"Suppose you liked eating off the floor (some people are that clean, I’m told) — it could be carpeted with food at all times."

Kaprow! We are live!

Posted: May 29th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Day 1 | 1 Comment »

push and pull outside

The following is an extract from a voice recording I made of Lizzie. She reflects on her experience of being at the launch of Push and Pull, 28 May 2009. – Lucas

I got there about half an hour late… I came down the road with the van, and I noticed there were people spilling out onto the pavement … I thought it was fortuitous that there was a bench right outside Locksmith people can sit on. It extends the space, right out onto the street … you can sit on the bench and look right in …

Anyway, so I could see people spilling out of the door, and through the big shopfront window I could see people sitting in rapt attention. I saw that you were inside … not only with a big black fake beard on, but also doing this Kaprow thing with your hands … where you spread out your hands, your arms, like that photo of Kaprow that you use in your talk … it’s like a big embrace to your audience, like “come in, come in to my story!” It was funny to see you embodying him like that …

I was right at the back. I couldn’t get in, there were so many people. Well, when I say “so many”, not that many really. It’s a small space, there were maybe 35 or so people, enough so they were all over the floor and in the doorway and there were people standing outside the door and spilling out on the street …

From my impression of it, I don’t think people expected to be going to have to listen to a “Lecture” … There was a look on some people’s faces of slight unease … shifty almost…. Maybe they were wondering, how long are we going to have to sit here and listen? How long before we’re get to have a beer?

After the lecture, I thought we were all going to get cracking immediately. I thought everyone was going to want to go off for missions in the van, but nobody seemed to want to leave, which was understandable. Everyone just wanted to hang out and chat. But I did become aware that people were actually doing things… and then I realised, “oh yeah, that’s the point!” One of the weirdest things was that the setting up, in this version, was the actual work, so … it’s really up to you to make whatever you want of it …

People were milling around … then Mickie’s IKEA sofa got delivered. It was weird, it was like “are there enough ingredients here yet, like, at what point are there enough things that we can call this, beginning, when has it really started?” I think that’s the interesting thing about having the set up within the time frame of the whole thing in this version of the piece …

I went off with Keg in the van, to get stuff from the Barn … We picked up crafty stuff … a box of books, some paint, a massage table, pieces of wood … At the barn, Keg kept asking herself: “Hmm, what’s going to be useful?” … I thought that was interesting, because it’s not really supposed to be a project where you’re meant to be making anything or achieving anything useful, is it? …

But having said that, the wood and all these raw materials from the Barn turned out to be good things … This particular crowd there last night – they were a very DIY-ethic crowd… unlike maybe the way Push and Pull must have been in New York or at the museum in LA, where it was more a part of the high art scene… But with this particular crowd at Locksmith there seemed to be a desire to actually make art in there… which I don’t imagine is the normal way of this work…

sarah
[Sarah making something…]

So anyway, people started pasting things onto the wall, and doing stuff with gaffer tape, kind of decorating the room. Simon – he’s a great catalyst – he came in and started making things, and Keg too, and together they made this great ladder out of cardboard, and these funny little bows and arrows out of shiny material which actually shot arrows, and at that moment I realised: “Ah, it’s a play space, for grown-ups!” …

the ladder
[The cardboard ladder…]

I sat down with Vanessa and I started cutting out pictures from a book of manga comics, and then I thought, what am I going to do with these pictures? I figured, well, I’ll just put them on the floor here in front of me. I realised, I can do anything! It doesn’t have to have a purpose. There was no external way of judging whether you’re doing what you’re doing well or badly. That was new for me – there was nothing I had to get right, nothing I had to get embarrassed about …

To put things into perspective, I do take social rules very seriously, normally, and I often get annoyed at other people who don’t take them into account, so it was almost like the Pushing and Pulling was within myself: “where are my own boundaries?’

Later, we ate dinner in there, too. That was nice, eating makes you feel at home. But i was also very aware of the mess we were making. I thought to myself, “oh, the worst thing that could happen here is the place could get really messy, like… in a really ugly way.” I guess what I’m saying is there’s a difference between “stuff” and “crap”… does that make sense? “Stuff” is maybe completely redundant objects, it may be rubbishy … but “crap” is ACTUAL rubbish, like empty plastic cartons, with the remains of Indonesian take away food and coke cans and plastic forks. So I felt a compulsion to clean up …

Something about the work made me feel: “Don’t take advantage of the fact that you can do whatever you like, in here, just so you can be lazy and careless” … I actually think it’s a question of respect …

For me, there’s a tension which emerges in this work, between absolute relativism (every individual has their own opinion about the right way to do things) and counter to that, a sort of unspoken collective agreement – the emergence of a group sense of care – the idea that you shouldn’t just be careless – a group sense of morality or something …

We went off to pick up the sideboard and TV from our place. When we got back, we could see through the window, the Locksmith people were tidying up a bit in there. That made us laugh.

I thought that was really interesting. I was sad that the timelapse was not still running at that point. I thought how funny it would be to see Push and Pull happening on the video, all chaotic and frenzied, and then, when the session finishes and everyone has gone home, you would see the Locksmith folks coming in and tidying it all up again…

It was nice to think of this being the actual home of the Locksmith people. But I do remember wondering as we left, do they really get it? Or do they just think we’ve made a big mess in their gallery? It mattered to me that they understood the idea of the emergence of the piece. The beauty of the space which has been opened up, with a different set of rules…

Of course they took down the knives from the wall. They jokingly said they would have to “confiscate” them. I felt like apologising, because suddenly the rule-lessness of the space became wrong. There’s a general rule in society that very sharp knives stuck into the wall, that could fall at any moment onto someone’s toe, is a bad thing …

hilik with his knives
[Hilik Mirankar setting up his knives – early in the evening…]

I was aware that we had all been ignoring that rule for a while … and i think maybe there was a certain kind of politeness going around. Like, this man has come along with his knives, that’s the thing he does, so we don’t want to discourage his participation. But i think that everyone in the room knew that the sharp knives were dangerous, and they shouldn’t stay there. Normal social rules say they shouldn’t stay there – and this installation isn’t an exception to those rules.

So that was an interesting thing to realise. That even though we are in this space that seems rule-less, we are still operating within the exact same legal framework as the rest of society, in a semi-public space. I felt those rules in my body. The whole time, when i saw the knives stuck in the wall, or thought of the knives, there was a physical reaction in me. I wanted to pull them down. It was a physical desire. These are not just mental concept of “should”. It comes from the body. A tangible physical anxiety to make a change …


One Comment on “Kaprow! We are live!”

  1. 1 Tim said at 8:10 pm on June 8th, 2009:

    Lizzie, this is quite lovely; reading it felt like having a conversation with you. I’m amazed you could recall so much. I especially liked this scene which involved cutting out pictures from a book of manga comics: “and then I thought, what am I going to do with these pictures? I figured, well, I’ll just put them on the floor here in front of me.” The blog is great too – I feel almost a part of it.


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