Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Project #4 "Recipe: Betty Crocker's Mac & Cheese" aka The Day I Became Paula Deen's Wet Dream (without being racist)


I...absolutely loved this piece. I think this is one of my best pieces yet. (Or should I say one of my butter pieces.) It was disgusting and awful and cold and I was naked and I still smell like butter; but I also think that it was a really interesting endurance piece.

I am not sure where this piece came from. That's a lie. It came from inspiration from Yoko Ono's Instruction pieces, and the way that the Fluxus workbook is written. Performance art with the intention of being re-performed under new interpretation of the artist. I guess that from there I though, what if someone reinterpreted how a recipe was supposed to be made. I like to live with absurdity, so I was like, what if this reinterpretation was more than the improvisations and changes that good cook makes to a recipe. What if this recipe was reinterpreted in a ridiculous way. Originally I thought about what was going on campus and how mad I was that racism and harassment was still alive. And how much I wanted to do something that would make change happen. Honestly, as a Chinese man, I'm tired of conversation. I'm ready for action. I, and other people of color, can't sit around and converse while we wait for change. If we wait, we could be next. And so I wanted to do a piece that was about that. I thought originally about reading a poem/speaking thoughts and phrases that I and other people had while food was thrown around me or at me--forcing me to stop or to shut up. Or keep going, and endure the onslaught. And in a lot of ways, that lived on into the final copy; except that this piece lives in food.

Food is super important to me. As I wrote in my stream of consciousness, I pretty much grew up in the family kitchen learning from my mother and father. My mother, who was raised by her grandmother, with culture of the 50s, and this was then passed down to me. The culture of the 50s is often what is used to define what it means to be American; and so I feel as though this could also represent the struggles of a person of color--to aspire to and live in the aesthetic of an era that was not good for them at all. It was a horrible era to be a woman as well. Really, the 50s were only good if you were a straight white man, and even then....why do we romanticize the 50s so much? Anyways, Betty Crocker's cookbook was first published in 1951; and I remember my mom using it for plenty of recipes; especially the Mac and Cheese recipe that we would doctor up into a Fielder Wong family original. And Mac and Cheese is the quintessential American comfort food!

I'm constantly in a struggle between what my identity is. To be honest, I would love to say that I'm an American. I'm proud to be in America, most of the time. But being an American doesn't just mean a person who is from America. It has connotations. Either I'm supposed to be white, or it means I'm supposed to be like the radical right. As a gay Chinese man; I'm neither of these things. (Okay, okay so being gay means I could be radical right. But I'm not. I'm more independent.) In some cases, it's offensive, because I'm not a certain percentage Native American--even though I was raised here, this land and this culture is all I know. Sure, my family is from Germany, but that's Germany before the American Revolution. And my great-Grandmother was Cherokee--she chose to hide it and leave it behind in order to move up in society. So I'm not going to claim it. And I'm Chinese; but I don't exactly fit in with the Chinese students because I don't have the same experiences as they do. Not to mention, my father is extremely Americanized, he came over when he was quite young. In a divisive society, I don't belong.

So this piece is supposed to be a reflection of that. Where am I? How do I belong? Amanda represents my white/German half, and Lily represents my Chinese half. The struggle is manifested in the attempt to read this recipe and maintain it without breaking down while they 'make' mac and cheese out of me.

I think that the piece could have taken longer; if Amanda and Lily had felt more comfortable using all of the butter--keeping it to two sticks--and buttered all of me while I continued reading the recipe over and over again. An option could be reading the instructions as they got to the ingredient, but I felt like that was too rehearsed and theatrical, the continuous sound from my mouth meant that I had something to struggle with, keeping my voice regular and stoic. As you see in the video, I wasn't able to keep my endurance; there were a few times that I wanted to laugh and had to choke down the instinct and then when the milk was poured, I started to shiver and my voice broke. Personally, I'm okay with the imperfection and the way that my voice broke. I think that it made the piece stronger, and gave the audience something to relate with. In a way, this piece about a food that should be comforting from a cookbook that is often synonymous with motherhood and nurturing became a piece about torture and endurance. And I like that. I like that the audience got to watch me go through torture and got to watch me struggle and endure.

Maybe I should try my hand at more endurance pieces in the future.

I also really like the idea of Amanda and Lily in all black with aprons, or dressed like Betty Crocker/women from the 50s. The plan was to have them in all black, but we failed to synchronize watches on when we actually were going to present. Oh well, live and learn.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Waiting on a ZIP File to Download a.k.a. BRAIN DROPPINGS

So I'm sitting in the Academic Technology Studio, and all that's going through my head right now is a combination of Taylor Swift's "Welcome To New York" and Beyonce's "Formation" (actually now that I've written that down, toss My Chemical Romance's "Welcome to the Black Parade").

Project #3 "Cake" aka THEY SCREAM AT OWN CAKE


"Cake" Studio Version

This piece was a lot of fun to do. When the idea of incongruous sound was placed in our minds, I started to ruminate over what our project could be. My first thought was Marina Abramovic and Ulay's AAAAA-AAAAA piece, and wanted to feature the contrast between screaming and whispering. Initially, I went to Lily with the idea of one artist opening their mouth to scream, but the other artist vocalizes the whispering/murmuring. Then the whispering/murmuring artist opens their mouth to whisper and the other artist begins to scream. The incongruous sound was the wrong sound coming out of each other.

Troublemaker Twins

Lily however wanted to do something with food--and that gave me more ideas about being more and more absurd. Lily wanted cake. I love cake. And I loved the idea of getting a sheet cake with white frosting and pretty little flowers on it. So together we came up with the idea of the cake being consumed savagely by Lily while I play the voice of the cake and shriek in pain and torture. Our absurdity and incongruous sound was personifying the cake and giving it life.

He scream. So much scream. :/

I am a big spectacle/aesthetic artist; so I was hoping to buy a cake. But I'm also a college student and I do not have the funds to invest in a cake to destroy--and then buy a second for a video. So we chose to bake a simple cake and let the simplicity be in and of itself.

Live Performance Video

I am really happy with how the performance came together. If I could financed by someone to build a set with a giant flag behind us, or if we could just be financed for pretty, pre-made sheet cakes, and not have to bake the cakes ourselves, I would be just fine with that. If we could have gotten someone to lead the audience in, I think it would have been more effective--I would have walked in with the audience like an audience plant. The mirror didn't get noticed, but I was hoping to place it so that the audience could see themselves and be made complicit in the action of Lily eating this cake. For me this piece is a lot about body issues, and I liked the explanation that I was Lily's internal monologue as she forced herself to eat this cake. Holding the audience--society--responsible for these body issues and food issues I think makes them think and reconsider things.

The Residue ... aka The Corpse

For the reshot video--the direct to video performance, I wanted to refocus the performance piece on Lily. It is about her eating the cake. The video needed some kind of lead-in, so I thought about using instrumental music from television. There's a magical element to the idea of personifying a cake, so I suppose Bewitched popped into my head from that. I'm living in the 50's and 60's right now with my Mac and Cheese piece, so maybe it grew off of that. Either way, the tunes give a carefree vibe lovely vibe that then is contrasted by the constant screaming and savagery of Lily's attacks on the cake. Placing the music at the end gave me a lead out, since I ran out of screaming track; and also created a fun montage that amped up the absurdity. I'm really pleased with the video. As someone who likes to work with high spectacle and visual, I wish I could have set the videos in a more vivid and vibrant location. Working with the idea that my screaming was the internal monologue of Lily, I wanted to contrast the two of us. I thought about placing her outside on a park bench surrounded by green, while I was trapped inside, in a white room--or even in a mechanical area underneath Kimmel Stage. But Lily wanted to make sure we kept simplicity in mind, and with such a short deadline I had to agree. The contrast comes in the way that I'm backed into a corner and wearing a black shirt, while Lily is just up against a white wall, with plenty of room and wearing a white shirt. Enjoy the reshot version! And watch it next to the live for some great comparisons!

edit: Wednesday April 27 @ 10:20pm VIDEO uploaded w/ commentary.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Project #2 "Train/Niart" aka Finally Getting to Work With QUEEN Amanda


the train as it came at us

Okay, so story time. Once upon a time, a small (not really) asian gay prince from California was whisked off to a magical liberal arts castle in the Midwest where he was inducted into a cult. During his induction, he met a fair knight from Wisconsin who had proven herself in comedy and a regal Queen from the provinces of Oregon.

Okay, this story is not going anywhere and I'm having the hardest time actually bringing it to where I want to be; so I'm going to TL;DR it. Amanda and I met last year in our First Year Seminar. We're both Theatre people and we lived in the same building and we had the same advisor. And we had friends named Angie and Anna. Together we were Amanda, Benjamin, Anna, and Angie: ABAA. (A names can be rearranged at will.) However, Angie transferred out of Cornell and Anna was busy with her comedy improv group. Eventually we all fell apart. I haven't really gotten to work with or hang out with Amanda this past school year. When Amanda texted me and was like "Do you want to work together on the next project. I have an idea." My first response was "Yes." Actually it was "YES. PLEASE THANK YOU." Well, actually my first response was unintelligible squealing and I grabbed the person next to me and squeezed their arm really hard. Anna wasn't very pleased. And then I very calmly texted back, "Yes." Amanda had an idea and I was SUPER EXCITED TO WORK WITH HER BECAUSE THIS WAS GODDAMN AMANDA BENTZ. Also she wanted to do something with trains and let's be real. Trainz r kool yo.

Sorry to go super hip on ya'll, what I said was "trains are cool, my dear friends and homies."

Amanda wanted to go out to the train bridge and record the train passing under us. On Sunday was my 10/12 rehearsal for Those That Fall; which is a fancy way of saying we rehearse the show for 12 hours with a brief 2 hour break for dinner. Thankfully rehearsal ended early, so Amanda and i were able to meet around 10. At 10 we went down to the train bridge and as we walked up to the bridge, the far off sounds of the train began to sound. Amanda hurriedly began to sprint to the bridge shouting at me to "SHH SHH SHH!" As she set up the recorder I lay on the bridge and stared up at the stairs listening to the frogs and night critters. Amanda lay next to me and we allowed the train to pass under us and feel the vibration of the train. That done, Amanda and i discussed our plan. On the walk to the bridge we had experienced and tossed out ideas for performance; and from these we were able to solidify our idea. We were going to play this sound forwards and in reverse at the same time while being present for each other.

the train as it left us

Amanda wrote our score and I played with the train audio to play it in reverse.

our score

I was pleased with how our performance came together; I liked how the sounds layered. To make the reversal stand out more, playing the sounds separately would bump up and give the audience a chance to really hear and listen to the differences in the train sounds. The light for me really replicated the way that the light of the train when it came at us.

The signs were a last minute decision. I felt like having a sign that said TRAIN and another that spelled it backwards, NIART; would be vaguely anti-art and super literal. I texted Amanda and she agreed that it was anti-art. They were not the focus for me; and i felt as though they could be an additional layer after--like residue. A part of the piece that may be missed in the performance and could be added into the memory of the performance as carried by the viewer.

very light, much drama

For further performance, I'd like to put the artists in real chairs, not stools and I would like the placards to be around our necks and a little more elaborate. I also think that the artists should not come back after the performance. If possible, the audience should never see them together again. (Wow. I just realized I totally am being over dramatic about our friendship drifting apart. lol. This blog lives up to its title "My Twenty-Something Angst.")


You Should Love Yoko Ono, and Here's Why.

I'm not really going to do much writing here. Literally, I'm just copy and pasting my research lol #SorryNotSorry

YOKO ONO: Or as I like to say, Life Goals.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Project #1 "Slide" aka My First Performance Art Piece


One of my quirks and issues is that I have a complex about my body. I hate it. I think that I have the most disgusting and off-putting lumpy hairy bodies in the world. And I often feel that my body is non-reflective of who I am as a person—that I feel trapped and confined in this completely unglamorous meat cage. I am loudly and proudly team body image issues. So a lot of what I like to do as a performer and now as an artist involves taking this horrible meat prison and adorning it with tinsel and sequins to make it sparkly and beautiful.

lol this guy caught RED HANDED

The other thing that I like is going to back to childhood and innocence and placing activities or objects that are charged with innocence and nostalgia in a space to be interacted with and viewed by the audience. So the idea of slide—a kids hand game that I remember from elementary school became the thing that I fixated on for this first piece.

aw, twinning.

My initial image was to make the body or artist beautiful by applying paint, and this paint became applied in the childlike innocence and splattering that came from the hand clap game of slide. In a way the struggles and insecurities we gain with age would disintegrate with revival of childhood tradition. This first performance of “Slide” tested that theory and began to walk in that direction, but it needed more. The sound was very satisfying and the effect of having us sitting as living sculpture was very effective. I liked the portrayal of the idea of the artist as art. However we needed more paint or more substances. I think that with every “screw-up” or miscommunication of the game, we should have broke to apply more substance. Also, instead of keeping our substances in small containers, placing them in buckets to pick-up or on a plate or pallet would make it easier than pouring the peanut-butter or squeezing the paint out of the tube.

Well officers, this isn't what it looks like.

I liked the peanut butter but it easily disappeared into the paint. It changed the consistency of the final substance and this final substance appeared relatively early into the piece. I wonder how the performance would have changed with more application of substance or in variance of substance. A bucket or pallet could definetly leave some splatter and residue on our paper.

the residue

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Hard Decisions

The past two months I've been working on a devised production of a show called Those That Fall; a play about a small town in Iowa that is changed forever when the story of an 8-foot bat begins to circulate throughout the town and into the rest of the country. There are some blatant displays of racism and sexism and classism in the piece. And unfortunately, it's a timely piece, coming at a time when the school seems to need it the most.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

2 Cute Chicks Cuddle on Sawdust

Today we didn't have class; instead there were sessions in the technology center with Brooke. Unfortunately, our campus is plagued by Trump supporters and the climate on campus is tense and charged--it seems like we're primed for some kind of explosion. I ended up sleeping in--no thanks 2 u stress and Those That Fall--but I got to class in time to film for our playing with Adobe Premier, software that I used in my last class, Film Studies.

One of the librarians brought in her two baby chicks, and Brooke had us use anything in the library for our video source. Because baby animals make everything better and everyone needs everything made better right now, I took shots of the chicks. And put them together in this hot mess of a bad meme.

The name comes was inspired by bad objectifying porno titles and was meant to misrepresent the piece. The song comes from the fact that I wanted something about this to be more ridiculous than cute. And the annoyance contrasts nicely with the cuteness.

Enjoy "Two Cute Chicks Cuddle on Sawdust."

EDIT: I had to upload this on YouTube. I've become 2010 Internet meme trash.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Welcome to Intermedia

This is the start of an exciting new adventure to me--a brief foray into performance art. In block 8 of my Sophomore year at Cornell College, I'm taking an Intermedia class. Part of that class is to have a blog; hence this blog--because my professional Wordpress wasn't going to work. This is going to be a weird and ridiculous introductory post.

It's going to be exciting to use this new platform and to play with it to figure out what it can do. I'm also excited to discover what performance art is, and where I fall stylistically.