WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR
Reflections on Who Is My Neighbor
Performed Wednesday, 9/11/2019 at SoMArts San Francisco for 40 performances for the Hole, curated by Justin Hoover.
Title: [Who is my neighbor?] From the depth, a dark place… a hand.
This was a physically demanding performance – even coming in at just 4 minutes. The 4 minute structure was part of the design of the event. The day before I briefly thought about going to the gym… because I haven’t lately and I need to get back in the routine of getting there. Then I decided against it, speculating that a post-workout aching body would be counter to my performance. It’ll turn out that this was a wise decision.
The title is in reference to the conversation between Jesus and a lawyer about the story of the Good Samaritan. In it the lawyer asks, “but how will I know my neighbor?” Yes, it is a religious reference. I am an atheist profoundly interested in religions, stories from religions, the influence of them on us. I’ve incorportated many concepts and themes from world religions, but this may be the first time I’ve included a quote from the New Testament.
With the costume I have “othered” myself. I am not recognizable as myself with the helmet like head wrapped in a cheap white wig and body covered in a red spandex suit.
I wondered how the audience would react to and interact with a strange looking stranger seeking help. Will people pull on the ropes? Will they rescue me and give me the support I actually need? Will they rescue me for their own benefit? Will they turn violent and get carried away?
In reflecting on this new performance, like so many of my engaged performance pieces, I set up a situation of decision conflict – possibly a moral conflict – for the audience.
I also put myself in an extremely vulnerable situation. Whether as this character, as Yamamba, as Mumyogami, or as Kimono 2, I don’t know what participants will ultimately decide to do with me. I have to trust the situation. Often I can’t event see. While I recognize that in a performance venue, there are some control, but fundamentally I can’t predict what exactly will happen. Yet at the same time, I have carefully designed this very situation to create discomfort and decision opportunities for the audience. There are so many directions of tension and unpredictability in these pieces.
- Me (performer)
- Violet (stagehand / social media live)
- Tam Welch (stagehand)
- Shena van Spronsen (video team)
- Kelly (safety)
- Jason Wyman (photos)
Action / What people will see
- 0 minute >: Stagehand (Tam) guiding M to hole. M likely covered in a sheet.
- 0:15 minute > Room light goes up. Sound of sea birds and ocean play. A fake attendee (Violet) linefeeds from phone. This is projected onto the wall of SoMArts
- 0:30 min > From the hole, M tosses ropes out to the audience in various directions. She reaches out trying to climb out. She struggles and slips back.
- costume: red body suit, face covered in weird mask made of hair. (I will have limited visibility)
- ropes are attached to M’s limbs and waist. There is potential injury risk here.
- She pantomimes to the audience to help pull her out. She does this in several directions. As she is pulled out by the audience, she is tugged to disparate directions.
- Her movements indicate a range of emotions and reactions from gratitude, exhaustion, anxiety, fear, confusion
- 3:00 min > lights begin to drop. Seagull gets louder.
- Stagehand enters to either take the ropes from the audience or cut the lines in the middle. M is handed off to K who guides M out of the performance area
- 3:30 min > Stagehand cleans up any remaining material