Francesco Gagliardi: (dance)
(dance) (dance) (dance)
(dance) (dance) (dance) (dance)
Kara Feely: What's happening with these little dancing men?
FG: Aren't they great? They're like Craig's Ubermarionette - they're perfect. Wouldn't you love performers like these?
KF: Yes, absolutely. They are like a virtual manifestation of one of your silent mental pieces... like the exercise one, which I read for the first time last night.
FG: Oh, the one about crying?
KF: Yes! That seems to me to be a much better acting exercise than thinking about your dead dog.
FG: Ah, yes - a perverse re-instatement of the Method...
Anyway - how are you doing? It's great chatting, finally! It's been a long time!
KF: I know! This is nice. I like this...
Now our virtual manifestations are dancing together.
FG: Yes, the ninja guy too. He seems a little too purposeful, though, don't you think? He kicks. He does something. The other is just fooling around.
KF: He does do something, he is accomplishing things. Unknown, secret things.
FG: And do we like that? Accomplishing things, I mean?
KF: Maybe not on a Sunday...
FG: Yes - unless they are very secret...
KF: But we are industrious artists, yes?
FG: ... yes?
Speaking of secret things, I would like to perform (a variation of?) your map piece in my performance on February 11. Do I have permission?
KF: Of course.
FG: Excellent. I still don't know what to do with it - but I want to start with (something like) it.
KF: There is a variation of it in INNOVA- which is interesting.
FG: I sort of guessed it from one of the photographs...
KF: I think we will move it back to the floor for the May premiere.
FG: It was quite compelling to see it on both sides of that sheet of plastic - a sort of layering of people's disjointed recollections.
KF: Perhaps you should perform it with a chalk line reel... I'm getting obsessed with those lately.
FG: Yes, chalk is good. I like the sound of the tape, though. Also, after spending so much time thinking about Joan Jonas, I think I cannot do chalk...
KF: But these are awesome....
I saw Peter Ksander using one and can't stop thinking about it. What's wrong with me?
FG: Oh wow, these do look great. But don't you sometimes start with one of these stupid tools - and build a whole piece around it? I know that when I need inspiration I just have to go to Home Depot, and I see stuff and I buy it, and then have to find ways of using it. Home Depot is a treasure trove.
KF: It really is. I'm teaching a class on this right now, incidentally.
FG: On Home Depot?
KF: "Designing from Home Depot"
FG: No way! That's great!
KF: Actually, the real title is "Designing for New Performance Modes: Environments, Mixed-media, Object-based Theater, and Home Depot"
It's interesting though how differently you think about objects when they're mass produced and available in large quantities, and when they are ... I don't know. Think about the kinds of objects you'd find in a junk shop. They may all very well have been mass produced, but each has gone through a history that has made it somehow unique, even if there are thousands like it – it’s a completely different thing - to work with an Ikea table fresh from Ikea and one that you find in a junk shop.
KF: I have really confused a whole slew of hardware store salesmen, let me tell you...
FG: Oh, yes - I had that with glass cutters... asking for pieces of glass, and agonizing over the thickness... and they would ask: "But what is it FOR?" And I would have to answer: "Oh, nothing, I just have to HOLD it."
KF: I remember that! I've had that with sanders...
KF: Yes, Eric Magnus used a sander to distress his own suit in INNOVA.
And I was really interested in the color of one, but it turned out not to be a sander but a grout smoother or something, but I bought it anyway. The salesman was really confused.
FG: Ah. I couldn't tell from the picture if it was Eric or Doug Barrett - but I noticed a picture of someone sanding their ass...
KF: Yes, that was Eric. He did it really well. A sander with a yellow handle works much better than a piece of sandpaper.
FG: But back to this thing about objects - I think this has a lot to do with both your practice and mine, no?
KF: Yes, yes...
FG: And I mean… Your name of course: "Object Collection". How did that came about? Anything to do with objects?
KF: I think Travis and I both liked the separate words "Object" and "Collection", so we put them together. At first it seemed like a mouthful. But now it suits us, with all the crap we collect on stage. A self fulfilling prophecy.
FG: They are very good words - I like the idea of a collection - of putting stuff together and then it's a collection. It can be a collection of objects that have nothing to do with one another, but it's still a collection: you make it one by calling it one. It's an interesting compositional strategy.
KF: Yes- that reminds me of a Matisse painting I saw last year at the Met that struck me...
FG: What was it?
KF: Let me see if I can find it.
FG: I’ll put the kettle on...
KF: That's funny, most Matisse paintings fall into this category.
FG: What category?
KF: What I am about to describe... it was a still life, a collection of objects on a table with a very solid blue background which was a window perhaps. But the choice of objects was strange, bizarre, like this was a very random collection of distinct things that had nothing to do with one another... except that he owned them, and liked them, and decided to put them together on a table at the same time.
FG: Yes. That's exactly it. And it becomes this very unique collection, this specific unified “thing” -whether it's actually based on a set of personal, secret criteria, or completely random, like free association, or pure chance
KF: Yes, I think for that painting the collection was sort of incidental, like, well I have to paint something today... so how about this, and this...thing? Which made it all the more striking to me.
You have a kind of treasure trove of objects that you use for performance. Has this been growing since the move to Toronto?
FG: Not really --- I haven't been performing very much since the move... still working with the same table and pieces of glass and cardboard panels...
KF: New pieces with these objects?
FG: More like variations on older pieces. I’ve been a little stuck - I’m just beginning to feel the juices flowing again. Writing has been a bit draining. I find it hard to concentrate on two things at once...
KF: It's difficult to move, and difficult to switch gears between the critical and creative. I could never write in two modes at once.
FG: But it's getting better - actually, a trip to the art supplies store yesterday did the trick... I bought lots of masonite boards. They are quite beautiful.
KF: Hmmmm... masonite. Material fetish.
FG: But back to what we were saying before: do you feel you prefer to work with found objects that are somehow unique (like a special hat you find in a second hand store, or your grand mother's lamp, etc.) or with generic mass produced shit - like home depot steel rods, whatever --- I mean - do you work with these different kinds of objects in different ways or not, and if you do, is there one kind you prefer? Do you know what I mean?
KF: Yes. Most of the objects are generic. I like the distancing of them, or you could say the detourning of them. I used to use some "special" objects that I found, but then I became attached to them, and worried about breaking them in rehearsal (which happens.) And now they just sit on my shelf and come out when I'm bored, or at parties.
FG: Yes, I know exactly what you mean. If you overload them with meaning, if you overinvest in them, you literally can't use them anymore...
KF: Yes, but also the audience is not in on the situation. It makes sense for you and your solo performances, where the relationship between you and object is personal, perceivable, and performative. But assigning it to other people, actors, is different. Your relationships don't carry over, so it seems arbitrary, so why not make the objects arbitrary, or generic, in a sense.
FG: That's very true. Even in solos though I’m moving away from this over-investment in specific objects.
KF: But for you, the object is also a place holder for an idea, or memory, yes? So, any object (once properly invested) can work?
FG: Absolutely: I like to be able to identify a KIND of object that can be replaced and still serve as a trigger for that specific association, yes. What I am after is a sort of ... how shall I put it? I like the memory to be triggered in a more "abstract" way - or rather, by way of a more abstract chain of associations: it's not: grandma's handbag... poor grandma she's dead.
KF: Yes, in other words- this masonite board: poor grandma she's dead.
That would be a good performance I think.
FG: I go from grandma, to her way of walking, to the streets of the seaside town where we walked when I was a kid and she would carry her handbag in a very distinctive way, to translating that movement, or that space, etc. But yes: masonite - handbag - seaside - 1983 - grandma dead -- something like that. It goes through layers of translation, so to speak. And every time you're responding not so much to the original memory, but to the correlate object, so it becomes more and more removed and abstract and ultimately about something else entirely. You really respond to the memory of the swaying of the bag, to THAT movement itself, to its quality as a movement - it's not grandma walking anymore. Does this make sense? So in the end the performance is not about poor grandma - that's just the fuel or something. The performance is not about anything really... it's just these patterns of movements - this arrangement of objects in space, through time.
KF: It's also about a perceived rigorous practice... this is what is palpable to the audience. A very specific rigorous practice. And watching you negotiate that practice with the objects is utterly fascinating.
FG: I like the idea of virtuosity applied to absolutely gratuitous tasks. Like developing a very specific skill for turning stupid light bulbs on and off for those performances I do with the lightbox.
KF: It's good to be specialized. I'm quite good a rearranging army figurines in tableaux from Arthur Miller plays.
FG: Yes! Create your own constraints and then learn how to operate within them with beauty and perfection (… or something). It's very exciting to see.
KF: Have you written anything for the light bulb rig yet, or are you still improvising with it?
FG: Nothing yet - it's sitting on a shelf, looking at me....
---END OF PART ONE---
conducted over internet chat January 30, 2011, Brooklyn, NY and Toronto, Canada