Wednesday, October 13, 2010

PoArt Performance: Adriana Disman [41]

Adriana Disman
Toronto, Canada

8/31/2010 - Original Proposal and Correspondence:

I'm a Toronto-based performance artist. I saw your Call for Performers: The Prostitution of Art, and would love to be considered for a durational performance slot.

According to Merriam Webster, a definition of 'Prostituted' is; 'to devote to corrupt or unworthy purposes: debase.'
I feel that my work as a performance artist is inherently related to this definition.

My proposed performance is partially born of Shakespeare's Macbeth. The above definition is a clear theme in Macbeth and has always been of deep interest to me, particularly in the character of Lady Macbeth. The extremity with which her guilt manifests itself is at odds with the extreme devotion to her purpose, leading me to the conclusion that she believes her own pursuit to be corrupt BUT worthy. This juxtaposition is something I find extremely compelling on a personal level because, in everything I create, I feel this same pull. This tug between the narcissistic and self-serving reasons for creating my performances vs. the deep belief that they truly can and do touch others and serve a greater purpose.

I don't mean to sound like someone's pretentious thesis rotting away in a cupboard but I want to communicate that I find the concept of prostitution is intrinsically tied with my self-identification of 'artist'. The 'devotion' is a necessity but, honestly, I am unable to tell whether I am prostituting myself for art or art for myself. My pieces are an exploration of that.

So, for the sake of stopping this before you gouge your eyes out, I feel that my attached proposal would support your curatorial vision and I would love to be a part of this show.


Performance Description

Title: Cleaning The Hands

Performance: I stand in the middle of the dim space. There is light on me. I wear no clothing or makeup. I will wash my hands. The audience is invited to create a silent dialogue with me by maintaing eye contact. Different types of brushes may be used to aid in this cleansing (made of hair, metal, etc.)

Duration: 6 hours

This piece deals with the eternal question of Guilt.

Artist's Biography

Adriana Disman recently returned to Toronto after performing and living in New York City for three years. As a performance artist, her interests veer towards testing physical and mental limits through durational extremes. Her pieces are often ascetic, and focus on energy exchange as a catalyst for change. Adriana uses her background in stage to deconstruct the given theatrical framework, with particular focus on questions of predetermined control and expectation between audience/performer. She holds a NAST certification from the venerable Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre (NYC.)

Recent works: In June '10, Adriana performed in Josephine Decker's SpilLover. A response to the BP Oil Spill, the piece was executed in the heart of Times Square and covered by the NY Times, Wall Street Journal, and WNYC amongst many. In August '10, Adriana was in invited to perform her solo piece 'ADRI IN FLUX(us)' in Toronto's Feed The Birds.

9/11/2010 through 9/13/2010 - Preparations for performance (excerpts):

AD (Artist):
Regarding the performance itself; I wanted to get a bit of a sense of how you're physically planning on setting up the exhibition. Perhaps you're not sure yet, which is completely understandable, but when you have an idea of where I'll be performing in the space, please let me know.

As well, I'm thinking of a small adjustment to the piece. I've been contemplating what is of more import: completing the performance for the duration or attempting the original idea of standing for the full period of time. The more I think about it, the more I'm leaning to switching between sitting and standing every hour on the hour (i.e. First hour standing, on the hour when water is changed, switch to sitting, etc.) I wanted to let you know and if either of you have any thoughts on that please feel free to share them!

I'm also wondering if Mobius has:
- a small space heater
- a plain wooden chair (I've attached an image just for clarity)
- a plain, very small wooden table, perhaps more of a tall night stand, to place a water basin on
- a large glass bowl/water basin (idea photo attached but I realize this will be difficult to find.)

As well, is there a particular type of signage you normally use or is it up to me to figure out how to display the instructions to the audience? If so, is it alright to stick vinyl lettering to your space's walls?

JW (co-curator):
Mobius has one chair that is wooden but it has a kind of blu-ish green vinyl seat (it's actually a nice looking chair - looks kind of old school).
If you are attached of chair, James and I can ask the group if anyone has a chair like that which we could borrow for the day.

Mobius does not have a small space heater. I have one at home which I could bring if you want - it looks like a little white radiator (runs on oil and electricity) and needs just to be plugged into a wall.

Small tall wooden table for the glass bowl - we'll have to ask around... how high do you need it to be?

Mobius does not have a wash basin in the gallery area .... could you use a glass bowl which you empty and refill from two bucket (one with clean water, one with the dirty water)?
I don't think we have anything like what you have in your photo. I might have a pyrex bowl which is clear and large enough for you to use.

Also I forgot to ask you, there will be a video/slideshow with sound running during your performance - we could lower the sound but it is kind of a major part of the exhibition (Signs of Our Times with images by 99 artists from around the word running with several one minute sound compositions by five different composers. Just want to make sure this is not going to be a problem for you - we could resort to headphones if so.

AD (Artist):
Thank you so much for such a thorough and quick response. I really appreciate it. I apologize if my email seems overly thorough- it's because, not having been to Boston or Mobius before, I feel especially like I must nail everything down before I arrive.

Re: Sound running- of course! It's part of the exhibit and I wouldn't want to alter anyone else's work in anyway!

Re: signage/placement in the room. The middle of the room sounds excellent- I agree that we should perhaps take a look at the space when I arrive and we can figure out the details of placement then. I'll create some kind of cardboard sign so that wall space needn't be used.

Re: Chair. Hm. I'm not sure. The only thing I need from the chair is that it be very solid and not extremely reminiscent of any time/place that's too specific. Perhaps it would be good if you could ask the other Mobius artists as you suggested. Maybe a kitchen chair? As close to the concept in the picture as possible would be wonderful (wooden, some kind of back support, plain) but in the end it's just a chair. Babies aren't being killed over it so I'm not worried.

Re: space heater- that's perfect! As long as you don't mind my borrowing yours, I'll just bring it along with me on Saturday to the space. (Just in case it's cold out/ I'm near the door)

Re: wash basin. Yes, I was thinking I might have to resort to a pyrex bowl. I'm going to look around Toronto and see what I can find first. Or maybe I'll bring a glass casserole baking dish.

Re: documentation. My dear friend/photographer (Sophie) is going to shoot footage as well. Just a still single shot- I wanted to get full length docum. because I feel the length itself is of huge import in this piece.

Re: table. Truly, I'm not totally certain. The concepts that I'm hoping for in a table are the same as the chair (plain, solid) and that
1) I don't have to bend down when standing in order to put my hands in the water- I'm 5"10 so this may be tricky- and
2) that it doesn't become a barrier or way of 'hiding' my body. Again- no one's dying over it and I think the height is the only thing that's really important so I don't hurt my back. It's too late for me to grab the measuring tape without waking anyone but I'll send you some table-height ideas asap.

Re: meeting me at the bus that's so nice of you! I'll send you the exact details asap, as well.

Dear god- it's such a bother that I can't simply come talk to you in person but there you have it. I hope you don't mind long emails since these ones have been epic.

The last thing is that I had a water-changing idea but am not sure if it's feasible as it means someone would have to be around for the entire duration. I thought I'd ask someone to change the water every hour on the hour. This would also be my signal to switch from sitting to standing as well as a mental marker. Less of a necessity then a movement, a moment. Like a scene change or refresh button. Do you think it's possible that there's an artist that would be willing to hang around to do that?

JW (co-curator):
I was wondering if a wooden stool might serve you better - we have two stools - they are both solid - for sitting or putting something on. then you could set the height that will work for both sitting and standing... and not hurt your back.

One of the mobius artists said she has several wooden tables so maybe send ideal dimensions and we can try to find one that will work.

re waterchanging - we might be able to work in shifts --
do you want someone to actually take the bowl away and bring it back or dump out the water immediately and refill with clean water?

What if you had a timer or clock by the table or even on the table?

JW (co-curator):
I think we have the type of wooden chair you requested covered as well as several possible options for tables, and space heaters...

if you have some idea for the dimensions of the table that would be ideal - let me know and i'll pass that info along to the artists who are offering their tables.

all that remains is the pyrex or glass bowl.

i have a large pyrex one (basically from a set of pyrex bowls)
mine says it hold 4.0 liters. (see photo below- kind of looks like that)
you can definitely wash your hands in it.

I also have a large square glass bowl (which i stuck my head in and sang underwater with a mic underneath) so it's large enough for handwashing as well...

AD (Artist):
Re table and bowl: I think as close to 30 inches from the ground would be ideal. With the bowl on top, I think this will be perfect. In terms of the table top size, it is only needed in order to hold the bowl and should be as small as possible- ideally it would be the same width as the diameter of the bowl. Does that make sense? So that if you looked at it from above it would look like a CD in a CD case. Oh god, if only I had any real-life skills and could communicate physical things instead of just ideas this would be so much easier! Well- let me know if that doesn't make sense and I'll figure out a better way to write it. I've attached some table images- square topped is best but circle is fine.

The pyrex you mentioned should serve just fine. I'm going to go to a store and pretend to wash in that size bowl just to see what it's like and I'll report back confirming bowl-washing-usage and whether or not I got kicked out of a kitchenware store. I am interested in the square glass bowl as well, though- do you have a photo?

Re: clock that you mentioned and water-changing. I thought long and hard about that idea when writing my proposal but I feel that watching minutes tick by may cause immediate suicide. I think the time marker is important but has to come unexpectedly for me- I don't want to be able to count down the minutes till the hour mark. Is there a sink in the space? Perhaps in the washroom? I was thinking that it would be removed, dumped, refilled and replaced but you know, I am thinking about your two-bucket idea more and more. It's a good idea. My thought would be that I could bring a small medicine bowl with me and on the hour mark have someone sound it so I would know to change the water.

Well, I suppose either way I just need someone there as a time-notifier whether it be water-switch or bowl. If that isn't possible I may be able to come up with something so let me know.

Wonderful about the chair- thank you!

JW (co-curator):
i think we might be able to work with your bell ringing ... no worries
you don't even have to bring a bell - my partner and i have plenty..

worst case we could rig something that rings on the hour perhaps...
a constant alarm - since your friend will be documenting, perhaps she can periodically check if no one else in momentarily around whether whatever we use is still going ...

or a kitchen timer which gets reset every hour facing away from you so you won't know when your hour is up.

James and I are working on getting some students from Mass college of Art to do guerrilla performances with me (prostituting themselves) and perhaps we can get them to come in on the hour to ring the bell...

we can several options so perhaps we can figure this all out i think when you get here...
(for example, we won't know about the students most likely until next week- how many and who and when they can perform/ring the bell etc).

I'm forwarding the photos and measurements you sent to the two artists who offered a possible table for you to use.

AD (Artist):
Mmm- I love the guerrilla piece concept.

Yes, we can certainly figure out water-change stuff once I'm there- since we've got some sort of bell if we need and it should be easy enough to find two jugs/buckets if that's the route chosen.

THANK YOU for forwarding that table use. It's a bit finicky but I figure better to be specific and then work with whatever we can find.

I feel confident that we've established some clarity of the piece now and have most elements in place.

P.S. Soap Works just accepted my request for a soap donation! WOOHOO! And they're giving me double the amount I asked for so I'll be arriving in Boston with a dozen bars of soap...

That'll be weird at the border.

9/25/2010 - Performance at Mobius:

Wooden chair courtesy of Joanne Rice (Mobius Artist Group)
Prayer bowl courtesy of Grant Smith (Mobius Artist Group)
Hour noted / water changing by: Quinn Morris (Toronto)
Could not find table of specified height/dimensions, Adriana Disman modified her original concept accordingly.

Text in italics and photographs by Sophie Traub excerpted from Adriana Disman's website page: "Cleaning the Hands" Full Documentation - with the artist's permission.

Please visit to view more photographs (including beautiful extensive close ups of Adriana Disman's hands) by Sophie Traub and full documentation of her performance.

Performed at Mobius, Inc. in Boston on September 25, 2010 from 11:20am- 4:20pm. The piece ran concurrently with The Prostitution of Art and Signs of Our Times exhibition.

Title: Cleaning The Hands

Performance: I stand in the middle of the space. There is light on me. I wear no clothing or makeup. I wash my hands. The audience is invited to create a silent dialogue with me by maintaing eye contact. A brush may be used to aid in cleansing.

Duration: 5 hours

This piece deals with Shakespeare's Macbeth, ritualized cleansing without the frame work of organized religion, and the eternal question of Guilt.

Four Photos: Mobius

All Subsequent Photos: Sophie Traub

Within the first hour, the police were called for ‘indecent exposure’.

The first black cloth went up

Concern that the sun was burning me brought up the second black cloth. I did not find this out till after the performance was complete. At the time, I assumed there had been another visit from the police.

(Above: Marilyn Arsem attaches the second black cloth)

Performance artist Milan Kohout (performing above and below.)

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