Interactive Instillation Performance

A gallery-goer volunteers to lie on the black couch and go under the black blanket. First I explain everything about to happen in detail, then I take their photo, then they go under the blanket. We are connected to a recorder via two sets of headphones and a microphone each, so we can communicate with each other. I play the recording of the last person who went under the blanket telling me a memory, which both the new person under the blanket and I listen to. Then I get the new person to describe the former person: what did they imagine they looked like, physically, and what kind of person were they? Now the person under the blanket is to tell me their memory. I say they can either tell me about a time they were in trouble, or danger, or confused, or scared, but the situation turned out alright in the end; or that they can simply lay quiet under the blanket for as long as they want and see what memories came to them. They could lie and experience being under the blanket (during this busy exhibition opening) for as long as they desired -- thirty seconds, two  minutes, ten, whatever -- until they were ready to speak, to tell me something. Then I would record their story. Finally, when they came out, I would remind them that the first person they listened to was here in the space somewhere and, if they wanted, I could point them out, or show them a photograph I took, or they could try and find the person on their own (people were frighteningly accurate). 

With this and another piece, Audio Toilet, I'm first of all throwing away the performer/object to audience relationship. I don't want a passive role in my work, I want there to be direct connection, and for the person experiencing the work to be actually contributing some or most of the content. Specifically in these pieces, I'm exploring a life long obsession with communication between people. Though connection with people has been the richest part of my life, it has also been steeped in confusion, anxiety, and paranoia. I've never quite trusted that there's not some conspiracy, that everyone knows something I don't, and, though I've been able to hold my own in conversation in every imaginable situation, I still see people talking on the other side of the room and wonder 'What the hell could they possibly be talking about?' So in these pieces I'm wanting a number of things: to disrupt normal modes of conversation as well as control it; to entice people to talk about their most intimate and personal selves immediately; to introduce people through these personal moments, but in voice only, so as to bypass the filter of sight and the judgment that comes with it; to create a strange situation where you have heard someone's personal story, and you know they are in the same room as you, but you don't know what they look like; to test my and other people's roles as listeners and communicators; to take people out of their comfort zones, to be intrusive into that space somehow; and for people to have a laugh. These pieces (aptly? ironically?) work perfectly in taking control of what gives me so much anxiety -- instead of being at an exhibition opening standing around works and making small talk, I, and the people who participate with me, are engaged in creation. We are no longer passive.