Claude Wampler

Stable

New York Premier

Performance Art

Jan 16 - 19, 2003

Stable begins with the audience entering a very brightly lit theater and seeing three identical Rottweilers, outfitted in cowboy costumes, confined within a plexiglass corral the size of the stage. While the sound track, a Country Western Line Dance instructor calling out and teaching the steps for particular line dances with accompanying Country Western Music, plays loudly, the dogs perform or do not perform. As the piece unfolds, or performs the refusal to unfold, towards the end of the first 20 minutes of the piece, the only certain choreographic action is 3 to 5 tennis balls, one at a time in three-minute intervals, fall from the grid into the corral. The first creates great excitement for the dogs but, by the last, it becomes predictable for them (and the audience) and their once spirited reaction fades. At the 25-minute mark, on the back wall of the stage, suddenly a life-size projection of the audience begins. The video is the documentation of the audience in the first 15 minutes of the piece. Using a hidden videographer behind the back wall of the stage or hidden in the grid, the audience is shown in a timedelayed reflection of themselves. At first the camera records in a wide-shot, which replicates exactly the dimensions of the audience and creates the spatial effect of turning the theater around 90 degrees. During the 15 minutes of video documentation, the camera steadily and slowly moves in for close-ups. Eventually every member of the audience is recorded in either close-up or a small group-shot. Towards the end of the 15-minute video projection, the camera returns to a wider wide-shot revealing that there is a small black box stage behind the audience containing a dancer. This female dancer is naked except for a saddle and cowboy boots and hat and is performing a slower and sexier version of the choreography described by the Country Western Line Dance instructor in the soundtrack. At this moment the audience of course realizes that there was in fact a “dance performance” but situated behind them and the reaction is to turn around to see the dancer live but, by the time the video is being projected, the dancer has exited and only her costume remains. A photo of this naked cowgirl character is the only image used for the publicity of the piece. The audience, when finally seeing the solo dancer behind them in the projected video connects her to the seductive promotion for the show. After the 15-minute video projection is completed the lights and sound have reached the final stages of an almost imperceptible 45-minute fade to complete silence and darkness. For the final 5 minutes of the piece there is the sensation of a kind deletion or blanking or putting the theater to sleep. After a 30-second hold in complete black, the lights abruptly return to house and the show is over. There is no curtain call.

 

The intent is to create an environment where it is impossible for the audience to perform as audiences generally do. With Stable, I am working to shift the focus and bring to the audience an awareness of their own behavior and desire by setting up expectations for the audience and then not delivering. By experimenting with thresholds of intensity (and the lack thereof), assumptions about expertise, the different tolerance levels for live vs. mediated experience, and at the same time not asking the question “what is entertaining?” but rather asking, “WHO is entertaining?”Stable demonstrates how the rehearsed and automatic behavior of an art consumer controls the

development of expectations during the course of art consumption and while collapsing this system, I simultaneously, generously, gives the audience what they ultimately want: to see themselves inside the artwork.

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