Arzu and Eleanor discussed serious art matters on Friday night at the Social Prosperity Club in Tremont.
THE ENDURANCE PERFORMANCE: DAY THREE
How is my play-by-play commentary going to influence the work-in-progress and the audience’s reception of it? Live art traffics in subterfuge and surprise and mystery and thwarted expectations. Performance is mischievous play that traps unwitting observers. Reader, if I tell you everything I know about the work before you experience it—if I fully explain what Bourriard calls “the line”—have I killed it for you? Will Arzu’s performance be DOA? Do I even want to know everything—or anything—about the work before it happens?
Writer’s Obstacle # 5: My training as a journalist. Facts, facts, facts. Hah!
Should my play-by-play be a truthful document of Arzu’s artistic process?
I get travel books about Turkey from the library. Arzu was born in Ankara, the capital city, and earned her B.A. in graphic design at a major university there. My knowledge about the country is limited, although a week or so ago I read Elif Batuman’s evocative “The Memory Kitchen: A chef rediscovers the foods that Turkey forgot” in the New Yorker’s April 19 issue.
“Turkey remains at the heart of the ideological battle between East and West,” the Lonely Planet Guide notes. Other books call Turkey “the bridge between East and West.” Although 98 percent of Turks are Muslim, the country is a secular state. Arzu’s 2003 Web site “A Daily Media Diary of Turkey” characterizes Turkey as not a bridge but a “screen” on which we can “watch the interplay among various oppositions”: secular vs. religious and East vs. West [http://tr-act.info/].
7:01 p.m. to 9:38 p.m.
Another dark and stormy night. I’m at the dimly-lit, wood-paneled Social Prosperity Club in Tremont, nursing a Bacardi and Diet Coke (uninspired, I know) while I wait for Arzu and her partner to arrive. (Her partner shall remain anonymous unless I decide otherwise.) I’m scribbling questions in my reporter’s notebook when Arzu and her partner appear at my table. I anxiously wait until they order (two beers and sweet potato fries) before I bombard Arzu with questions.
I begin with the “choreographer” tidbit Arzu fed me in yesterday’s email. Since our conversation bounced around like a spastic SuperBall, what I’m about to tell you about her work-in-progress was not relayed to me in the exact sequence you’re about to read. Bits and pieces were revealed here and there—either through direct questions or spontaneous statements—and then I cobbled them together for this narrative, which is my impression of the discussion.
Arzu first got the idea for the project while driving home from the SPACES meeting on Wednesday night. Now it’s growing and changing, even as she talks about it. The play or performance’s theme is “Love At First Site/Sight,” an ironic spin on either Arzu’s disinterest in or disdain for galleries. (I didn’t verify the spelling here—I’m just assuming it’s homonym wordplay.) The performance may or may not be one-night only. It will last three minutes or more and feature three characters or more: The Actress, The Playwright and The Choreographer. Arzu will be the Actress. The Choreographer is a French transfer student at Oberlin College who’s trained in classical ballet. She will choreograph “a dance or something” for Arzu.
Now, keep in mind that everything I tell you is mediated by my own “scopic regime.” Objective reportage is a myth. Objective journalism is a myth. Every decision about what to tell you, the reader, and what to withhold is a subjective decision based on worldview and experience and a gazillion other variables.
Arzu said she was going to purchase some elastic bands, although she didn’t say for what. I think Arzu is going to be what performance scholar Rebecca Schneider calls a “binary terrorist”—an artist whose work collapses binaries. There are lots of oppositions to play with here: performer/audience, participant/observer and art-object/viewer.
At some point Arzu says, “I can see you as the Playwright.” I almost choke on my drink. Earlier she’d said, “I can see you reading your blog postings while I am performing.” Do these statements mean the same thing? Whatever the case, public speaking and performance terrifies me. I do it, but the terror preceding the performance is almost unmanageable. She gives me no further instructions, other than that I have to produce a three-minute (or longer) script. Freedom can be paralyzing.
I burst into maniacal laughter. We all burst into maniacal laughter.
“Deleuze and Guattari say that ‘Every failure is a masterpiece,” Arzu says, laughing. “I’m really afraid it might be the only masterpiece I ever make.”
We agree to email every morning and every evening.