Tag Archives: performance art

the theatre of Work, ReVisited

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back in 2009 when i still conducted critical design research for Dynamic Media Institute in Boston i decided to start up a presentation series aimed specifically at helping my greener friends coming into the industry with some of the basic challenges they might encounter along the journey of their profesional lives

i’ve encountered more than my fair share of interesting twists and turns in my rather adventurous career as an accomplished experience design professional — and some of the joys and tribulations of navigating the glorious terrain can benefit by simply continuously building a better and better understanding and awareness of the environments in which we need to perform

in delving into the digital archives of my mind i recently rediscovered a few slides appropriately titled the theatre of Work — survival tips for newcomers to the workForce

the theatre of Work

the phrase by itself starts to imply some of my subconscious views and feelings regarding: the social dynamics; the essential personal behaviors we need to exude while performing; and general feel of the landscape set up by the workaday world as a means of reaching toward success for ourselves and for the companies we work for

i am an experience designer and a performance artist

i never studied the theatre, which is an important key differentiator i need to continually remind myself of along the way

its also vitally important to have an unrelenting sense of self-awareness and continuous introspective reflection for the kind of trek we’re all on within ANY industry

just this hybrid mash-up between designer and artist can have extremely important internally conflicting motivations embedded within the very nature of each role

but anyhow, i digress { i just heard someone on blogging across the way stand up and scream, ‘DigreSsioN!’ ala that famous set of passages from A Catcher in the Rye ;] }

after living a little longer and experiencing a few more years of this life of work we all live and breathe, i believe i have even deeper, more profound wisdom to share than i originally intended by designing up a few slides for a future-such talk to be about workerly advice

i am therefore re-opening this thread of thought — copy-pasting the open Keynote file and the PSD folder from my portable harddrive back onto my current active MacBook Pro device to really start digging into what new significance i can bring to the table to help people navigate the choppy waters and hopefully not make all of the same foolish mistakes i’ve made along the way

i know my triathlon could’ve gone a LOT smoother so far had i just had proper mentorship or perhaps better personal self-awareness and more thoughtful empathy to guide me

but i’m an impatient clown, for the most part

i always want the impossible and i design to reach for the bluest of the bluest skies

i would be more of a fool, however, if i continue to noodle and clown without ever learning and growing for the journeys i’ve made — and i feel that if i share some of my story in a thoughtful and meaningful way it might actually make up for my own silly idiocies and hopefully make for a better overall experience for colleagues, friends, acquaintances and frenemies that even care to listen at this point

i need to focus on my storyFirst presentation out at Massachusetts College of Art for the next few weeks, but i also hope to put some time into this theatre of Work concept, too, as it is near and dear to my heart — i want to help people and give them better perspective and hopefully facilitate better and better experiences in the world through my designwork and my design leadership

but, until then — shove off, bitchez! ;]

 

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let’s discuss design performance

i recently bumped across this rather incredible article on Co.DESIGN entitled, ‘4 Secrets For Doing Gonzo User Research‘ — and the article helped put some interesting historical context around one of the 4 major project streams i pursued and captured in my MFA Design thesis ‘confounded: future fetish design performance for human advocacy

so, in the Co.DESIGN article they discuss a form of first-person research as first formalized by the designer Patricia Moore — as a way to study the actual human experience of target demographic, Moore …

‘… dressed as an elderly lady, wearing prosthetics that restricted her movement and eyesight.’

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the insight that Moore gathered by going undercover as an elderly woman with realistically limited visual and physical faculties helped influence her thinking as a designer, bringing a heightened awareness and perspective to her work — one more closely aligned with the actual people that would eventually use the designs resulting from her research and design work

Her experiences transformed the way Raymond Loewe’s team designed for less able users

as a user experience design professional with a secret nighttime, after hours life as a performance artist — my graduate work at Dynamic Media Institute at Massachusetts College of Art and Design quite naturally delved into explorations that combined these 2 areas of practice in ways i had never previously personally explored

my personal heroes — the original inspiration for the kind of performance art i do — came from the work of fantastic innovators that i’ve admired, like: Andy Kaufman; Sasha Baron Cohen; George Carlin; Alan Funt; Chuck Barris; Anaïs Nin; Carolee Schneemann; Rod Serling; and numerous others — but, first and foremost, my brand of performance art follows the interventionist and subversive spirit found throughout Kaufman’s work

from the outside of his ofttimes off-putting and controversial work, the majority of Kaufman’s target audience — apparently the general american public { mostly television watching, suburbanites } — might not even understand the prankish nature of Kaufman’s work — in other words, the audience is not in on the joke, which is very confrontational, very aggressive and unkind in many ways

now — of course — most of us watching the historic footage of Andy Kaufman’s appearances on the first episode of Saturday Night Live, on David Letterman, etcetera — remain part of the other side of these performances, but now that we understand that he’s a comedian delivering from the practice of performance art in the unusual context of mainstream televised media — now that we’re in on the joke — Kaufman’s work seems less threatening and a LOT more humorous, clever, and to some, like me, actually ingenious — the oeuvre of his work becomes a sort of ongoing performative social commentary meant to wake us up and start to question, as the audience, this one-to-many, one way, consumeristic broadcast delivery mechanism — and, much-like the very iterative and experimental way in which a traditional stand-up comedian tries out his or her bits on stage to eventually build, test and refine a set act of material, Kaufman very bravely discover and build his very own vocabulary in mediated performance art for the mainstream to then engage in this dialog of awkward self-awareness

at this point i think of Andy Kaufman’s comedy as something situated between Theatre of the Absurd and Theatre of Cruelty — he’s showing us in the 1970s just how silly television really is, how easily we are consumed by our own consumerist broadcast box but then also showing us, as the audience, just how stuck and defenseless we are as well-trained american citizens

if we watch some of Kaufman’s earlier appearances now, and switch our own perspective to imagine what it must’ve been like from Andy’s perspective to perform in this way — after all, i really think that’s what his work is all about at the end of the day — its more for him than us — he’s getting a total rise out of these subversive experiments with the medium of mainstream television — just looking at his later work of challenging women to wrestling matches alone exposes this aspect of his work, this sort of total provocation of the masses accompanied by a personal rise, even, in this case, quite literally, a sexual rise { as according to Zmuda’s Andy Kaufman Revealed!, Kaufman sexually enjoyed getting sexually excited in the ring, and most likely also got turned on during his rather ridiculous anti-femminist shouting matches with potential future female wrestlers, with his ‘weaker sexed’ adversaries — such a despicable ploy, to play the part of the male chauvinist asshole comedian }

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so, it seems to me there are 2 rather valuable lessons to learn from this conversation about what Co.DESIGN calls gonzo design and what i am calling design performance — and as a design professional i very highly recommend we all start to get more active with our design processes and explore deepening our personal awareness of the experiential aspects of our potential designs using the following 2 activities or experimental approaches:

  • be the user / audience / participant — go ahead, put on a costume and get out there and experience the world with some semblance of a prototypic manifestation of the environment, object or experience you’re exploring in your design research — get all Patricia Moore on that shit, aight? — you’ll be delighted and surprised how much insight you can gather using this amazingly enlightening first person approach { although it can get a little risky at times, too, depending on how far you take it }
  • confront the user / audience / participant — take a well-established medium, like television in the case of Andy Kaufman, and be bad with it — do all the wrong things for a change — break some conventions, hurt people’s feelings, destroy all the typical expectations we all have with a medium we might all now take for granted — i’ll bet there’s some valuable terrain to discover, and things will get crazy sociological real fast in quite a wonderful and fun way — you’ll get a LOT closer to understanding context, delivery, mental and behavioral modes and concepts of distribution, consumption, use, and so on — this is definitely the path less traveled that could lead to areas of innovation, excitement and adventure

nobody said you need to sit on your ass in front of a computer to design, right? that’s just the toolset they keep pushing on us in academic and professional settings — its up to us, its our obligation as designers, to keep the field fresh and active and exciting and to make sure we keep the word DESIGN in the realm of an action verb, not just a noun that describes the final, object-based results of the actual living, breathing, writhing process we all know and love along the way when its done right, when its injected with the proper doses of vigor, vim and real human energy

Making a show of it

Artist Vela Phelan of Gang Clan Mafia — photo provided courtesy of JONATHAN WIGGS / GLOBE STAFF

Artist Vela Phelan of Gang Clan Mafia — photo provided courtesy of JONATHAN WIGGS / GLOBE STAFF

Its totally exciting to see the recent press about the vibrant performance art scene in Boston as covered by Cate McQuaid in The Boston Globe in her article Making a show of it { for some reason delivered with a re-imagined headline ‘Performance art is thriving in Boston‘ in the eVersion on bostonglobe.com }

The amazing historic reference to Raphael Montalez Ortiz’ destructive Fluxus work aired on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show way back when — direct references to Mobius all over the article, and deservedly so — mention of all the groups and spaces that’ve come and gone over the years, like Meme, Oni Gallery and others { they failed to mention Cambridge’s legendary venues, like: Zeitgeist Gallery; Out of the Blue Gallery; Open Faucet Productions; Squawk; Naked City Coffeehouse; the Art Cheerleaders; and Burlesque Revival Association ( better known as BRA ) as well as other more musicky venues that regularly support performance art on a regular basis, like: Lizard Lounge; TT the Bears Place, Middle East Café; Precinct Bar; PAs Lounge; Milky Way Lounge and Lanes; Midway Café; Middlesex Lounge; Book Cellar Café; Jorge Hernandez Cultural Center; The Actor’s Guild Workshop; Club OBERON; and so on, etcetera }

Of course, front and center and most vital to the performance art scene to me and to SO many others growing up in the Greater Boston Area is the legendary and incomparable Marilyn Arsem — the founder of Mobius and such a passionate performance artist, educator, mentor and performance artist community leader in Boston and around the world — without her contributions and the amazing and gentle spirit she brings to performance art, and without the photodocumentary contributions of her incredibly visionary and talented late husband Bob Raymond — I think the Boston performance art scene wouldn’t be what it is today

And what better time than now to experience and celebrate live performance art? The article quotes Arsem’s definition of performance art as:

‘An action designed and executed by an artist that takes place in time and space with or without an audience’

… and as vague and confusing as that might seem, its such a refreshing and honest way to describe this rather unique and elusive artistic, expressive medium — and its actually far more specific than the now seemingly rather outdated, original New York City definition of performance art by RoseLee Goldberg from her book Performance: Live Art Since 1960. Goldberg says performance art is:

‘Live art by artists’

Seems a lot simpler than Arsem’s definition, right? I think Goldberg does go on to elaborate more on the extreme interdisciplinary tendancies and potentials for performance art, as do most folks trying to help drive better understanding about what performance art is and isn’t — but I prefer Arsem’s definition mostly because it describes an audience, and as a user-centered and experience design professional this concept of audience is at the core of what experience and performance art is all about — and then, in the end, I also tend to trust Arsem’s definition of performance art more just due to the fact that Marilyn is a living, breathing, passionate performance artist, whereas Goldberg comes from the comfortable and removed distance of being an art critic and historian

Anyhow, back to the point — so cool to see this recent press about performance art and the promotion of such amazing professionals as Marilyn Arsem, Bob Raymond, Vela Phelan and others working in this space — you can read the full article here on Boston Globe dot com — and if you’re not quite up to speed on the vast and interesting history of performance art as a medium, you can check out more context on Wikipedia here, which I personally hope will lead you to deeper research and reading on the topic in books, journals, magazines and on Amazon’s Kindle eReader { but not The Nook }

a perfect world

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we all know its not a perfect world out there, right?

none of us are, like, THAT delusional

but, what if we all just pretended we live in a perfect world and we began to treat each other a little better? that couldn’t really HURT anybody really, now, could it? in fact, it might be kind of cool and awesome in some strange and cool way

here’s a f’rinstance for ya

what if instead of having a continuous stream of bad things to say about people, what if we only said generally positive things? doesn’t it just feel good to receive a compliment? it feels even better to give a compliment to someone — even if you get nothing in return { and you should never even expect anything in return, right? then you might be complimenting someone for the entirely wrong reason } it just feels good — it feels good to know you’re recognizing the incredible awesomeness around us all, that you’re appreciating life, and that you’re appreciating the people in life that make all of this so worthwhile and fun and happy and alive

bad things are going to happen no matter what

its inevitable, its just the nature of every time-based medium

and life is a time-based medium, so hold on, here it comes ;]

i mean, we can all be honest, too — no need to walk around like an imbecile or something, and its certainly okay to have an opinion about someone or something, but try and back it up in some way with some real reason why you’re feeling so down about these things — just a little bit of research can go a long way, and it will also give us all a little bit more insight into your thinking process and why you’re judging in the first place

if you have a point to make with these observations, with your researched and clarified opinions that veer toward the negative side of life, then good for you — and maybe even good for the world

but realize, at least, just how vulnerable we all are — and especially you as the judge and jury expressing these opinions, especially if you’re expressing them in a very public place like on a blog or on Facebook or at church

unless you’re working at the Lynn District Court or something, too, remember that the Judge also receives some judgment from the social community within which they lay comment — and even THAT judge, the courtly official presiding, will ultimately receive judgment — after all, its not an entirely efficient process — the pay looks real nice and there’s no reason to be efficient if you’re getting paid by your hourly input as never ever reflected by the actual quality of those then quantified hours

but that’s beside the point

let’s all try a little experiment

let’s pretend

what if we lived in a perfect world? what would we say to each other? how would we behave?

try acting like we live in a perfect world and that people act and behave certain ways for good reasons

it might make us all a little less critical of our brothers and sisters

and then we might just concentrate on good things, good people, good feelings, and all the stuff that makes life fun and exciting

i’m gonna try it

let’s see what happens

its a laughShowdown @ 20 paces

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‘at’s right pardnerz, Laugh Foundation takes these laughing matters quite seriously. In these days of the ever-descending wild, wild west — as Arab Springs rise and flail, as capitalist economies continue to rupture and crumbleLaugh Foundation challenges you to challenge us to a full out laughShowdown at high noon!

Let’s do it spaghetti western-style, aight? You tweet us up a nice lil’ laughShowdown challenge and we’ll meet up in the street and settle these matters mano a mano, know what I’m sayin’ lil’ cowgirlz ‘n’ ‘boyz? It’s a shoot ’em up public nightmare laughfest to show who’s gonna hit ’em up with the ha has until there’s only one dusty laughstr left standin’. So, whaddaya say, eh?

don’t fergit to check out Laugh Foundation out here on the webz while you’re @ it, aight?

 

 

Pecha Kucha Night Boston ::: Tuesday, April 24th

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i am sooOOooOOo delighted to say i will be presenting at next week’s Pecha Kucha Night Boston 26 at Club OBERON in that interesting betweenSpace nestled up in the Harvard Square / Central Square taint of Cambridge — ‘sGonna be good

the line-up looks pretty amazing, hope you can all come out

my presentation out at Pecha Kucha #26 follows one thread from my thesis work out at DMI — the talk i started to prepare in frenetic anticipation of getting accepted to speak out at The 2012 UX Conference this year has now morphed into a subtly different conversation — my proposal to present on ‘Why I Am a User Experience Designer’ at the UXC, after not being accepted to the conference, follows a newer, more clearly articulated permutation of my persona performance work as i report back to the audience out at Pecha Kucha #26 with ‘The 2012 Human eXperience Report

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anyhow, i think that’s enough of a teaser for now — i hope this itty bitty blurb is enough to entice you out to an evening of rapidfire 20×20 talks on eclectic, topical and timely subject matter from an interesting mix of professionals from various verticals and philosophies in the Greater Boston Area — its bound to be an interesting evening, an entertaining and intellectual night of sharing all the latest thought and energy — i hope to see you there ;]

The Sea is Calling

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If you haven’t guessed by now I’m only a little peeved that Royal Carribean International completely stole my idea for the shellPhone in their lame-ass marketing efforts as seen on TV, posters, the web — its, like, everywhere at this point, right?

Which is kind of funny, kind of not.

Which is what my work is all about anyway.

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But seriously folks … my ridiculous shellphone intervention performance pieces, as totally silly and cheesy as they might be / might’ve been, implemented the same visual metaphor of shell as mobile device, just not as a freaking Facebook campaign to sell cruiseline tickets. As humorous and obvious as the metaphor may be, I mean we all have a tiny shell-like structure inside our ear called the cochlea ( see image below ), so the idea that a shellphone would output audio and the cochlea would then capture that audio signal totally makes sense, right? Well, as obvious as it is, and as much as my guerilla intervention performances aimed to create humor, my intention was to do a bit of a litmus test with the general public.

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By walking around with a semi-prototyped shellphone in very public places like: The Mall, CVS, downtown Newburyport, Boylston Street in Boston — I captured quick video samples of the people on the street. We’re at a point right now where mobile technology is ubiquitous, and although the general netiquette of these devices as they pertain to our realSpace interactions isn’t quite all ironed out to-date, most people zone out the incessant stream of telephonic babble going on all around them on a continual basis.

More on the shellPhone after these messages …

noted progress from Laugh Foundation

not long ago Deb Mascara + i had the pleasure of presenting a score for laughter called ‘laughStream 2.0’ at Mobius Works in Progress … as Laugh Foundation, Deb + i walked on stage with music stands + followed the very loosely constructed score seen below:

some of our laughs followed a pre-recorded audio soundScape that included canned audience laughter from sitcoms, real laughter that i recorded as well as some surreal inclusion of animal noises { dogs barking, monkeys screeching, rooster cock a doodle dooing } … at other points Deb + i passed the laughter back + forth between us as a caricaturish demonstration of contagious laughter

our performance aimed to conduct the emotional feelings of the audience using nothing more than our onstage presence + laughter … through volume, direction, intensity, texture, and other parameters we targeted certain individuals as well as the entire group + overall the results interestingly proved to me just how complex human laughter can be

pre-recorded applause at the opening of the performance almost immediately triggered happy, willing applause from the audience, but laughter, no matter how hard we tried, in this particular artificial + strange set up, proved to be a very difficult response for us to elicit from our captive onlookers … there were smiles, eye contact + a certain need to look away when directly visually engaged midlaugh, but only a nervous laugh here + there … a giggle or titter at best

the social dynamics of misplaced energy … behavioral oddity + the reactions from the general public … these seem to be a key component of what i do naturally in life right now … there is a lot of confrontation … an angry outlet … i often wonder what will happen when our technology not only shapes our behavior but when the tools we create start to have a mind of their own, perhaps even when these technologies attack us + behave unexpectedly … how will we react? what will we do then? when the seemingly benificent devices we dream up + create suddenly turn on us, in an era where machines gain their own individual consciousness + like upset little teenagers they begin to argue, rebel + upset us? what if conscious machines don’t even like us? how will we handle our little monsters?

ha ha … who knows? … but maybe we can set up a few projects + test the waters, right? maybe we need to set up some user-centered prototypes + do some usability testing … or maybe, in the end, it would be the beginnings of a sort of technology survival training