Monday, January 01, 1990

This Commemoration

New Langton Arts, 11/30/89

This collaboration with Raegan Kelly was part of an AIDS-related evening & had something to do with duct tape, wine, blood & memory.

Brief Amaze - Lab

The Lab SF 10.15.89

Road Kill - SF Arts Commission Gallery


This was a Poetry Center reading curated by Bob Glück & held at the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery on Grove Street, just before the earthquake that shut the gallery down. Margaret & I did Road Kill & then Carla Harryman read. I think we used actual car headlights & battery for this performance. Afterwards, Barrett Watten told us he "especially enjoyed the meta-qualities."

Road Kill - Southern Exposure


The audience at Southern Exposure was less fragile than the Academy of Art College one but more shockable than the battle-hardened one at ATA. A higher percentage of older, more bourgeois artists & attendees. No one seemed too bothered by us feeling them up. Pinching their nipples through their blouses, stroking their cocks through denim jeans.

The only time anyone got upset was when I tried to carefully lift a woman's necklace of large green stones from around her neck. She grabbed my wrist & started resisting me forcefully. I pressed on, thinking it was important that I assert my dominance, but she was so adamant about protecting her property, so loud in her verbal protestations, that to continue would have changed the performance into something else - something else that didn't seem to me to be very attractive or interesting to pursue - so I left her & moved on.

At some point I sat on Bob Glück's lap & chewed on his neck. After the performance, he invited Margaret & me to perform the piece for in the series he was curating for the Poetry Center.

The Story Of My Life

Road Kill - Academy of Art College


Kevin Radley asked us to perform for his class. The room was so packed with people that there wasn't much room to walk around & get at the audience. I had to mentally plot out a path down the central aisle to the back of the classroom, along the rear wall over to the right-hand wall, down that wall back toward the "stage" area. I thought I might be able to force my way in to one of the rows of seats at that point, but I wasn't sure. In any case this was the only passable route.

I touched a few people lewdly in the front row, then headed down the central aisle, only coincidentally towards a young blond woman student who got a panicked look in her eyes & started backing away from me. I kept coming in her direction & she looked like she was going to freak out. As I made my way up the central aisle, I touched people's faces & shoulders. I slowly rubbed one seated tall male Chinese student's spiky black hair, scalp & ears.

I was trying to delay my advance to give the blond more time to get away. As she reached the rear wall, I prayed that she wouldn't turn to escape towards my right. I tried to give her subtle eye signals without breaking my "character." She turned right. I had no other possible route & had to follow her. She was really starting to lose it & just kind of crumpled when she reached the corner. I was so happy when I was finally able to force myself past her without touching her.

In high school, I'd once involved myself in some horse-play on the school bus, the boys-chasing-girls kind of stuff that happens in eighth grade but is less appropriate in 11th or 12th, as we were then. One of the girls reacting strongly to being cornered, even though no one touched her. She told me several months later that she'd been raped when she was younger. Ever since then, I've been hyper-alert to a certain over-the-shoulder look & shift of the torso movement that usually indicates prior sexual trauma.

Kevin sort of got fired a couple weeks later because of our performance, or at least it was a good excuse or last straw or more fuel for that fire. He told me after the performance that the Chinese student whose head I'd touched had nearly quit school & flown back to China the next day. In Kevin's class the following week, the student explained that in China the head is considered the temple of the body, a sacred & private space that I had invaded quite forcefully & traumatically.

Heimlich Maneuvers 2


Road Kill - Lab


I have no memory at all of this performance.

Heimlich Maneuvers 1

Michelle Simmerer dancing, Piper Heisig drumming, Scott MacLeod shaving

Artists Television Access, 1.6.89

This ludicrous & charming (to me anyway) first live version of Heimlich Maneuvers was enlivened by the participation of my ex-stripper roomates Roni Bowen & Michelle Simmerer, and the musical accompaniment of ____ led by Steven Strauss.

Women Love Stories

Road Kill - ATA

Artists Television Access, 2/10/89

Steve Perkins had asked me to do something for a Valentine's Day show at ATA. I'd been wanting to work with Margaret Crane so I asked her if she'd write & perform something with me. Our working styles meshed right away & we quickly started working on a piece that - well - we had both become dismayed that the AIDS crisis had not only killed so many people but it had also repressed the survivors' ability to feel pleasure. Nothing was sexy anymore: parties weren't sexy, openings weren't sexy, no one was flirting. So we wrote a piece about two people who let nothing stand in the way of their pleasure: a brother & sister who were also lovers, Susan & Dave raped & killed people & stole their cars, in the service of the twin pleasures of sex & velocity. In spite of its [pre-Tarantino] superficial subject matter, this was also a sincere attempt to examine the nature of unconditional love. ROAD KILL was a LOVE STORY for the 80's. Here's one version of the script.

Making Intelligent Choices In An Intelligent World

Stories Love Women

Stories Women Love



Collaboration with Dede Puma
The Lab, San Francisco May 19-21, 1988

Mr. Phonehead

Spirit Ceiling Zero


Artists Television Access, 11/9/84

I wore a two-faced papier-mache head while I read from a

Into The Wild Blue Yonder

Tango Planet

Martin Cox

In The Liberated Zone (with Jeanne Gallo) & She Was A Really Big Woman (starring Martin Cox & the voice of Caitlin Morgan), 3/22-23/86, Intersection for the Arts

Calling ourselves Tango Planet, Jeanne & I had partnered to create more experimental theater. Jeanne & I performed in In The Liberated Zone, which was a sort of urban sequel to the more rural post-apocalyse of Home On The range, and as such was co-created in the same manner as the earlier piece. I wrote She Was A Really Big Woman for Martin & Caitlin, while Jeanne & Caitlin co-created a third piece whose name escapes me. The work was all pretty good, didn't - as usual - get much attention from audience or press, which was discouraging. Jeanne & I worked well together & we probably should have done more projects together, but this ended up being the only production by the short-lived Tango Planet.

Terrorism: An Annotated Reading

Home On The Range (2)

New Performance Gallery, 5/12/85, with Jeanne Gallo

I think we made some minor changes to the piece for this gig, but I can't remember for sure. I think the part where she cut off my hair with scissors was a new thing.


Home On The Range - SFAI

Jeanne Gallo & SM

Polyphonix 8 Festival, San Francisco Art Institute 11.9.84

When Jean-Jacques Lebel & Jacqueline Cahen brought their Paris-based Polyphonix sound-poetry festival to NY MOMA, Ellen Zweig got an NEA grant to bring all the European artists to SF as well. She rounded up a crew of her students as associate producers: me, Marsha Vdovin, Amy Elliott & Andrea Dace. Among other duties, I was stage manager for one or two evenings. We put on a four night extravaganza with over a dozen performances a night by the likes of Carolee Schneeman, Armand Schwerner, Jerome Rothenberg, Jackson McLow, Ann Tardos, Larry Wendt, Eleanor Antin, Bernard Heidsick, Guilia Niccolai & scores more.

The sublime Greg Goodman played piano under a parachute. The monstrous genius Joel Hubaut frantically read from a book in English though he didn't understand the words, eating the pages as he read, till his cheeks were red & distended, bits of paper spitting out with every attempted syllable. I plagiarized this performance (poorly - though the German audience liked its "formal elements") at Der Festival Das Plagiats in Braunschweig, West Germany in 1988.

As the last act of a stressful, exhausting festival, Terry Allen played a couple of songs on piano, one of them about a herd of prairie dogs sucked up by a tornado and slammed into a tall shiny bank tower in Dallas or Houston. The last notes of the song were thunderous minor chords that broke my heart & snapped me in two. The Jack Daniels helped also. I started bawling like a baby, had to be carried to the car, driven home, fed, fucked & allowed to sleep for 22 hours.

The major perk for us student producers was being able to curate ourselves onto the same stage as these major figures. I was nervous, being still more or less a novice, so I sought out my pal Jeanne Gallo, a veteran of experimental theater work. We intuitively developed some core thematic elements through physical experimentation, until at some point I got inspired & banged out a short script in an hour or two. We honed the script & the gestural components & came up with a nifty seven-minute performance. I think this is still one of the best things I've done. We got on stage, did our thing, got off stage. When the lights blacked out after we'd finished, there wasn't a sound in the house for about 10 seconds, then someone exhaled a sincere "whew" that I still remember & feel to this day & that is really all the affirmation & reward I could ever ask for.

The Drunken Jungle

I'd been very inspired by the Poet's Theater work done by Eileen Corder, Carla Harryman, Nick Robinson & others, and was beginning to try my hand at theater. I corralled a couple of actors, rehearsed with them & was raring to go - but none of them showed up at Eye Gallery the night of the performance. I had no choice but to enlist some friends out of the audience on the spot & have them perform the piece with me completely unrehearsed. I believe it was Amy Elliott & Steve Perkins - & maybe Michael Doty as the Dutch sea captain - who came to my rescue. Later this piece was produced by John Reiger with funding from New American Radio & aired nationally. Here's the link to the script.

It wasn't until a couple years later that I realized this piece was about me & my parents when we lived in Indonesia & Venezuela.

Audience Revolt

Rock Start

Necromancy (version 1)

Book Burn

Clarion Café, SF, 9.25.83

When I was starting to build my resume back in the ur-murk of the early 80's, I adopted a less-than-stringent definition of "performance," so much of this early work might be more accurately described as theater or, in a few cases, poetry readings. Not to say that a high percentage of the readings I've done are listed here; no, for several years I used to do a public reading about once a month, and only a couple of these are listed here, and only if there was some extra extra-literary component or incident or context.

This was actually just a short reading at a publication party for a volume of Dave Bedell's Violent Milk magazine, the one that documented several years of Clifford Hunt'S & Tim Badger's live Just Press Forum events. What got this listed here is that I read from a copy of Violent Milk that I had set on fire. I read until I was in danger of burning my fingers.

Hey as far as I'm concerned if there's fire it's a performance.


(w/Sarah Rossell) Post-Science Fair, Golden Gate YMCA, SF, 9.18.83

My roomate Sarah was a good actress with a big stage personality, kind of an Ethel Merman but more attractive. During this 10-minute dialogue with minimal action, I probably managed to get her to completely suppress this big personality of hers. I think this was a post-apocalyptic set-in-a-desert type of thing. Some of you may remember this large group event. It was meant to to replicate a high-school science fair of the late 60's early 70's. Patti Davidson hung up dozens of pieces of toast - she'd been investigating penicillin mold. That kind of thing.

Game Theory

Spaghetti Factory, 5/12/83, with Sue Carlson

Sue & I performed some more mini-playlets that were, if I remember correctly, constructed from Sue's poetry and from some of mine that Sue would soon publish in her literary magazine Channel.

Active German Idioms

Tattoo Rose, 4/27/83, with Sue Carlson

Sue & I performed some conversations I'd found in German language primers. The centerpiece was one that spanned the entirety of a very accelerated romantic relationship, from first chance encounter to last jaded farewell, in about fifty lines of dialogue.

The Mummy's Curse

Standing: SM, Amy Elliott (wrapped as mummy); seated: Patti Davidson, Chuck Z, Ellen Zweig & others.

Tattoo Rose 4.13.83

An archeologist/explorer presenting a paper on his recent discovery of Hatshepsut's mummified body is suddenly possessed by her unleashed spirit.

I made poor Amy stand completely wrapped, doing basically nothing, for about 25 minutes under hot spotlights. This piece was later expanded & incorporated into Necromancy.

Sex As Entertainment & Scheherazade/Sub-Text

This was my solo performance debut. Clifford Hunt, Tim Badger & Dave Bedell were hosting group poetry readings named for their press, Just Press, hence the Just Press Forum moniker. Each forum had a specific theme, e.g. Erotic Formalism or Cheap Surrealism or this particular evening's: Text As Entertainment.

I had never performed in public solo before so I was nervous & decided to try to do something humorous to get the audience to like me. I started doing a lecture about Sex as Entertainment, using a chart that had Duration of Sexual Activity as X-axis & Entertainment Value as Y-axis, ie for the first 3 hours, the entertainment value of sex rises, then plateaus till hour 5, when it starts to taper off. At this point, Clifford Hunt, acting as my shill, stopped me & told me the evening's theme wasn't Sex but rather Text As Entertainment. Only momentarily abashed, I tore off the chart's X-axis label to reveal another: Number of Pages ie the rising entertainment value of reading plateaus after the first 300 pages & starts to decline after 500.

Everyone was laughing now as I segued into a discussion of how text had been exclusively used to make lists: of names, dry goods, livestock, offspring - until Scheherazade had been forced under threat of death to repurpose text in order to entertain her husband In order to delay her death, she'd invented many of narrative and its primary tropes: suspense for example. While I was talking to the audience about Sheherazade's invention of narrative, my hands were flipping through a series of index cards, visible to the audience, which humorously discussed sub-text and its relation to narrative.

My debut was a big success: people bought me drinks, I got laid, I got published. The whole arc of coming up with an idea in the morning, writing & rehearsing it in the afternoon, performing it in the evening & receiving instant gratification & affirmation, seemed to me to be an excellent way to occupy my time. Of course it would never quite be so simple ever again.

Canned Food Via Satellite

Ink Gallery 12.2.82 & 12.9.82

Amy Elliott, Patti Davidson, Lise Swenson & Peter Edlund had formed Zoviet Youth to play Soviet punk rock camp songs at places like the Sound of Music. Desperate to ingratiate myself into their charmed circle, I did menial tasks, designed posters & made a pest of myself until finally they let me play in their sandbox too. Ink gallery wasn't really a music venue, so the sound was lighter, more acoustic, and there were more arty agit-prop sequences. I let Patti drag me around inside a trash bag, slamming me into walls and hurling crockery & invective at me. Finally my bit came: a dual-screen slideshow with accompanying texts, written by me, spoken by me & Peter. All about the north wind howling through the hollow silos of nuclear missiles. It was good, I thought.

Peter Edlund, Amy Elliott, Lise Swenson & Patti Davidson at the Sound of Music, 1982