to produce whatever it was that ended up on the website, to go up in a permanen s products. I go t the idea for this model from writer and filmmaker Miranda July, who undertook such a crowd Perhaps I would go into fellow dorm rooms, ask them questions, and then choose to photograph an object (with their permission) based on their answers. Hopefully all the photos together on the site would seem to piece together a puzzle, or some sort of sense making whole. Nate Hill seems to have cornered the market on anger release and the unloadin g of emotionally heavy material goods so what other services could I provide people? overdone. Perhaps I could simply reward people with my presence? I could volun teer to stay in people's rooms and meditate with them on a topic of their choosing. I could dress up as a pink elephant and arrange a place and time to meet with a person, when they know they are going to be in the presence of a significant other, or
Hardesty 72 some other acquaintance with whom t hey have an issue that they feel the other is ignoring For certain, I wanted to exaggerate, dynami ze, or elevate onto a new plane some type of human interaction for this piece. The one thing I do know for sure is that I do n't want to put up with interaction s t have the money for any such el aborate protective gear, and at the time I am writing this, I am too late to appl y he ha s a larger surface area to absorb punches with. On the other hand, my small stature could be a boon in enticing people towards me, as small people are stereotypically thought of as non threatening. At the very least, I could amuse quizzical onlookers by causing them to debate over whether I am a child or adult, which would presumably be hidden by the costume t think of a way to meaningfully flesh out the concept or thesis statement for such an act, and thus could not endow it with the right sort of artistic unity. likelihood of many people in my native Sarasota knowing what Nate Hill does, means that I could have just reproduced his performances. Naturally, I do not want any 6 foot something Panda to come punch me for intellectual property theft, but it does raise an there be armies of Death Bears assembled to disperse thro ughout the city at spring cleaning time? These are my considerations for the future.
Hardesty 73 Works Cited #PunchMe: Nate Hill Is (Nuts?) Punch Me Panda Prod. Kianga Ellis. Perf. Nate Hill. YouTube 29 Dec. 2010. Web. 4 Feb. 2012.
Hardesty 74 Prod. Rachel Wise. Perf. Nate Hill. YouTube Pavement Pieces, 13 Dec. 2009. Web. 7 Feb. 2012.
Hardesty 75 San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Online. SFMOMA, 2010. Web. 5 Feb. 2012.
Hardesty 77 Works Consulted Allain, Paul, and Jen Harvie. The Routledge Companion to Theatre and Performance London: Routledge, 2006. Print. Barthes, Roland. Systme de la mode Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1983. Print. Bow ery, Leigh, Ren Zechlin, and Nicola Bowery. Leigh Bowery Beautified Provocation Heidelberg: Kehrer, 2008. Print. De Certeau, Michel. The Practice of Everyday Life Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988. Kindle file. Goffman, Erving. Frame Anal ysis Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1974. Print. Grotowski, Jerzy, and Eugenio Barba. Towards a Poor Theatre New York: Routledge, 2002. Print. Jones, Ann R., and Peter Stallybrass. Renaissance Clothing and the Materials of Memory Cambridge: Cambri dge University Press, 2000. Print. Potvin, John, ed. The Places and Spaces of Fashion, 1800 2007 Routledge, 2008. Print. Against Interpretation, and Other Essays New York: Picador U.S.A., 2001. Susan Sontag: Notes on "Ca mp" Georgetown University. Web. 4 Feb. 2012.
Hardesty 78 Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1985. Print.