When I was in college and working in the audio visual checkout center, slide projectors were a much sought after piece of equipment for presentations in class. The technology was flawed, of course, and it was a weekly headache to fish out mangled slides that the projector had decided to eat from its bowels. These days, most of the people employed at that same checkout center don’t know how they work and few have even seen them in action. Suzy Evans’ performance ”Crypt Lick” at “Thank You,” a performance event held at The Studios at Porter Mills in Beverly in December, marks the first time, I myself, have seen one being used in… well I can’t remember the last time, but it’s been a while.
From where I sat, I was directly down wind to the exhaust of the projector, not on purpose, but by chance. It’s smell was that of old technology, things you inherited from a family member or found at an antique store. It was, for me, a very nostalgic scent. It was not, however, the first powerful scent to overcome the room. The artist had already dragged in a dead x-mas tree, put it on the floor, and covered herself in peanut butter.
For most of the performance, Suzy stood on the dead pine branches, using a remote to cycle through a carousel full of what seemed to be original works on slides. Slowly, I began to remember the order that the slide went in. What was on each one. The ones that started to get stuck and made a funny noise. I wondered what the artist was experiencing as she stood in the light of the slides, patiently cycling through the slides, eyes closed. When I closed my eyes too, I found that this performance had a whole other level of visual experience. The changing colors from the slides experienced through my eyelids casted a plethora of colors and hues that felt strikingly similar to experiencing Stan Brakhage’s hand painted films.
The final action in the piece, was possibly one of the most honest displays of joy I’ve ever witnessed. A pitbull enters the space, and begins to lick the remaining peanut butter from Suzy’s skin. When the dog had had enough, Suzy was still covered in a significant amount of chunky peanut butter. An audience member volunteered to bring their own dog back to the space to finish the job (coincidentally another pitbull). The piece ended with two beautiful dogs reveling in the audience’s attention and peanut butter! Is there anything more joyful than a dog that is eating a treat in the presence of many adorning human friends? No, I don’t believe there is.
– Philip Fryer