Evan Gallery Event 1 Andrew James Paterson
On Saturday Sept.12th of 2015, I visited Gallery TPW at their St. Helen’s location. I had missed the opening the previous Thursday due to other openings.
The exhibition was credited to David Levine and its title is Bystanders. This “exhibition” involves nine or ten actors all reciting a monologue about Lee Strasberg’s Actors Studio in the 1950s, Hollywood actors of the 1970s, and speculation as to who is a human and who is a robot. Many of the stars of 70s sci-fi movies involving robots and altered states indeed studied at Actors’ Studio, where they were encouraged to find and act with their natural selves.Strange inverse and solyent green, so to speak.
The actors never perform simultaneously. When I entered the gallery (which is not a theatre) an actor/actress named Lindsay Clark was performing surrounded by white walls hosting various small photographs. I tried to recognize the photographs. Lee Strasberg himself, James Dean in theatrical performance, many seventies actors I’d forgotten. I listened to Lindsay Clark recite her presumably scripted monologue; and at times she seemed to be violating the theatrical fourth wall principle and was staring at me as I at this time was the only audience member, although there was a gentleman mobbing in and out of seated positions at the side of the walls whom I deduced to be involved with the production (perhaps the director, in fact).
In another room, there was a video projection which I later learned was a digitally-skewed version of the 1981 remake of “The Thing”. Although this is certainly connected to the exhibition’s theme of actors and technologies, it appeared to be more Vector Art; and Vector Art is hardly unusual in art galleries.
I was interested enough in the concept of this being some sort of art exhibition to stay and see the transition between Lindsay Clark and the next performer, who is William Ellis who I know socially from VideoFag and other scenes. Lindsay finished her monologue and made her exit, and now the gallery was a gallery with no active performers and a couple of more people entering and looking at the photos on the four walls. William Ellis was present and standing and not registering “actor”, so I stood and looked the photos as there wasn’t anything else really to look at.
William began talking to me. Since he is a person I know socially I responded and engaged in conversation. We talked about social practice and relational aesthetics (those outmoded terms that won’t disappear or evaporate) and how too many art exhibitions appear to be sets from performances that I guess you had to see at the opening because there really isn’t much to look at without the performers or the audience. We did chat and length and I pontificated, as indeed I tend to. Since William had asked me questions, I thought why not answer them and elaborate upon my answers. So I did. I did for maybe five minutes or even longer.
At this point the gentleman whom I realized was the director (David Levine whose name is credited as being the exhibiting artist) came out and informed me that William had an hour to perform his monologue. He stated that a potential hazard of this exhibition or performance’s process had occurred and I felt like some sort of violator or culprit. I said that I realized that William had to perform so I sat down. I do not believe in “intervention”or imposing myself on other peoples’ art or performance, so I sat down and watched/listened until I realized William was performing the same monologue as Lindsay with only his and her names being changed.
I did strike up a conversation with David Levine, who was very affable. He told me that all the performers began by engaging an audience member but that audience member was being counted on or trusted not to perform themselves. They are expected to be bystanders. But are bystanders always passive or silent? Are bystanders also the subjects of the performer’s monologues which refer to people who may or may not be robots? Or, am I a robot because I responded to the performer on cue, as if I am myself supposed to be a performer and not a consenting bystander?