A review written by Silke Tudor, for SF Weekly, of a performance by Frank Moore’s Cherotic All-Star Band at Kimo’s in San Francisco, April 5, 2001.
More is Moore
Frank Moore’s Cherotic All Star Band provides nudity, music, cerebral palsy, and, perhaps, art
By Silke Tudor
published: May 02, 2001
Thursday nights at Kimo’s usually draw a small and sundry crowd that is uniquely receptive to the whims of “Hex Appeal” promoter and booker MattShapiro. Featuring an intimate karaoke act led by a man with a chapman stick and a video drummer one week, and a smorgasbord of black metal bands that will attract cops and noise complaints the next, “Hex Appeal” is usually interesting, but an ambiguous rumor about a midget and a “bellowing cripple” copulating during a blues song made attendance at the return engagement of Frank Moore’s Cherotic All Star Band obligatory.
For years, I’ve been vaguely aware of Frank Moore’s ritual performances and “eroplay”workshops. I’ve seen fliers hanging on telephone poles with Moore’s photographed face leering from atop a sketch of his wheelchair; I’ve come across handbills comparing Moore’s work to Warhol, Zappa, and the Living Theater, calling for “underground actresses” undaunted by nudity, eroticism, and adult play. I am aware that, in the ’70s, Frank Moore “staged” performances at both the MabuhayGardens and at my early punk rock stomping ground, the Farm. Since 1999, a number of artists I greatly appreciate — didgeridoo player Stephen Kent, poetry duo Attaboy and Burke, and singer/songwriter Andrew Goldfarb of the Slow Poisoners — have appeared on Moore’s 24-hour Internet radio station, Love Underground Vision Radio (LUVeR.com); and his zine, TheCherotic Revolutionary,has been lauded by Factsheet Five, SubGenius holyman IvanStang, and MaximumRocknRoll, and still I’d never seen one of Frank Moore’s performances. Something about the psychedelic imagery used on his fliers and the titles of his pieces — Raptures of the Tribal Body, Cave of Passion, Erotic Lava, Playing Dream Passions Naked — reminded me too much of the aborted communes and artist collectives I was exposed to as a child.
According to his memoir, Art of a Shaman, posted on his Web site (www.eroplay. com), Frank Moore was “spastic, unable to walk or talk.” Doctors suggested he be institutionalized until his unpreventable premature death, but his parents rejected the conventions of the time and raised Moore to do the same. From the beginning, Moore says, he was an exhibitionist, and his body, crippled by cerebral palsy, was ideal for his temperament: People stared. At 17, Moore learned to speak by spelling out words with a head pointer (which is how he paints canvases today), and he learned to consider his handicap a blessing. Much in the way that early civilizations thought cripples belonged to the spirit world, Moore knew that standard societal expectations did not apply to him; he was outside, in a misfit place most artists would have to struggle to maintain. In 1970, after a failed attempt at staging his first all-nude play at Cal State, San Bernardino, Moore dropped out of college and hitchhiked to Santa Fe, where a rich woman asked that he paint a portrait of her in the nude. The realization that “art gave people permission to do what was normally considered forbidden” led him to start workshops and nude rituals he called “nonfilms,” which explored the boundaries of human intimacy through nudity. The communal family that sprang up around Moore eventually relocated to Berkeley in 1975, where Moore met his life partner Linda Mac and started workshops that turned Berkeley into a strange playground of Moore’s devising: Participants buried each other alive in coffins and staged rebirths; they drank urine and launched fantasy costume parades; they staged a multimedia carnival called “The Erotic Test”; they staged theater pieces for which actors trained by working at strip clubs; they took part in political protests and benefits; they started a cabaret show, titled The Outrageous Beauty Revue, in which Frank Moore sang in spite of, and because of, his difficulty in forming words; they held public rituals during which people could “play” with each other without actually having sex. This became the essence of eroplay. In the early ’90s, Jesse Helms investigated Moore for being obscene, but that only encouraged Moore. Over the years, he has held countless rituals in the Bay Area, with each running as little as 40 minutes and as long as 48 hours.
“The difference between eroplay and foreplay is one of intent,” writes Moore. “Physically, there is no difference. It is the same pleasurable, physical turned-on feeling. But … eroplay is satisfying in itself, in relaxing intensity. There is no build-up of pent-up energy in one climactic act.”
For the tenderfoot, Frank Moore’s Cherotic All Star Band, an ever-changing musical entity, is a moderate introduction.
“I’ve played with Frank numerous times,” says Andrew Goldfarb, who met Moore through LUVeR radio, “both solo and with my band. Last time we performed was inside a produce warehouse in Richmond. We sang “This Land Is Your Land” together. Frank played piano and, even though he has cerebral palsy, it sounded like he was channeling Thelonious Monk. Frank Moore is a true American, a real example of someone who knows how to turn lemons into lemonade.”
Goldfarb recalls breaking his foot eight hours before a performance with Frank Moore.
“I was going to cancel,” says Goldfarb, “but I thought, “I’m opening for Frank Moore, I can’t cancel.” Frank has invented a new language for [public performance]. Don’t always understand what he’s up to, but he causes me to examine my notions of sexism, sex, monogamy, and the animal/psychological duality of modern living. He’s an amazing inspiration for anyone seeking freedom of expression without any physical or mental boundaries.”
Frank Moore arrives at Kimo’s with his entourage — a young five-piece band, Linda Mac, and a blind backup singer/ flutist named TeresaCochran — wearing little more than a shirt, orange socks, and mismatched shoes. As Moore points to letters on his spelling board with lurching movements of his head, Mac interprets: “Frank says he likes people.” Moore grins through his feral beard, exposing large, misshapen teeth. His tongue lolls suggestively. Moore recommends that John the Baker take off his pants, and the small crowd applauds encouragingly.
“I’ve already seen you naked anyway,” spells Moore.
“This I gotta see,” says Cochran with a grin, her pendulous breasts swaying under a sheer garment. John the Baker disrobes and the set begins with Linda Mac singing over distorted cello and keyboard loops. Moore begins to howl, rising in his wheelchair, his back bowed with effort as his arms flap irregularly at his side. Mac smiles, swirling in her see-through robe, rubbing up against guitarist Giovanni Moro, which sends Moore into a spasm of excited grunts and wails. He grins and mugs for the cameras as the music builds. Mac lifts her skirt and rubs her ass against Moore’s lap. He rears in his seat, pushing against her with paroxysmal thrusts, matching her off-balance singing with supportive growls. Cochran lights a pipe and begins smoking as Moore’s hand lurches between Mac’s legs. The musicians play on, rolling over the stage with bluesy guitar riffs and spontaneous percussion. Cochran edges her way toward Moore’s wheelchair, feeling for Mac’s ass as Moore’s hand fumbles for Cochran’s breast. They grunt and wail as Mac continues singing and grinding on Moore’s lap. The crowd watches — some dumbfounded, some delighted — as cameras flash and Moore bellows. While Mac seems to keep the song in place, the energy of the scene escalates and ebbs along with Moore’s directing vocal rumble. His stamina is unrelenting, and the music goes on and on. I am repelled but stuck: I can’t turn away, until, finally, Matt Shapiro indicates with a flick of the lights that the set has reached its conclusion.
Satisfied, Moore grins lecherously, and Mac announces that their CD is called Dying Is Sexy.
“That’s the most punk rock thing I’ve seen in years,” says a young man who has moved to the front of the stage with a camera. “Where do you go from there?”
“Just because he’s crippled doesn’t mean it’s art,” counters another. “He might just be a dirty old hippie in a wheelchair.”
“I don’t know who’s more crazy,” says a woman standing outside the nightclub, “the people performing or the people watching.”
Frank Moore says the crazy person performs insane rituals not to express himself, but to keep the sky from falling. And the sky doesn’t fall.
Email between Silke and Frank after the article was published:
From: "silke tudor" <email@example.com>
To: "Frank Moore" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Thursday, May 03, 2001 7:23 AM
Subject: Re: just read your article
thank you for your help, it was not the easiest article I've written.
Frank Moore wrote:
> it definately is one of the best, deepest articles written about my
> work. you captured a lot! thank you.
> In Freedom
> Frank Moore
> Visit http://www.eroplay.com
> Listen to LUVeR!
> http ://www. luver.com
> LUVeR Alternative News
Frank Moore is The Erotic Greeter at the Pow!Pow!Pow! arts festival 2010 Viracocha, San Francisco, California Saturday, October 16, 2010
Here is what Frank wrote about this performance:
Monday, October 18, 2010
We didn’t really know for sure if we were going to THE POW! POW! POW! until we got into the van to go to it! That was because of my trach and PEG tube. But performances need risk! It turned out I was up to it! But we had looked up the nearest hospital just in case!
The question of did I have a plant at the performance will never be answered. But if I had, here are my directions to her:
I’m performing Saturday [if my health allows] as THE EROTIC GREETER. I will be in the lobby with a sign EXPLORE THE EROTIC GREETER DEEPLY BY TOUCH. Would you be my erotic plant, going under my robes to rub me erotically magical arousing? This would be when the audience is coming into the theater. The rubbing is the magical focus of the piece… Small, intimate, explicit, practically unseen. In the seventies I had a big padded box into which before a performance i got into with someone to play nude with. The lid was closed before the audience came in. So they didn’t know what was happening in the box. But the erotic focused fun inside the box totally affected the performance outside of the box.
Well, there was erotic rubbing. But not the needed focused sustain turning on to generate a core mass. This can’t be done with people in a long term relationship like Linda and I because of the comfort factor [which we used in the jams]. But in this kind of performance what generates the erotic core mass that sucks everything deeper is erotic exploring breaking through risk into sustained focused arousal. That didn’t happen. The closest was Marz.
But other factors kicked in, making it a powerful demanding performance. Joyful intimacy tends to call attention to what is happening or not happening.
And my conversation with Guillermo Gomez Pena was the cherry on the top! Never know who you are influencing!
Here is the transcript of the conversation with Guillermo Gomez Pena:
Then Guillermo Gomez Pena and the black woman in black face came over. They kneeled in front of Frank and looked at him.
Frank said to Guillermo, “I like your “Defense of Performance Art”. I found it online.”
Guillermo said to Frank that if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t exist.
Then followed a deep and intense conversation that was very moving.
Frank asked “How so?”
Guillermo: You opened the door.
Frank: What door?
Guillermo: The door to freedom and the door to a different kind of beauty.
Frank: I am honored. I am recovering. (Linda explains that Frank was in the hospital over the summer, six weeks in intensive care.)
Guillermo: Thousands of people were beating with your heart.
Frank: I got emails while I was in the hospital that kicked my ass!
(Guillermo asks if he can kiss Frank. Frank says yes, and Guillermo sits next to him on a bench, and kisses him on the side of the head and cheek, very long and soft.)
Frank: We should get together to talk. We should do a performance together.
Guillermo: From the time I moved to L.A., I was a young, angry, immigrant rebel. I never missed one of your performances.
Frank: I am that old? (smiling big)
Guillermo: Well, I am only a couple months younger than you. But spiritually much younger.
“The Erotic Greeter”, Hopkins St., Berkeley Part of Maggie Lawson’s “Small Pieces of your Truth” Monday, April 04, 2011
Just got back from doing my part of Maggie Lawson’s performance, small pieces of your truth [see below for her directions]. I picked the option PUBLIC GIFT. The free service of my part was being available to be touched and physically explored as THE EROTIC GREETER. I had a sign to that effect as I sat outside the shops on Hopkins Street for about ninety minutes. It was a great day to be sitting outside! I don’t know if I used any skills from my Master degrees in psychology and in performance /video [I don’t believe I got any skills from those days]. I did similar performances long before grad school!
Anyway, I sat in the shade and engaged with people as they passed by as Linda about ten yards away documented it with photos and video. Most people just passed me, working hard on NOT looking at me. Of course little kids looked and pointed. Some people said “hi, Frank,” knowing me from my Berkeley community public access cable show. And one of my favorite singers, Shelley Doty, with her son stopped to talk. And a guy pulled up and got out of his car to talk. He said a few weeks ago he was building a fence for a guy and the guy told him about me. So he wanted to meet me. So…!
A fun day!
Here are Maggie’s directions:
Congratulations! You’ve become part of the chosen few to play Small Pieces of Your Truth for its first time, in real time.
If you accept this challenge choose ONE of the activities below and do it BEFORE April 9.
On April 9 we’ll meet at Pueblo Nuevo Gallery from 2-4:30 pm (Pueblo Nuevo Gallery, 1828 San Pablo Ave, Suite 1, Berkeley, CA) and keep playing together. There’s no right or wrong way to play. Creatively interpret the instructions and on Saturday come and meet the rest of the group, a truly inspiring group of artists and creatives.
Public Gift Set up a table in a public space and offer a service for free that uses some skill you specifically received through your formal education thus far. If and when people stop, ask and record why each person stopped to use your service. N.B. Don’t worry if no one stops to use the service this is interesting information too. Take photos of the table and/or people that stop to use the service with a caption under each person’s photo of why they stopped to use your service and/or a caption under the table photo of why or why not you were able to attract people to your table.
Scrapbook Collect any materials in your life that either make reference to the highest level of formal education you have received or are things/work/references that are available to you because of your education level. Using the paper and supplies of your choice create 2-3 “scrapbook pages” of these materials (search scrapbook examples under Google images for inspiration or guidance).
Pligrimage 1. a journey, especially a long one, made to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion. 2. any long journey, especially one undertaken as a quest or for a votive purpose, as to pay homage.
Identify a time and place in your life when you had the most intense experience of learning. Now, create a real or virtual way to return to the place where this occurred. For example, this might include finding the people you were with on the internet, going to a place that represents that place near your current residence, or if possible, returning to this place. Leave something in the place you choose that pays homage to this moment. Answer this Question: How does your most intense experience of learning similar or different from your most important experience in the formal education system? Record how you paid homage with a text or photo and write out the answer to the question.
I hope to play with you all on Saturday! Feel free to email or call me with questions.
In Appreciation, Maggie
—– Maggie Lawson Artist Arts and Community Education Director Eye to Eye: art, travel, activism
A new video presentation of Frank Moore’s book using photos, film and video footage from Frank’s life and performances. In “Art of a Shaman”, originally delivered as a lecture at New York University in 1990 as part of the conference, “New Pathways in Performance”, Frank Moore explores performance and art in general terms of them being a magical way to effect change in the world. He looks at performance as an art of melting action, ritualistic shamanistic doings/playings. By using his career and life as a “baseline”, Moore explains the dynamic playing within the context of reality shaping. He brings in concepts from modern physics, mythology and psychology. The full text of the book available here: http://www.eroplay.com/Cave/ArtShaman/artsham.html
“A Lucky Guy” Readings by Gerald Smith & Martha Wilson Background music: “bomg” by Stephen Emanuel
“A Wounded Healer” Reading by Stephen Emanuel Chapter Title Animation: Ink Paintings by Russell Shuttleworth, Photos by Stephan Lupino, Music by Barbara Golden Background music: by Sander Roscoe Wolff
“Art of Reshaping Reality” Reading by Michael LaBash Chapter title animation music: Michael LaBash Background music: Sander Roscoe Wolff
“Roots of Performance” Reading by Annie Sprinkle Chapter title animation music: Michael LaBash Background music: Sander Roscoe Wolff
“A Channel, not a Creator” Reading by Kayla Moon Chapter title animation music: “Silenced” by +DOG+ from the album, “the misery of endless suffering” LEM-162 2015 Background music: Phog Masheeen
“Learning the Trickster’s Art” Reading by Kirk Lumpkin Chapter opening: “Blind Leading The Blind” by Spirit in Flesh Background music: Sander Roscoe Wolff
“Nonfilms” Readings by David Steinberg & Paul Escriva Background music: Michael LaBash (Thanks to Phog Masheeen for the film reel sound effect)
“Art of Risking” Readings by Linda Mac & Tha Archivez Chapter opening: Excerpt from “Chaos Love Play Jam”, Erika Shaver-Nelson – vocals, Kirsten Rose – vocals & instruments from her bag of tricks, Michael Peppe – vocals, Stephen Jones – moog, Carlos – guitar, Skye – guitar, LX Rudis – moog voyager, Frank Moore – piano, vocals, Michael LaBash – mix/fx, recorded live on Frank Moore’s Shaman’s Den, October 29, 2003 Background music: Sander Roscoe Wolff
“Time, Community, Inter-Relations” Readings by Richard Kerbavaz & John the Baker Chapter title animation music: Michael LaBash Background music: Sander Roscoe Wolff
“Theater Of Human Melting” Reading by Paul Couillard Chapter title animation music: Michael LaBash Background music: excerpt from “I Can See The Sky” by Sander Roscoe Wolff
Opening/Closing music: excerpt from “Body Music” performed by Frank Moore’s Chero Company Michael LaBash, Alexi Malenky, Rourke Smith & Leigh
Photos by: Jim Appleton Les Barany Julian Cash Craig Glassner Ken Jennings Tracy Kauffman-Wood Eric Kroll Michael LaBash Daniel Lorenze Linda Mac Alexi Malenky Debbie Moore Dave Patrick Kevin Rice Annie Sprinkle David Steinberg Barbie Sue Mary Sullivan Wolfgang
Illustrations by: David Hochbaum Lee Kay Charles R. Knight [Public Domain] Michael LaBash Frank Moore Justin Page John Seabury
Additional footage: One Got Fat: Bicycle Safety (1963) [Public Domain] First Year Anniversary of the Berlin Wall (1962) [Public Domain] One World or None (1946) [Public Domain] The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) directed by Robert Wiene [Public Domain] The Night Of The Living Dead (1968) by George A. Romero [Public Domain] Life and Passion of Christ (1903) [Public Domain] “Five Minutes To Live” [Public Domain] Washington D.C. and San Francisco footage: Prelinger Archives “High Cost of Letting Go” by Carlisle (Robert W.): Prelinger Archives Gould can 5227.3: Early San Francisco Vaudeville Act: Prelinger Archives Santa Fe footage from David Santino Scott Stock footage: Mitch Martinez www.mitchmartinez.com
Editing, Animation, and Titles: Michael LaBash
Produced by Linda Mac & Michael LaBash
Directed by Frank Moore
Thanks to all of the readers so far … Tha Archivez Kenneth Atchley Attaboy Dr. Susan Block Paul Couillard Steve Davis Stephen Emanuel Paul Escriva Edna Floretta Barbara Golden Fred Hatt John the Baker Dr. Richard Kerbavaz Michael LaBash Lob Kirk Lumpkin Linda Mac Alexi Malenky Jake McGee Kayla Moon Corey Nicholl Carl Off Vinnie Spit Santino Erika Shaver-Nelson Russell Shuttleworth Linda Carmella Sibio Gerald Smith Megan Soriano Annie Sprinkle David Steinberg Veronica Vera Martha Wilson
And thanks to all of the musicians who have created and contributed music for this project so far … K. Atchley Stephen Emanuel Father of Skins Barbara Golden Phog Masheeen Vinnie Spit Santino Sander Roscoe Wolff Jerome T. Youngman (Mutant Press)
Re: The Drama Review Eroplay 1989
“I have finally read the Drama Review piece and I love it. It is one of the profoundest pieces of writing on performance or theatre or just plain living that I have read ever. Period. Something to read and think about over and over again. I am so tired of the new of the fast of the whats next — they are killing our souls. I can’t call what you have written an essay but a love song to society — makes total sense to me on the deepest most un-speakable levels. How you deal with the unconscious working side by side the conscious — as you say like two films going on at once. If you never write another thing, Frank, it won’t matter because this piece is luminous. And believe me I have read so many manifestos, essays critiques, artist statements ad nauseum over the years. It’s a beautiful generous manifesto and I look forward to reading more — it also has this beautiful slow pace as if forcing the mind of the reader to change pace as well and let the other world come to the forefront — the cartography of the soul is where you take us…each in our own way…rather than your way…which is generous indeed of you.”
Shelley Berc, writer, teacher
As published in The Drama Review (TDR), Spring 1989. During this period, before accessibility software was available to him, Frank typed in all caps. TDR also published the piece in all caps.
MY FIRST STROKE OF GOOD LUCK WAS I WAS BORN SPASTIC, UNABLE TO WALK OR TALK. ADD TO THIS GOOD FORTUNE THE FACT THAT MY FORMATIVE YEARS WERE IN THE ‘60S—MY FATE WAS ASSURED!
YES, I ALWAYS HAVE BEEN LUCKY. I HAVE A BODY THAT IS IDEAL FOR A PERFORMANCE ARTIST. AND I HAVE ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A PERFORMER. WHEN I WAS A KID, MY YOUNGER BROTHER USED TO GET MAD WHEN PEOPLE LOOKED AT ME WHEN HE PUSHED ME TO THE MOVIES OR TO THE TEEN CLUB. HE CRIED. BUT I LIKED PEOPLE LOOKING AT ME. THAT IS WHAT I MEAN BY “I AM LUCKY.” I AM LUCKY I AM AN EXHIBITIONIST IN THIS BODY. ONE TIME, I WAS WORKING OUT ON THE JUNGLE GYM OUTSIDE OF OUR HOUSE—A KID CAME BY AND ASKED IF I WAS A MONSTER. I JUST ROARED LIKE A MONSTER. IT WAS FUN.
I WAS LUCKY. I WAS NEVER UNDER PRESSURE TO BE GOOD AT ANYTHING, TO MAKE MONEY, TO MAKE IT IN “THE REAL WORLD”, TO BE POLISHED—OR THE OTHER DISTRACTIONS THAT OTHER MODERN ARTISTS HAVE TO, OR THINK THEY HAVE TO DEAL WITH. SO I COULD FOCUS ON HAVING FUN, ON GOING INTO TABOO AREAS WHERE MAGICAL CHANGE CAN BE EVOKED. IN FACT, A MAJOR REASON WHY I AM WRITING THIS IS TO ENCOURAGE ARTISTS WHO HAVE NOT BEEN SO BLESSED WITH BODIES THAT MARK THEM AS MISFITS, TO ASPIRE TO BE MISFITS ANYWAY, TO DO MISFIT ART ANYWAY—EVEN IF YOU ARE HANDICAPPED BY YOUR NORMAL BODY. YOUR ROAD IS DEFINITELY HARDER THAN MY ROAD. BUT THAT’S LIFE.
MY ART IS ROOTED IN BREAKING OUT OF ISOLATION. UNTIL I WAS 17, I DID NOT HAVE ANY WAY TO COMMUNICATE EXCEPT THROUGH MY FAMILY MEMBERS. FOR A COUPLE OF MY TEENAGE YEARS, I WAS VERY HARD OF HEARING. MY HEARING CLEARED UP. I INVENTED MY HEADPOINTER WHEN I WAS 17. MY COMMUNICATION ISOLATION WAS THEN DISPELLED. BUT IT TOOK ME ANOTHER 10 YEARS TO SHAKE OFF THE ISOLATION CAUSED BY MY ATTITUDES AND SELF-IMAGE. THIS EARLY ISOLATION ALLOWED ME TO OBSERVE LIFE AND PEOPLE AS AN OUTSIDER. I ALWAYS WANTED TO BREAK PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL, AND SPIRITUAL ISOLATION—FIRST FOR MYSELF, BUT THEN FOR OTHER PEOPLE.
THERE ARE OTHER ADVANTAGES TO MY BODY. PEOPLE PROJECT ONTO ME CERTAIN MYSTICAL POWERS—LIKE SEEING THROUGH THEIR FRONTS TO THEIR REAL SELVES —SEEING THE PAST AND THE FUTURE—AND WHAT THEY SHOULD DO. THEY ARE REACTING TO SOME SYMBOL OF THE DEFORMED MEDICINE MAN. THEY USE ME AS A MEDIUM FOR GETTING THROUGH TO OTHER DIMENSIONS. BECAUSE OF THE SLOWNESS OF MY COMMUNICATION BOARD, THEY ARE FORCED TO SLOW DOWN. THEY CAN PROJECT WHATEVER THEY WANT, MISREAD ME WHEN IT FITS THEM. I AM A SYMBOL. AND BECAUSE THEY GIVE ME POWER AS A SYMBOL, THEY ARE AFRAID OF ME. IT WAS JUST MY LUCK TO BE BORN INTO THE LONG TRADITION OF THE DEFORMED SHAMAN, THE WOUNDED HEALER, THE BLIND PROPHET, THE CLUB-FOOTED “IDIOT” COURT JESTER.
THERE ARE ALL KINDS OF ART. THERE IS ART THAT CALMS, ART THAT PACIFIES, ART THAT SELLS, ART THAT DECORATES, ART THAT ENTERTAINS. BUT WHAT I AM COMMITTED TO IS ART AS A BATTLE, AN UNDERGROUND WAR AGAINST FRAGMENTATION. THE BATTLE IS ON ALL REALITIES. THE CONTROLLERS HAVE ALWAYS TRIED TO FRAGMENT US FROM EACH OTHER. IMPRISON US IN ISLANDS OF SEX, COLOR, RELIGION, POLITICS, CLASS, LABELS, ETC., ETC., ETC., ETC., ETC.—THEY FRAGMENT OUR INNER WORLDS, THEY BLOW OUR INDIVIDUAL REALITIES APART AND PLAY THE PIECES AGAINST ONE ANOTHER. THEY ARE US, OR A PART OF US. THEY ARE THE CONTROLLERS, THE POLITICIANS, THE SEXISTS, THE WOMEN’S LIBBERS, THE PORNOGRAPHERS, THE CENSORS, THE MORALISTS, THE CHURCH, THE MEDIA, THE BUSINESSMEN, EDUCATORS, THE VICTIMS, AND THE POWERFUL.
THEY ARE US.
I THINK PERFORMANCE IS BEING RUINED BY TRYING TO PACKAGE IT AS ENTERTAINMENT, AS OFF-BEAT CABARET. WHEN SOMEONE GOES TO A CABARET, HE KNOWS THERE ARE CERTAIN LIMITS INVOLVED SUCH AS THAT EACH ACT MUST END BEFORE ANOTHER BEGINS; BUT IN PERFORMANCE, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. A PERFORMANCE CAN LAST FOR A MINUTE OR IT CAN LAST FOR DAYS. PERFORMANCE CAN START IN ONE SPACE BUT THEN MOVE TO ANOTHER. PERFORMANCE CAN BE STORYTELLING, IT CAN BE A GUY THREATENING YOU WITH A BASEBALL BAT, IT CAN BE A GUY HANGING BY HIS SKIN, OR THROWING FOOD, OR ANYTHING. IN PERFORMANCE ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE. AND THAT IS WHAT GIVES YOU AN EXTRA EDGE TO CREATE DREAMS.
PERFORMANCE, LIKE ANY AVANT-GARDE ART, IS THE WAY SOCIETY DREAMS; IT IS THE WAY SOCIETY EXPANDS ITS FREEDOM, EXPLORES THE FORBIDDEN.
THIS WAS WHAT SEALED ME INTO A PERFORMANCE LIFE.
IN 1972 I HAD JUST FINISHED TAKING A VERY INTENSIVE FILM COURSE IN SANTA FE. I HAD NO MONEY TO MAKE REAL FILMS. SO I STARTED LOOKING FOR A WAY TO WORK WITH PEOPLE. I WANTED TO SEE PEOPLE NUDE, AND TOUCH THEM, AND CREATE AN INTENSITY BETWEEN US. PAINTING WAS THE FIRST ATTEMPT. I USED TO SELL PAPERS ON A CORNER TO FIND PEOPLE TO PAINT. BUT ONCE THE PERSON WAS POSED THE SITUATION WAS STILL, NOT MOVING. SO I DID WHAT I CALLED NONFILMS—FOR WHICH I ASKED PEOPLE I MET WHEN I WAS SELLING NEWSPAPERS TO ACT OUT INTENSIVE EROTIC SCENES WITH ME. ALTHOUGH I HAD PLAYED WITH MY FRIENDS BEFORE IN NONSEXUAL EROTICISM, THIS WAS THE FIRST TIME I TRIED TO USE “SEXUAL” ACTS IN A NONSEXUAL ART FORM. I WAS SURPRISED WITH THE POWER THAT THIS RELEASED. BECAUSE OF THESE SCENES, THE PEOPLE STARTED TALKING ABOUT THEIR LIVES DURING THE SESSIONS AND SAID IT HELPED THEIR OTHER RELATIONSHIPS. NOT ONE PERSON MINDED THAT THERE WAS NO FILM. THESE NONFILMS WERE THE BASE FOR MY CAREER IN RELATIONSHIP COUNSELING IN THE LATE ‘70S.
BUT I WAS NOT SATISFIED WITH THESE NONFILMS BECAUSE THEY WERE BRIEF RELATIONSHIPS THAT DID NOT GO ANYWHERE. SO I STARTED LOOKING FOR SOME OTHER WAY TO WORK WITH PEOPLE. I TRIED TO CAST A PLAY, BUT I COULDN’T FIND ENOUGH PEOPLE. I STARTED THINKING OF AN INTIMATE THEATRE WHERE THE LINE BETWEEN AUDIENCE AND ACTORS WOULD BE ERASED. I STARTED THINKING ABOUT HOW IF THAT LINE WERE ERASED, IT WOULD PLACE MUCH MORE RESPONSIBILITY ON THE ACTORS. THEY WOULD HAVE TO DARE TO TRICK THE AUDIENCE INTO THE INTENSE MAGICAL STATE.
I DIVIDED MY WORK—THE WORD “WORK” IS WEIRD—IT IS LIKE PLAYING—INTO TWO PARTS. THE FIRST PART IS PLAYED IN “REAL LIFE”—FOR INSTANCE, I GO UP TO A PERSON ON A STREET AND ASK HIM TO BE IN SOME PROJECT WHICH MAY CONTAIN SOME NUDITY AND PHYSICAL PLAY. THE NUDITY AND PHYSICAL PLAY AS AN IDEA IN THIS CONTEXT IS A GREAT TOOL TO GET UNDER THE POLITE CHATTER SURFACE TO THE MORE MEANINGFUL THINGS, AND OFTEN MORE INTIMATE, MORE PERSONAL STUFF—WHICH IS, AFTER ALL, THE AIM OF THE PIECE. I CAN SEE THIS KIND OF PIECE LASTING ANYWHERE FROM A FEW SECONDS TO SEVERAL HOURS.
THE SECOND PART IS A PIECE IN A CONTROLLED SPACE, SUCH AS MY STUDIO, IN WHICH THERE IS A FORM GOING ON, GIVING THE PERSON A REASON TO BE THERE WITH ME.
THIS KIND OF PERFORMANCE IS DIFFERENT THAN NORMAL THEATRE. IN THIS KIND, THERE IS NO REAL SCRIPT. EVEN IF YOU HAVE A SCRIPT, IT REALLY IS A PROP. THE REAL COURSE OF ACTION IS SHAPED BY THE PERFORMER SO THE FLOW OF THE PIECE WILL GO FORWARD AND DEEPER.
WHAT IS IMPORTANT IS WHAT HAPPENS BETWEEN ME AS THE ARTIST AND MY AUDIENCE, HOW I CHANGE THEM AND HOW THEY CHANGE ME, THAT MAGICAL STATE IN WHICH WE INTERACT WITH EACH OTHER. I, AS THE PERFORMER, MUST CREATE AROUND THE PEOPLE, BY PLAYING FOR AND TO THEM, BY LETTING THE PERFORMANCE TAKE ME OVER AND GUIDE ME—EVEN WHEN IT LOOKS LIKE THE OTHER PEOPLE ARE DOING ALL OF THE ACTION. THE ULTIMATE GOAL IN MY PERFORMANCE IS TO CREATE A REALITY, NOT AN ILLUSION, WHICH THE AUDIENCE AND I ARE IN—EVEN IF I HAVE TO USE ILLUSIONS TO GET TO THIS REALITY.
THIS RAISES THE QUESTION OF MANIPULATION. ALMOST ANY TIME YOU PERFORM TO AN AUDIENCE, YOU MANIPULATE THE AUDIENCE. LET’S GET BEYOND THE NEGATIVE CONNOTATION OF THE WORD “MANIPULATE”. PEOPLE GO TO THE THEATRE, MOVIES, CONCERTS, DANCE COMPANIES, ETC., TO HAVE THEIR EMOTIONS MANIPULATED. THEY COME INTO THE PERFORMANCE AREA WITH A WILLINGNESS TO BE MANIPULATED BY THE ARTISTS WITHIN CERTAIN LIMITS. BUT IN MY PERFORMANCES, THE ONES WHICH ARE NOT DIVIDED FROM THE REST OF LIFE BY A THEATRE OR A STAGE, THERE IS NO WAY TO TELL THE PERSON SHE IS ENTERING A PERFORMANCE. WHEN I HAVE A FORMAL STRUCTURE, A THEATRE SPACE, AND A SET TIME ENDING—WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON IS NOT WHAT IS SAID TO BE HAPPENING. ALSO IT IS A REALITY THAT IS HOPEFULLY BEING CREATED—PEOPLE WILL BE AFFECTED, INFECTED, AND EFFECTED BY THIS REALITY.
PERFORMANCE OBVIOUSLY GOES MUCH FARTHER BACK THAN 1909 WHEN IT BECAME A FORMAL ART FORM. I THINK PERFORMANCE CAME INTO EXISTENCE TO FILL A VOID IN WESTERN LIFE. THE VOID WAS THE LACK OF MAGIC AND INSPIRATION. THE TWO AREAS OF CREATIVITY, THEATRE AND RELIGION, THAT TRADITIONALLY WERE THE SOURCE OF THIS MAGICAL INSPIRATION HAD LONG AGO MOVED FROM MAGIC TO ENTERTAINMENT AND POLITICS. THIS VOID ALSO GAVE BIRTH TO PSYCHOLOGY DURING THE SAME TIME PERIOD. I OFTEN GET THE CRITICISM THAT MY WORK IS REALLY PSYCHOLOGY AND THERAPY, AND NOT ART. WHEN IT IS REALIZED THAT PSYCHOLOGY AS A FORMAL SCIENCE AND PERFORMANCE AS A FORMAL ART WERE BORN AT THE SAME TIME, THIS CRITICISM CAN BE ANSWERED. PERFORMANCE AND PSYCHOLOGY ARE BOTH INVOLVED IN SPIRITUAL HEALING.
I SEE PERFORMANCE AS EXPERIMENTS IN HUMAN POSSIBILITIES. TO DO THESE EXPERIMENTS, I FORMED IN SANTA FE IN 1972 A WEEKLY DROP-IN WORKSHOP TO DO RITUALS LASTING MANY HOURS. A YEAR LATER, PEOPLE FROM THAT DROP-IN GROUP MOVED WITH ME TO N.Y.C. TO BE THE CORE OF A COMMITTED GROUP. BUT IT WAS IN BERKELEY THAT WE FOUND A PERMANENT HOME IN 1974. THERE, THE WORKSHOP SLOWLY DEVELOPED INTO A GROUP OF 30 PEOPLE.
IN THE LATE ’70S WE STARTED OUR PUBLIC PERFORMANCES BY DOING LONG RITUALISTIC PLAYS. OVER THE YEARS, THE GROUP BRANCHED OUT TO DO MANY DIFFERENT KINDS OF LIVE AND VIDEO PIECES, INCLUDING the outrageous beauty revue .
THE o.b.r. WAS A CABARET SHOW THAT TRIED TO SHORT-CIRCUIT THE CABARET LIMITS OF TIME AND STAGE. IT DID THIS BY BEING A SHOW OF PEOPLE WHO WERE HAVING FUN AND WHO WERE LIVING THEIR FANTASIES—A SHOW THAT INCLUDED THE AUDIENCE DIRECTLY IN THE ACTION—AN UNPOLISHED SHOW THAT FLAUNTED NUDITY, EROTICISM, AND GORE IN A SILLY, CHILDLIKE PLAYFULNESS—AN EVER-CHANGING SHOW WITH PREGNANT SEX SYMBOLS, NUDE GIRLS, CRIPPLED ROCK STARS, MEN AS WOMEN AND WOMEN AS MEN WITHOUT ANY SEXUAL MEANING. THE o.b.r. RAN FOR THREE YEARS AND WAS BY FAR MY MOST POPULAR WORK IN TERMS OF HOW MANY PEOPLE SAW IT. BUT THE SUCCESS OF A PIECE SHOULD NOT BE JUDGED BY HOW MANY PEOPLE SEE IT, BUT BY HOW FAR IT WENT BEYOND THE TABOOS, BY ITS MAGIC POWER FOR CHANGE. BY THIS STANDARD, MY BEST WORK WITH THE GROUP WAS OUR 48-HOUR DREAM PERFORMANCES IN THE LATE ’70S.
SINCE 1983, I HAVE BEEN DOING A PERFORMANCE SERIES AT U.C. BERKELEY WHICH HAS GIVEN ME A LAB WHERE I CAN DEVELOP PIECES BY DOING THEM OVER AND OVER WITHOUT THE PRESSURES OF MAKING MONEY OR ENTERTAINING. THESE PIECES ARE WHAT GOT ME THE N.E.A. FELLOWSHIP, AND THEY ARE THE ONES I DO ON MY TOURS.
IN MY WORK, I ALWAYS HAVE USED NUDITY AND PHYSICAL ACTS WHICH MOST PEOPLE WOULD CALL SEXUAL. IT IS JUST ONE OF MY WAYS OF BREAKING NORMAL REALITY INTO NEW WAYS OF COMMUNICATING AND RELATING. I COMBINE THIS WITH BREAKING TIME/SPACE TABOOS, MY UNIQUE BODY, AND OTHER TOOLS. BUT THE “SEXUAL” CONTENT OF MY WORK GRABS MOST OF THE ATTENTION.
THERE IS A COMMON MISCONCEPTION ABOUT THE DEFORMED SHAMAN TRADITION—THAT IT GETS ITS POWER FROM THE MENTAL AND THE SPIRITUAL PLANE, SINCE THE PHYSICAL AND SENSUAL ARE ALMOST NONEXISTENT. IN TRUTH, THE WOUNDED HEALER USES HIS PHYSICALITY AS A CHANNEL TO UNITE THE SPIRITUAL WITH THE PHYSICAL.
I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN A VERY PHYSICAL AND SEXUAL PERSON. THIS WAS HEIGHTENED BY MY EARLY PHYSICAL ISOLATION. IN THE EARLY ’70S WHEN I WAS NOT YET OUT OF MY SEXUAL ISOLATION, I OBSERVED AS AN INTERESTED OUTSIDER THAT FREE SEX (CONFUSED WITH FREE LOVE) WAS NOT WORKING. IT WASN’T MAKING MY HIPPIE FRIENDS HAPPY. THIS OBSERVATION WAS AGAINST MY PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM. BUT I COULD NOT DENY THE FACTS. I STARTED LOOKING FOR NEW WAYS OF RELATING AND TOUCHING. I WAS LOOKING FOR A NEW FREE LOVE. MY PERFORMANCES, BOTH THE PUBLIC EVENTS AND THE PRIVATE NONFILMS, WERE MY RESEARCH, MY EXPERIMENTS.
I EXPERIMENTED IN USING THE EXCITED, AROUSED, PLEASURABLE ENERGY IN THE CONTEXT OF ART, OF PLAYING, RELATIONSHIP-BUILDING—NOT THE CONTEXT OF SEX. THIS RESEARCH REACHED A CLIMAX IN MY BERKELEY WORKSHOP DURING THE YEARS OF the outrageous beauty revue.
IT WAS FAIRLY CLEAR TO 30 OF US THAT THERE WAS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PLAYING AND SEX. WE SAW IT HAD SOMETHING TO DO WITH SEX AND “MARRIAGE” (THE WORD marriage IS ANOTHER WORD THAT HAS NEGATIVE CONNOTATIONS HIDDEN WITHIN IT). SO WE DECIDED TO COMMIT OURSELVES TO HAVING SEX ONLY WITH THOSE TO WHOM WE WERE MARRIED. BUT WE EROTICALLY PLAYED (FOR LACK OF A BETTER TERM FOR IT) WITH ALL OF THE PEOPLE IN THE GROUP.
THE EROTIC PLAY GOT WACKIER, MORE PHYSICAL. IT GAVE US A GREATER FREEDOM NOT ONLY WITHIN OUR GROUP, BUT IN SOCIETY IN GENERAL AS WELL. EROTIC PLAYING INTENSELY BUT PLAYFULLY RELEASED CREATIVITY WHICH WE USED IN MANY WAYS. SUCCESSFUL BUSINESSES WERE ESTABLISHED. WE DID SEVERAL PUBLIC PERFORMANCES, AND A WEALTH OF PRIVATE PERFORMANCES. THERE WAS NO JEALOUSY OR POSSESSIVENESS BECAUSE IT WAS CLEAR THAT SEX WOULD NOT BE INVOLVED. THIS WENT ON FOR THREE YEARS.
AT A CERTAIN POINT, WE STARTED QUESTIONING THE CONCEPT OF MARRIAGE. WE DID NOT SEE ANY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WHAT WE 30 HAD TOGETHER AND BEING MARRIED. NOT SEEING ANY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MARRIAGE AND WHAT WE HAD AS A GROUP, THE NEXT LOGICAL QUESTION WAS, “WHY NOT HAVE SEX?” SO WE STARTED TO HAVE SEX OUTSIDE MARRIAGE, WITHIN THE GROUP. ALMOST IMMEDIATELY CHANGES APPEARED IN THE GROUP. JEALOUSY AND POSSESSIVENESS APPEARED. THE GROUP QUICKLY BEGAN TO FALL APART.
AFTER THIS BREAKUP, I FOCUSED MY WORK ON DEFINING THE UNIQUE PHYSICAL-SPIRITUAL ENERGY WE HAD USED, FORMALIZED IT IN MY ART TO TAP AGAIN INTO THE INTENSE, PURE PLAY WITH PEOPLE, USING THE RESULTING CREATIVENESS IN ART WITHOUT BEING DERAILED BY SEX.
I REALIZED THAT ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WAS UNDERMINING MY WORK WAS THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE. THERE WAS NO WORD, NO NAME, FOR THE FORCE I WAS DEALING WITH. MY FIRST TASK WAS TO CREATE A NEW WORD: eroplay.
OUR MIND NEEDS LABELS. THERE IS SUCH A FORCE OR ENERGY, WHICH I HAVE LABELED EROPLAY. BUT THERE HAS NOT BEEN A WORD FOR IT. THE WORD sex HAS BEEN THE DUMP FOR EVERYTHING SENSUAL, ROMANTIC, PHYSICAL, OR FOR SHOWING MORE SKIN THAN USUAL. CARS ARE CALLED SEXY. POSES THAT DO NOT SHOW THE SEX ACT ARE CALLED SEXUAL. WEARING CERTAIN THINGS, MOVING CERTAIN WAYS ARE ALL CALLED SEXUAL, EVEN WHEN IT IS NOT LEADING TO THE SEXUAL ACT—EVEN WHEN THERE IS NO INTENT TO HAVE SEX.
EROPLAY IS INTENSE PHYSICAL PLAYING AND TOUCHING OF ONESELF AND OTHERS. EROPLAY IS THE FORCE OR ENERGY RELEASED BY SUCH PLAY. IT IS ALSO THE HAPPY, PLAYFUL ATTITUDE TOWARDS LIFE THAT COMES FROM SUCH PLAY. EROPLAY IS NOT FOREPLAY, EVEN THOUGH FOREPLAY IS EROPLAY.
FOREPLAY LEADS TO ORGASM—EROPLAY LEADS TO BEING TURNED-ON IN MANY DIFFERENT WAYS AND IN ALL PARTS OF THE BODY—INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, PHYSICAL AROUSAL. IT CAN BE DIFFERENT EVERY TIME. SKIN TOUCHING SKIN SEEMS TO BE WHAT RELEASES THE FULL IMPACT OF EROPLAY. EROPLAY CAN BE INTENSE. IT IS LIKE WHEN YOU RUB A PUPPY ON ITS BELLY AND THE PUPPY GOES INTO A STATE OF RAPTURE, BOTH TOTALLY TURNED-ON AND RELAXED. EROPLAY IS THE BLISSED-OUT, WARM, RELAXED, TURNED-ON, TOTALLY SATISFYING FEELING OF A GOOD HEAD RUB.
EROPLAY IS FUN!
EROPLAY IS INNOCENT AND CHILDLIKE.
EROPLAY’S FOCUS IS ON PHYSICAL ENJOYMENT.
EROPLAY DECREASES ISOLATION AND ALIENATION. IT INCREASES SELF-TRUST AND TRUSTING OF OTHERS. IT MAKES YOU HARDER TO BE CONTROLLED. EROPLAY LEADS TO A LIFE-STYLE WITH ALL THESE CHARACTERISTICS. THE LIFESTYLE LOOKS STRANGELY LIKE THE LOVE GENERATION, BUT WITHOUT DRUGS OR FREE SEX.
IN RECENT YEARS, OUTSIDE FORCES HAVE AFFECTED MY WORK. EDWIN MEESE’S POLITICAL WAR OF SEXUAL SUPPRESSION AND THE BLANDNESS OF YUPPIES HAVE GIVEN MY ART SOCIAL ISSUES AGAINST WHICH I CAN DO BATTLE.
BUT IT IS AIDS THAT HAS STARTED PEOPLE SEARCHING FOR NONSEXUAL WAYS TO FIND, TO SHOW, AND TO GIVE PHYSICAL INTIMACY. EROPLAY IS A SAFE, FUN, LUSTY CHANNEL FOR FREE PHYSICAL TOUCHING. IT IS SAFE BECAUSE THERE IS NO PHYSICAL INTERCOURSE. IT IS NOT AN AVOIDANCE, AS CELIBACY IS. IT IS NOT SOMETHING SECOND RATE. EROPLAY IS SATISFYING IN ITSELF.
I HAVE DEBATED WITH MYSELF ABOUT NO LONGER RESISTING THE LABEL sexual. BY INSISTING WHAT I AM DOING IS NOT SEXUAL, I AM OPENING MYSELF TO PEOPLE QUESTIONING MY HONESTY AND INTEGRITY. IF I ACCEPT THE SEXUAL LABEL, PEOPLE WOULD JUST HAVE TO DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT THEY LIKE SEX IN ART—DECIDE WHETHER IT IS ART OR NOT. THAT WOULD BE THE DEPTH OF THE QUESTIONING. THEY MAY FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE SEEING SEX AS ART—BUT THAT UNCOMFORTABLENESS WOULD BE JUST FROM BREAKING THE TABOO OF SEX— WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL? WHAT I AM DOING IS TAKING NUDITY AND ACTS THAT ARE USUALLY CONSIDERED SEXUAL AND GIVING THEM A NEW, NONSEXUAL CONTEXT. THAT CREATES A TENSION, A CONFLICT, AN EXAMINING, A LEAP INTO SOMETHING NEW. THAT IS WHAT I AM AFTER. THIS LEAP INTO NEWNESS IS WHY PEOPLE WHO ARE NORMALLY COMFORTABLE WITH CASUAL NUDITY AND CASUAL SEX SOMETIMES GET VERY UNCOMFORTABLE WITH THE NUDITY AND EROPLAY IN MY WORK. BY TAKING “SEXUAL” ACTS AND SINCERELY PUTTING THEM INTO A DIFFERENT CONTEXT, I CREATE ANOTHER REALITY, ANOTHER WAY OF RELATING. I ALSO CREATE CONFLICT WITH THE NORMAL REALITY—AND THAT CONFLICT MAY CHANGE, IN AN UNDERGROUND SORT OF A WAY, THE NORMAL REALITY. I THINK ART—OR AT LEAST THIS KIND OF ART—SHOULD CREATE CONFLICT AND CHANGE. AND I LIKE RELATING WITH PEOPLE IN THIS “UNNORMAL” WAY. THIS IS WHY I DO PERFORMANCE.
The Edge is an avant-garde company of actors and artist, founded and directed by Frank. The Edge is focused on subversion, on magic on altering reality … and is not afraid of combining individual arts together.
We met Jonathan when he answered one of our CALLBOARD ads. CALLBOARD is a straight Bay Area theater listing publication that we would sometimes list in.
Our ad read:
Cutting Edge Productions is casting for males & females for THE EDGE, a company of experimental theatre and performance art.
Jonathan had moved to San Francisco from the mid-west with his wife and was scheduled to study at ACT (American Conservatory Theater) in the fall and had been looking for something to do for the summer and signed on to work with Frank as part of Frank’s weekly workshop in Performance that we did at a local private kids’ school in a space we rented.
We met Suzanna when she attended one of our first “Wrapping/Rocking” performances at The Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco in 1986. She worked with Frank for a few years.
Mary was living with us at this point. She had been working with Frank since the 1970s and had been part of the Outrageous Beauty Revue.
Here is the text from a poster for the UCB series that featured The Edge:
Friends of the Studio
free series of live performances
in Frank Moore’s
supported by a grant from The National Endowment for Arts
7 P.M. at Rm. 125 Dwinelle, U.C. Berkeley
Thursday – September 4, September 18, October 2, October 30, November 13, December 4, 1986
Experimental Reality is not passive entertainment. Experimental Reality is not television.
Experimental Reality is a taboo-breaking series of improvised mischievous avant-garde performances which at first appear childishly simple, but which devilishly suck the audience into a surreal and sensual underground where even serious can become silly without social straight-jackets to spoil their fun. Each piece is designed to goose your mind and morality … among other things. These pieces make the audience an active element in the magic of art theatre.
Frank Moore is a nationally recognized controversial performance artist who always tries to create a dream reality in which anything is possible. He will use this series to develop productions for San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City.
The Edge is an avant-garde company of actors and artist, founded and directed by Frank. The Edge is focused on subversion, on magic on altering reality … and is not afraid of combining individual arts together.
Another performance, July 1986, Walden School, Berkeley, California. Frank & Jonathan “King Lear” with Suzanna and Mary
Frank created a brochure:
Here is what Frank wrote in December 1986, at the end of the year of his NEA grant:
From NEA Fellowship October 1, 1985 – October 1, 1986: Grant #51-4111-0456 December 2, 1986
What my N.E.A. Fellowship did for my art career this year was give me a new freedom. I could put my ideas directly into action without being limited by a lack of money. But this new freedom was not totally financial. Having the N.E.A. opened up performance and lecture venues which had been before denied to me.
But it also opened minds to my art and philosophy, making it much easier to get spaces, audiences, and actors for my work. My work could thus go much further in its content … it could explore new depths of magic.
The year started with a performance tour of southern California. This included performances at University of California at San Diego, the Anti Club in L.A. and Babel – a group show in L.A. Through this tour I met such performance artists as Eleanor Antin, Rachel Rosenthal, Allan Kaprow. These meetings gave me more of a sense of an artists’ community in which to do my work. This tour also planted the seeds for a group of young artists who work in my productions in L.A.
After this tour, The Inter-section for the Arts in San Francisco asked me to do my “Wrapping/Rocking” for two nights.
The Southern California tour stirred up the desire in me to have an avant-garde performance company in the Bay Area. To this end, I founded The Edge. I started leading a weekly workshop for my new group in a rented gym.
With The Edge, I have developed my bi-weekly performance series at University of California at Berkeley into a free and freeing taboo-breaking event with an average audience of 30 questioning students.
In private performances with a number of people of all walks of life, I have refined my concept of EROPLAY and of performance. I have been asked to give lectures at the San Francisco Art Institute three times this year. I also broadcasted my art and philosophy in a four-hour live program on KPFA public radio.
The year climaxed with an L.A. five-hour performance of my “Cave of Dream”, which I consider to be my best work to date. In it, I combined The Edge with my L.A. group to form a cast of 15 to create a complex surreal basket of reality. This performance alone would have been impossible for me without the freedom of the N.E.A.
Moreover, the N.E.A. created a momentum which will carry over next year to a performance in Denver at the Art. Dept. Gallery and an East Coast tour, including a production of “Cave of Dream” in N.Y.C. at Franklin Furnace.
During the rehearsals of Glamour, when the strip joint got unbearably boring after hours upon hours, I took a walk along Broadway, into what then was the West Coast hardcore punk center, the Mabuhay Gardens or the “Fab Mab”. Since I did not have anything else to do, I asked the gruff manager if I could do my next production at his club. To my surprise, Dirk Dirksen was a visionary who, instead of seeing a crip asking for a hand-out, saw me somehow as a misfit artist perfect for his new wave cabaret. Dirk gave me a sheltered theater for six years, with complete artistic freedom and moral support. The first production was a raping of a high-brow comedy, Meb, which I turned into a multi-media farce, full of camp, nudity, sex, violence and rock’n’roll. The straight playwright walked out in horror, the club owner wanted us out, and only a handful of people came. But Dirk wanted to extend the run. He loved it.
Frank had a slideshow projected onto the back wall of the stage while segments of the play were happening that featured the “war hero”. We did a photo shoot for this slideshow at Tilden Park where the “war hero” was fighting Linda, “the babe.” Here are some of the photos from that shoot and the poster (all by Ken Jennings):
After a second parade had gotten out of hand and turned into dulling sleaze, I organized an indoor multi-media carnival in a large San Francisco warehouse, The Farm, where adults could play like kids in a safe environment. Providing adult playgrounds is one of the basic goals of my work. Since I think playing is a safe, mind-altering drug, I called my carnival The Erotic Test after The Acid Test of the Merry Pranksters.
Public performances naturally evolved from what was created from the workshop. The first major public piece was a fantasy costume parade through Berkeley, flaunting brightly painted skin and see-through costumes of net and lace. The parade ended up with a free punk concert in the park. I have talked about how my art is not made of separate public pieces but is an evolving monster. For example, in this parade, an inner character of one of the cast members, Diane Hall, emerged (photo below). This character was a middle-aged, middle-America-on-acid, fast nonsense talking, dizzy dame in a skin-tight Frederick’s of Hollywood gown, long fake eye lashed, and a two-foot beehive bleached blonde wig with blinking Christmas lights. This creature grabbed the mike away from the hippie M.C. Wavy Gravy, and started hosting the concert. A year later, when I needed a bridge between a wacky stage show and the audience, I brought back this Woolworth babe.
This “note” was written by Frank in October 1993 after the October 9 “Passion Quest” performance at Passion Flower in Oakland. The March 19, 1994, “Passion Quest 2,” also at Passion Flower, incorporates the changes Frank talks about in this note. The scripts for both performances are available to download below under each poster.
Here is Frank’s note:
Yesterday I rewrote sections of the all-night ritual…partly in response to the increasing anti-sex environment of our culture (I wanted to make it clearer that the work is NOT anti-sexual)…and partly (mainly) following the desire of the ritual itself to go into different, “deeper” physical trance states. (“Deeper” is a misleading term because of its vertical linearity.)
These are some of the new sections:
“WE ARE GOING ON A NONLINEAR JOURNEY, A TRANCE JOURNEY, A JOURNEY BEYOND TIME AND TABOO, A JOURNEY OF PLAY, A JOURNEY TO LILA. FOR THIS JOURNEY, I NEED HEROS WHO ARE WILLING TO GO INTO THE TABOO AREAS OF EROPLAY, WILLING TO PUSH BEYOND WHERE IT IS COMFORTABLE AND SAFE TO EXPLORE AND BUILD A LARGER ZONE OF SAFENESS. ONE ADVANTAGE OF WORKING IN A SMALL ENCLOSED SPACE IS IT FOCUSES THE ENERGY, BUILDING UP PRIMAL FORCES. ALSO, BY HAVING OUR PLAYING EXIST WITHIN THE SACRED CIRCLE OF RITUAL, OUR PLAYING CAN BE DONE OUTSIDE THE CONTEXT OF TABOOS, WITHOUT BEING INFLUENCED BY JUDGMENTS OF THE AUDIENCE. SO THE PLAY, WITHIN THE EROPLAY RITUALS, CAN BE INTENSE, VULNERABLE, AND MAGICAL WITHOUT ANYTHING SEXUAL ABOUT IT. THIS ENERGY THEN WILL BE LEAKED OUT FROM THE ENCLOSED SPACE INTO THE OPEN PERFORMANCE SPACE, BECOMING THE MOST POWERFUL THING HAPPENING IN THAT PLACE. USING THE MAGICAL STATE RELEASED BY OUR PLAYING, THE DUEL-BODIED ROCKING JOYOUS FIGURE OF LILA WILL CARRY US IN A TRANCE, THROUGH SEX, TO WHAT IS BEYOND…TO THE REALM OF ALL-POSSIBILITIES.”
“EROPLAY AND WHAT IS USUALLY CALLED “SEX” ARE BUT TWO OF MANY WAYS TO RELEASE AND CHANNEL THE ENERGY OF PHYSICAL PLAY. IN THE WESTERN CULTURE, THESE MANY WAYS HAVE BEEN HIDDEN FROM US WITHIN SEX. EROPLAYING WILL LEAD US TO DISCOVERING THESE MANY OTHER WAYS. EROPLAY IS NOT ANTI-SEXUAL ANYMORE THAN WALKING IS ANTI-SWIMMING.”
During the years I was exploring just eroplay trance in my work, I found that people in their head would pull themselves out of the playing when the play reached a certain intensity. What was happening was they were stepping out of the play to check if the play had turned from eroplay into sexual. Most of the time, this stepping back and checking was not from mistrust or not wanting to play, but from a carefulness and a confusion. But what the stepping back does is remove the person from the experiencing (playing) mode into the thinking/observing mode. This creates the jerkiness which is not pleasurable. This greatly limits the playing/experiencing, greatly increasing the confusion factor. It took me several years to come up with a way around this dynamic. I finally started asking people before they committed to the work if they would be willing to use sex in the work. This willingness bypassed a lot of pulling back, jerkiness, confusion, carefulness…and the whole sexual question…allowing the person to experience the play with the intensity unlimited. The play remained eroplay. The reasons that the play needed to remain eroplay rather than sexual in the work were practical rather than moral.
When the work turned to exploring, mapping, other physical trances “closer” to “sexual”, the need for this willingness grew for practical reasons.
The eroplay rituals will stay about the same, with only a slight widening of the frame. The real change will be in the WRAPPING/ROCKING ritual in that the rocking couple will have a wider “keyboard” of gestures, including “sexual” (really sursexual or tansexual). This new range of possibilities will effect the ritual…even on the nights when the couple (really the trance) happen not to “use” the “sexual” gestures.
During the WRAPPING/ROCKING ritual, the “audience” sit and watch and are wrapped together by nude body-painted dancers. The physical focus, the physical trance generator, is the rocking couple who are using the wider keyboard. The rocking couple are a female cast member (Linda in recent performances) and me. I’m not sure the audience will be aware of the widening…but they will be effected by it. The eroplay rituals in which the “audience” physically participate more remain the same.
Frank’s work will now be archived in a new performance art research library in Istanbul, Turkey, the Live Art Research Space.
We were contacted by Performistanbul requesting a donation of Frank’s work to their archiving project. As a result, all of Frank’s digitized videos (almost 1000), and all of his published books will be added to the collection, plus other publications, a collection of posters, some original performance scripts, paraphernalia from Frank’s 2008 Presidential campaign, and more.
Performistanbul Live Art Research Space will focus on archiving, documenting and exhibiting performance art while providing space and resources for doing research.
“Over the course of our conversations and collaborations with performance art experts in the past two years, the need to conduct further research and access the means by which to do so has become ever more pressing. To this end, Performistanbul has decided to create the Live Art Research Space to meet the needs of students and researchers working in the field of performance art both locally and globally.”
“Performistanbul believes in the uniting and healing power of performance art, which is at the same time, a very effective tool to reach out to people around the world. This has motivated us to plant the seeds of discovering and creating new languages in the field of live art and as a first step, we decided to establish a specialized library and an archive of more than 7000 physical and digital resources within the research space. Planning to open in 2018, the Live Art Research Space will also launch Performistanbul Publishing, aiming to publish new books as well as translated books in Turkish.”