Friday, February 5, 2010

PRESS 2009-10: Chris Mann & the Performance of Performance

Last night Chris Mann performed a new piece working thru the signing tangles of "repetition," "knowledge," "madness," "teacher" as ill and student as "cure," and "the right to be misunderstood"--exciting for me, working on a couple essays, including one just published in Sibla, that deal with the aesthetics of repetition.  

I will stand firmly by this: I do not know why (or desire not to ruminate on) Chris gets so little attention in New York's "Art World," as he's doing work far more interesting than a lot of artists working right now.  Chris performed what is now part of his ongoing polyvocal/interactive web project The Use, a then-new piece, in New York circa winter 2002. It was then that I first witnessed an indescribable, an "other" aesthetic discourse, Mann's auctioneer-speed gesticulating barrage of carefully choreographed (yet admitting for chance) work, For Head-Phones.  A piece I worked with for a 4-channel performance (now part of Prefab Eulogies, soon to be downloadable at BlazeVox called "Eulogy for Headphones"), commissioned for The American Cybernetics Conference 2009, at which Chris also performed, which was my second time hearing/seeing him do what he does.  Which, perhaps, is best described as an interrogation of speech that implores us to misunderstand, where discomfort is in some sense high stakes.  If you do not feel discomfort during Mann's "performance," something has gone wrong.  

People at the well-attended event were into it, and indeed felt the discomfort, especially when realizing or refusing to realize, or deciding against being part of Mann's work insofar as the interactive part of it (overtly speaking), the discussion "afterwards," involves "the audience" interrogating itself as and against audience, in favor of...what?  Where this question lingers until we all go home.

I only regret feeling too ill to join up with Chris and Arun Chandra and Elizabeth Williamson, co-sponsors of the event, afterwards.  Was nice to see him, tho, and I hope to set up something with Chris in New York next time I'm there for a sustained period.  Still odd to me, very odd, that Mann's work is commissioned so often and so widely everywhere but, it seems, in the city where he lives.  

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