There will be blood
The exhibition Ready, Set, Bloodlet! brings together a diverse group of performance artists so they can drain out the bad blood
Bloodletting was once a medical practice. It was thought that physical ailments radiated from the blood, so if enough blood were spilled, wellness would naturally result. By that logic, weakness and death were perhaps seen as symptoms of good health.
Medicine has advanced enough to have rendered bloodletting an archaic and masochistic fancy. Regardless of how it has diminished in that academic dimension, it still resounds as an artistic process, and some artists thrash their veins and bodies for a profound pursuit.
Performance artists Ciara Clements and Nikki Miller employ the seemingly necessary and disastrous release of bloodletting as their metaphor. Ready, Set, Bloodlet!, their exhibition of performance arts—dance, action painting, improvised acting, music—will take place between 7 and 9 p.m. at the Lucy Neider Graduate Arts Students Association (GASA) House, 839 Lake St., on May 14.
“We’re using [bloodletting] as a paradox,” says Clements. “It’s the image of letting something out that needs to come out … It’s going to be painful. It’s going to be bad for you. It weakens you. You’re pushing yourself to a point where you don’t know if you can come back.”Blood relations
Tim Dufrisne and Michael Lewis, of local improv comedy group Hostel Greetings, will conduct an improvised conversation in the living room.
“We just want people to be able to walk in on two people having a conversation and not necessarily realize what’s going on or realize even that they’re part of the show,” says Clements.
Dufrisne and Lewis will cater to the spontaneous nature of the exhibition.
“We bring no ideas, characters, or preconceived plots to the show beforehand, but rather discover everything along with the audience,” says Dufrisne.
Meanwhile, Van Pham, of local bands Swahili and Chinese Gore, will organize an interactive sound installation in the basement.
“It’s based on a lot of samples I’m going to be drawing from people in my life,” says Pham. “It’s primarily based on the idea that everyone is a product of everyone they’ve come in contact with, and from there, those influences are filtered through all the fucked-up things in your head.”
Pham will provide opportunity for audience interaction through use of contact mics.
“A lot of the sounds that are actually going to be processed are going to be based on the sound of what’s happening in the house,” she says. “So I’m actually going to wire different parts of the house back through my sound equipment.”
Artist Kelsey Page will action paint in the kitchen. Clements, a member of the Four Rooms Dance Collective, will dance in the basement’s “dirt” room with fellow Four Rooms member Jessica Troppmann. Clements and Troppmann, in the process of their dance, will attempt to transfer eggs from a suitcase to a bathtub.
“The eggs are supposed to represent an idea or a rebirth,” says Clements. “Something that could’ve happened, or should’ve happened, or would’ve happened. Something that an egg embodies.”
Miller will perform with a long spool of twine in an elaborate performance art and dance piece. She will wrap herself up in the twine and then cut it away in increments, representing her ties to others and how they bind her.
“I’m letting this twine manipulate me and my gestures,” she says. “The entire point is that I always have the power to take these restraints away. So I will cut it off, and I’ll respond to the fact that it’s no longer there.”
Miller’s body will inevitably be damaged by the process.
“The twine is itchy as hell, so it’ll tear up my skin,” she says. “I’m going to be a blotchy red mess and probably pass out later. That’s what we’re all shooting for. You’re not doing it right if you don’t want to collapse by the end.”
Miller will perform in a doorless closet in the guest bedroom. Much of her performance, as well as those of the other artists involved, is tailored to its environment. In using a whole house to host this display, the artists also comment on domesticity and entrapment, and how one can break out of a seemingly closed-off situation.
For Miller, the house itself is going to be transformed into a symbol of how “your life is going in one direction, and it’s impossible to change it. We’re hanging chicken wire on the walls, so as you go through the house, things just sort of disintegrate a little bit—a feeling of breaking free, of breaking down.”
The GASA basement also contains these elements in its very structure.
“The walls aren’t done, the paint’s not finished, and there are no tiles on the ceiling,” says Clements. “So you get that feeling, like something is being broken down.”
Clements’ dance in the basement’s dirt room is also an attempt to make dance more intimate.
“I just want something to be closer,” she says. “I’m tired of being up on a stage and performing so far away from them all. I want them to be in the room with me experiencing what I’m experiencing. I want to be able to touch them if I can.”
Four additional dancers, all members of Four Rooms, will wander through the house with no specific purpose except to keep a flow of action in the exhibit.
“We told them, ‘Maybe you won’t be seen,’” says Clements. “Maybe you’re performing for no one. But so many times in your life you’re performing for no one, you’re doing something just for yourself. I love that element of this show. Maybe no one will show up. Maybe for the first hour, because everyone gets to everything so damn late, it’ll be a performance for no one. But the point is to push on, move forward, keep going.”True blood
The performances take place within a two-hour time frame. Clements and Miller, 23 and 26, respectively, intend this thematically. They want to evoke the urgency of time, especially for young artists seizing their 20s.
Their initial inspiration arose out of a sense of frustration about the direction of their lives.
“We are artists, as much as I hate to say that word,” says Miller. “We are not doing the things we want to be doing and should be doing. Our personal lives are so wrecked, and there’s no release for it. And we just feel like we know all the right people, and we have the space for performance. Let’s do a show.”
As much as the exhibition is an outlet for artistic dissatisfaction, it will inspire it, too.
“Everyone’s performing simultaneously,” says Miller. “So no one’s going to be able to see all the performances. Everyone’s going to miss something.”
“That’s life,” says Clements.
Once two hours have passed, the performances will stop abruptly, whether or not they have achieved any sort of intended artistic apex.
“The performers are going to be frustrated at the end because maybe they didn’t get to finish,” says Clements.
This, to Clements and Miller, is the very nature of performance art.
“It’s very often uncomfortable,” says Miller. “We want to embrace that in a good way instead of being in your face for the sake of being in your face. We want there to be a point to it.”
The improvisational character of the piece also dictates that Miller and Clements have little control over what transpires or how people receive it.
“And people’s reaction to performance art is generally negative,” says Miller. “I think our goal is for them not to like it for the right reasons.”