To begin our next series of Thematic Posts, “Technology Doomed for Obsolescence,” we are sharing a durational piece The Present Tense curated into our event, PT3 at Midway Studios in Boston in 2007. Gabin Cortez Chance installed himself at a desk in a small room in the performance space. He was surrounded by money strewn across the floor. On the desk, he had a pile of bank and loan statements, a computer, and amplified his cell phone so that the conversation he would have was heard throughout the space. He proceeded to call his bank and engage in a conversation that demystified the reality of what actually goes on with our money. Appropriately titled, “Gabin Takes on Banks,” this piece used humor to educate the audience and has gained a new relevance in the wake of the US Financial Crisis. “Gabin Takes on Banks” illuminates the absurdity involved in his bank’s lending structure, simultaneously addressing the obsolescence of human to human exchange via telephone.
Helsinki-based performance artist and organizer, Willem Wilhelmus shared his work with Boston in 2008 at the Contaminate 3 Festival.
The beginning of the performance was light-hearted, Wilhelmus asking the audience to gather closetogether. He asked the audience to let him borrow the coins that they had in their pockets. The space filled with the sound of laughter and coins rattling as they exchanged hands and fell into Wilhelmus’ fedora. Once he finished passing his hat, the mood changed. He began placing the coins on top of his bald head. It was impressive how the coins adhered themselves to his skin. He laid down and began covering his face. He cut open his shirt and continued placing coins onto his chest. Once all of the coins had been distributed, he wrote “Please take your money” on a piece of paper that was taped beside his body. The audience hesitated for a moment before obeying this silent request to repay his loan. The audience looked like vultures, scavenging pieces of Wilhelmus’ still body.
The focus of the World Expo is the future. From Shanghai Corporate’s Dream Cube, to Toyota’s robotic violinist, to Saudi Arabia’s $164 million rendition of a “moon boat” that looms in the sky like the most grandiose UFO, the Expo exhibits a plethora or futuristic spectacles.
Amongst the extravagance, there are of coarse Pavilions with less. Upon visiting the lineless Iraq Pavilion, People in Space artists discovered that the Chinese government paid for and fabricated the majority of the content within the Pavilion. The theme of the Pavilion was not the future of Iraq, but a glorification of “1001 Arabian Nights”. Visitors could consume their very own magic lamps, jewelry, and a Princess Jasmine coloring book. This diversity in visions of the future in relation to history has been a point of interest throughout the development of this project. Is there a shared vision of the future that is able to transcend cultural variance?
Jeffery Byrd asked us to go to the people to collect ideas about the future. He instructed us to ask Expo goers to write a word that they associate with the future on a post it, proudly display it on their forehead, close their eyes, and think of the word as we photograph them. We had every intention of executing this intimate action through a waiting line, but the language barrier created a challenge. Upon asking an Expo volunteer for a proper translation of the phrase “associate with the future”, curiosities were sparked.
The volunteers were so intrigued that they led us into the private area designated for Expo workers so that their colleagues could participate. They even gave us popsicles once we had finished! Check out the visions of the future we collected below.
Jeffery Byrd is a performance artist who has presented work all over the globe. His art explores the relationships between reality and artifice. Recent pieces have touched upon ideas related to his day job as a university administrator and have focused on using creative thought to transform the mundane. In this piece, Post-It Notes (usually reserved for the most utilitarian communication) become the vehicle for dreams and desires.