New art. Not old, used art.

Detour: Color Commentator Eleanor LeBeau on Artist Arzu Ozkal #8

Arzu Ozkal ad Eleanor LeBeau perform



6:55 p.m.

(Arzu and I rehearsed with Meeko Israel, the bongo player, on Thursday night for about 90 minutes, but I didn’t have time to tell you about that.) Arzu and I head to SPACES’ warm, stuffy artist-in-residence quarters. Arzu begins transforming herself into The Actress while I circumnavigate a room, megaphone in hand, reciting my lines, exhausted but pulsating with nervous energy. Arzu emerges from the bathroom in full make-up, wearing lacy pink tights and the A-line white dress she used for her exhibition postcard. With one hand on her stomach, she confides that she’s now getting “really nervous,” although I tell her she appears calm and happy. She dives into a huge bag, pulls out the white grommet-belt and puts it on. “I look like Robin Hood,” she says, softly laughing. “A very retro, Diana Rigg-Avengers kinda Robin Hood,” I say.

7:17 p.m.

Arzu she throws me a coiled rope. I unfurl it and attach myself to her belt with a carabiner. Are we ready to climb mountains? As we test the rope’s resistance. Çigdem Slankard, the videographer, arrives. Arzu calls her “Chi” (spelling?). She retrieves another spool of rope and hands it to Chi, who, concerned about megaphone’s volume, is doing a sound check. Chi and Arzu decide where to attach Chi’s rope to the grommet-belt. I’m not exactly sure what happened next.

7:30 p.m.

Arzu leads Chi and I down the stairs and outside, onto the sidewalk in front of SPACES. The megaphone goes up in the air. Chi disappears. People are staring at us. We walk into the gallery, pushing our way through clusters of chatting people. I watch Arzu. I try to make eye contact with the audience. Baffled and slightly irritated faces stare back me. Arzu hands out the ropes. Some spectators refuse but thirteen accept the invitation to become participants. They have become binary terrorists. Chris Lynn is standing next to me. Then he’s gone. Meeko’s bongo-playing fades in and out. I hear the buzz of conversations. I’m getting tangled in the rope and worry about tripping. I’m worried about speaking too loud and not loud enough.

Next thing I know, Arzu is struggling to pull fifteen people, most of whom have no idea where she intends to go, into her exhibition space. She is slipping, slipping, slipping, slipping, falling on the wooden floor. She tries to get up once, twice, then falls on her knee. I try to help her up, then immediately I wonder if she wants me to do that. Later she will email to say that she has a bruise on her knee, and I will write back that I’m sorry and I hope it doesn’t hurt too much.

Now she’s in the corner of a gallery, facing the audience, her hands splayed on the walls. I stick the megaphone in her face and shout The Propositions. This—shouting in Arzu’s (I mean the Actress’s) face at close range while she’s in a submissive position— is difficult. I’m nauseous. Arzu breaks free and rushes to the opposite side of the gallery. Now she stands facing the wall, her back to the audience, in yet another submissive position. I say my final words and put down the megaphone. Arzu begins unhooking the participants’ ropes. I want her to hurry and release mine. When she does, I leave the space and walk out of the gallery, as we’d rehearsed.

Outside SPACES I take a deep breath. No one is around. I can still hear Meeko’s bongo playing. It goes on longer than we’d rehearsed. It keeps going. I knew it. I knew the ending we’d rehearsed was not the real ending. Liberated from the writer-critic’s gaze—from having to explain how the line produced the dot (in Bourriard’s formulation)—Arzu was free to create. But what was she doing? I fought the impulse to find out. Returning to the gallery was not the right thing to do.

By and by a woman steps out of the gallery. I can’t help myself. I ask her what Arzu is doing. “She’s just sitting on floor, staring into space. No one knows if the performance is over.” I ask the woman if Arzu is facing the audience. “Yes,” she says.

I smile and thank the woman for her information. I’m glad I asked. And glad that I didn’t return to watch Arzu.

11:04 p.m.

Arzu emails:

Gosh! I have a big bruise on my knee I hope we get together soon. We should keep in touch; it was awesome collaborating with you.

I tell Arzu that it was awesome collaborating with her, too.

Love at First Site


Anonymous, Arzu Ozkal and Eleanor LeBeau

The Scene is outside. Time is unspecified. The Commentator announces the Dramatis Personae.

The Commentator:
The Playwright
The Drummer
The Actress
The Audience
The Gallery
The Color Commentator
The Choreographer
The Rope

The Actress enters the gallery. She holds Ropes embedded with carabiners.

The Commentator:
This is the Actress.
She is a dot.
She holds the Line.
She stands on the Plane.
We are bound, by space, by constraints.
She gives me no further instructions.

The Actress binds the Audience to her. The Commentator watches in silence. When she is ready, the Actress signals Commentator to start speaking again.

The Commentator:
How does she work?
Does she make notes?
Does it happen all in her head?
We agree to email every morning and every night.

The Actress draws the line on a field
Connects the dots that pull at one another
In the scene she draws an audience, the space frames the Play
Dot extends to line, line becomes arc, arcs become figures.
More line, please! More line! I need more line! More line!

The Actress approaches her exhibition space.

The Commentator:
There are lots of oppositions to play with.

The Actress enters the exhibition space.

The Commentator:
She is in love.
We agree to email every morning and every night.

I am a commentator.
So everything I tell you—and everything I do not—is a decision
based on an infinite set of constraints and variables.
She is a binary terrorist
My terror is almost unmanageable.
Objectivity is a myth.
We agree to email every morning and every night.

The Actress dances around the exhibition space, pulling the Audience. She backs into a corner, facing the Audience, and the Commentator shouts at her.

The Commentator:

The Actresss walks to a wall. When her back is to the audience, the Commentator speaks.

The Commentator:
“Every failure is a masterpiece,” she quotes. “I wonder if this might be the only masterpiece I ever make.”

The Actress disengages the Commentator’s Rope. The Commentator exits the exhibition space and the gallery.


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Detour: Color Commentator Eleanor LeBeau on Artist Arzu Ozkal #7



11:22 p.m.

Countdown: 45 hours to show time! At 6:22 p.m. I arrive at SPACES for performance rehearsal, script in hand. The Collaborator and I have rewritten four drafts. Actually s/he writes. I critique. S/he rewrites. An adorable Welsh Corgi-Beagle-Jack Russell Terrier greets me at the door. His shiny, wet nose has sawdust stuck to it. There’s a baby in a stroller. Three studio assistants, one perched on a ladder, are painting a wall. Tangled ropes and bicycles and assistants whizzing past, oh my. I step on oozing paint tubes.

Arzu immediately introduces me to her filmmaker friend, Çigdem Slankard, who will be videotaping “Love at first site” on Friday night. Arzu has been doing student crits all day at Oberlin but is energetic and anxious to begin rehearsal. The cute dog follows us, tail wagging. His name is Alphonso. Arzu is his human.

What follows, though, I cannot tell you, except to say that Arzu danced while I read a script. She also directed. Her goal tonight was to coordinate her choreography with my words. We ran through the script ten times, trying different things. Arzu grappled with two prop malfunctions, too. One prop was easily fixed, although the other will require considerable work tomorrow. Arzu must go to Home Depot tomorrow and then work, work, work. “This is all happening so fast that I just have to make a decision and go with it,” she says, wiping her brow. “There’s no time to second-guess.” I nod my head and laugh in agreement. (There’s no time for editing, either.)

About 8:40 p.m., we take a break and hit Kan Zaman on W. 25th St. We share hummus and fries. Our conversation careens from matters of the heart to bongos. Two dudes lounging at a nearby table suck on a hookah. We hear gurgling water but don’t smell anything. Can you tell I am rushed? (Sorry, no time for pictures.)

We return to SPACES for a few more run-throughs. We decide to end for the night. Untangling ropes, Arzu exclaims, “Sometimes I don’t want to be an artist anymore!” I laugh. “Sometimes I don’t want to be a writer, either,” I tell her.

We agree tomorrow at 6 p.m. for our final rehearsal.

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Detour: Color Commentator Eleanor LeBeau on Artist Arzu Ozkal #5/6

Arzu Ozkal and Alice Dunoyer de Segonzac rehearse for Detour
Arzu Ozkal and Alice Dunoyer de Segonzac rehearse for Detour

Arzu Ozkal prepares for "Detour"


Day 6: 05.10.10

11:14 a.m.

I’ve been at Day Job since 8:11 a.m. Feeling poorly. Possibly the 24-hour bug that started circulating in the office last week. I email Arzu to wish her a good morning and find out when she’ll be at SPACES for rehearsal.

11:31 a.m.

Arzu writes back:

We will be there around 2 p.m. I am running around like crazy today. Will get more stuff to make connectors.

Connectors? What kind of connectors? She never said anything about connectors. I write back to tell her I’m scheduled to work until 5 p.m. Will she still be there then?

Reader, how can I give you play-by-play if I’m not there? I’ve never felt more trapped in a corporate white cube.

2:14 p.m.

Arzu must be starting her first rehearsal with The Choreographer, Alice Dunoyer de Segonzac, one of her students. I’m missing everything. Arzu’s ideas are now being rehearsed live, and I’m leashed to a desk and a phone, just a few miles away. But Arzu has promised to send images. Documentary evidence is not always reliable, though. When looking at multiple images, the viewer might create a narrative that never happened at the live event. You can’t capture energy exchange between performer and audience anyway. This is the Great Debate that divides scholars of live art. One camp says live art should not (and cannot) be documented; the other says a document is better than nothing, even though they agree that the document creates a new, mediated “text.”

9:25 p.m.

As promised, Arzu sends images. The subject line is “Wow. Am I too old to dance?” Image 1: Arzu enters (or does she saunter into?) the gallery, the performance space. Images 2 and 3: Is she seducing the gallery space, or is she trying to get the space to seduce her?

As I’ve mentioned before, Arzu rarely works in galleries, perhaps for these reasons: fetishization of the object; the spectator is often reduced to a role of passive contemplation; the space is a site of commodity exchange; the spectator brings a set of (largely received) expectations; there’s a limited potential pool of spectators (the audience), since certain publics may not seek out these spaces; gallery rules frustrate artistic freedom; and time and space constraints minimize accessibility, among many others. Dump the baggage! New media and public intervention strategies circumvent, turn upside-down and sometimes solve the problems that stultify galleries. The works are accessible to larger audiences—who may have minimal or no expectations—for longer periods of time, and, most importantly, they offer opportunities for the spectator to become a participant-author. More to say on this topic, but no time…

I’ll be able to tell you more about Arzu’s dance after I see Rehearsal Two at SPACES on Wednesday after work.

11:09 p.m.

Love at First Site Invitation

Arzu was asked to “stage something” and “bring an audience”—a major detour for an artist who traffics in public interventions. She has to communicate with spectators who have made a decision to see the performance, rather than unwitting spectators who happen upon it. People come to SPACES to see “art”; participants in public interventions may not frame the encounter as “art.” But she’s embraced the challenge, without complaint. She sends a postcard-advert for “Love at first site,” all tricked out in signifers of love: red, white, lace tights and frilly font. I also think White Stripes CD cover. She plans to distribute the cards “all over Cleveland.” I don’t exactly know what that means. But I’m distributing it here.

Day Seven: 05.11.10

Arzu was busy teaching today, so she didn’t have much time to communicate. I was home sick with the flu. With the help of a collaborator, I’m working on the “Love at first site” performance score/script. Updates tomorrow.

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Detour: Color Commentator Eleanor LeBeau on Artist Arzu Ozkal #4

 Images from Arzu's press release for "Relief valve,"on exhibit at the George Jones Memorial Farm in Oberlin from May 28-June 2.
Images from Arzu’s press release for “Relief valve,”on exhibit at the George Jones Memorial Farm in Oberlin from May 28-June 2.



9:52 a.m.; 3:19 p.m.; 5:26 p.m.

Arzu and I exchange emails. I don’t know if it’s a good idea to give you play-by-play commentary about today’s discussions. I suspect you may soon be grateful for my omissions, which I hope don’t frustrate you too much right now.

Arzu went to Home Depot today for “supplies,” although she didn’t say for what. Arzu rarely provides direct answers to my questions, only clues. I’m fairly certain she doesn’t have the time. Maybe she doesn’t want to. Arzu strikes me as a doer, not someone who talks about doing. Besides, what’s it like to be inundated with questions while you’re in the middle of creating something? The sound of a ringing phone feels like an electric shock when I’m writing. That said, perhaps my concerns about being too intrusive have made me a passive, overly self-reflexive commentator.

Today is Mother’s Day and I have several mothers. I am busy, too.

11:49 p.m.

Arzu’s latest email confirms something I’ve thought for several days now: She juggles multiple roles and projects with enviable equanimity. Monday is the start of Finals Week at Oberlin College, where she teaches “Design as Social Process” and “New Media Practices” and is currently dealing with art students in the throes of year-end deadlines. There are classes, office hours and Detour. Plus she’s curating an exhibition that opens in two weeks.  Here’s an excerpt from the press release she sent:

Relief Valve/Subap

Subap, 13 Türk sanatçının, ulusal ve uluslararası çevre ve çevre politikalarına cevaben ürettiği sanat eserlerinden oluşan bir sergi. Sanatçıların, fotoğraf, kısa video, performans ve yerleştirme gibi medyaları kullanarak küresel ısınma, çevre kirliliği, doğal tahribat, çölleşme ve genetiği değiştirilmiş gıdalar konularını ele alan çalışmalarını sunacakları sergi, 28 Mayıs – 2 Haziran tarihleri arasında George Jones Hatıra Çifliği’nde ziyaret edilebilir.

I’m intrigued by the Turkish alphabet (29 letters). I also want to know what these words sound like. Here’s the English version (slightly edited for length)

Relief valve: An exhibition of the work of thirteen artists whose work addresses environmental issues. Using a variety of media from photography and video to performance and installation, the selected art works provide insights into land use, biodiversity and the recent controversy over genetically modified foods in Turkey.

May 28- June 2, 2010
Location: George Jones Memorial Farm, Oberlin

For info: 440-775-8181
The exhibition is curated by Arzu Ozkal and Nanette Yannuzzi-Macias.

Yeni Anıt, Nazan Azeri, Burçak Bingol, Genco Gülan, Güneli Gün, Erhan Muratoğlu, Suat Öğüt, Ethem Özgüven, İz Öztat & Dikaran

Taş, A. Tufan Palalı, Mark Slankard, Eden Ünlüata

Tomorrow: Arzu’s first performance rehearsal at SPACES!

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Detour: Color Commentator Eleanor LeBeau on Artist Arzu Ozkal #3

Lygia Clark, Sensory Masks, 1967

Lygia Clark, Sensory Masks, 1967


05.08.10: Composed throughout the day

9:29 a.m.
I email James Luna, who lives in SoCal. HELP! Please send advice about my upcoming performance score/script and possible live performance. [Addendum 05.11.10: Did you notice how fear prevented me from seeing beyond my own navel? And, most importantly, I’m not focusing on Arzu’s process. Pedagogical moment # 17.]

9:54 a.m.
As promised, Arzu sends her morning email:

Good morning!

I got some rope yesterday; will try a few things today. Will let you know how it goes. :)


10:12 a.m.
I email Arzu to ask what she intends to do with the rope.

11:47 a.m.
Arzu responds by email:

Hi Eleanor,

Lygia Clark’s performance is an inspiration: Lygia Clark “Propositions,” 1966-1968.

Will write more tonight.

12:27 p.m.
Luna responds. The minimalist, as always, but right on point:


The moment you stand up and turn to the audience you are performing.
Communication can take many forms if you are not a public speaker. You can prerecord your statement, you can write it out, you can hand out notes or pass one around. Whisper to each one: Don’t do Bob, Bob did it…..
Think about how you would like to be communicated to.

Be yourself.

I have no idea as to subject. That is between you and the artist.

Mr. Luna

Lygia Clark, The I and the You: Clothing/Body'Clothing, 1967

Lygia Clark, The I and the You: Clothing/Body’Clothing, 1967

11:52 p.m.
All day I’ve been wondering how the work of Brazilian artist Lygia Clark (1920-1988) might influence “Love At First Si/ght/te.” Above you will find image-pathways that lead to some of Clark’s ideas. (Do you mind if I call her Lygia?) The trajectory of Lygia’s oeuvre in one sentence: She transitioned from Constructivist painting to sculpture to relational art (for lack of a better word) and finally to what has been called “therapy.”

She is not a household name in the U.S. (how many female visual artists are?), but very much respected in the art world. Maybe Lygia is not well known because her entire oeuvre thwarts fetishization of the object and thus presents major curatorial challenges. “She attempted to escape both the notion of artist as ‘genius,’ and the supremacy granted to the object which implicitly forces the viewer into a role of passive contemplation,” Juan Vincente Aliaga notes in a 1998 issue of frieze.

After 1965, she labeled all of her works “propositions”: a set of rules created by the artist, using easy-to-find props, that are activated (or “made”) by others. The propositions only exist in the “now” and cannot be documented or sold or exhibited post-activation. You should also know that many of Lygia’s propositions emphasize non-visual experience (auditory, kinetic, haptic, olfactory) and attempt to collapse the mind/body duality. Said another way, the maker of a proposition may have an experience that compels him/her to reconsider the way s/he’s been taught to think about the body/self. I don’t know for sure. I’ve never made a proposition. I’m only imagining. Indeed, Lygia, like Arzu, is binary terrorist who collapses dichotomies: mind/body; intellect/senses; objective/subjective; author/spectator; object/spectator and so on.

What does Arzu plan to do with the rope and elastic bands? Is she using other props that she’s not telling me about? Lygia’s propositions require the makers to wear plastic boiler suits and Mobius-strip handcuffs.

Is Arzu’s last email a proposition for you and me, the spectators? She’s set some parameters (or rules)—the performance’s title and Lygia Clark, for example—and now I use what I think I know so far about “Love At First Si/ght/te” to produce color commentary about Arzu’s artistic process.

Am I not making my own “Love At First Si/ght/te”?

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