loud doctor judge voices kept pronouncing no intelligence, no future, no spark, just a black hole drain… put him forgotten memories institution.
family screaming voices over thanksgiving and christmas table accused the mother’s sins taken out on the son… the son there listening crying for 13 years.
kids were pulled away… maybe it’s contagious. kids were slapped away for looking at the slobbering doll.
adults, keeping the doll for awhile to give the poor woman a break saying over coffee, why does she keep him, no future, can never do anything… sure, he understands… but more the pity… understanding doom… look at him listening to us in the chair… 4 years old and doomed to can not.
abandoned at 5… hospital, their excuse, a baby brother being born, then me with chickenpox… but i knew it was because i shit too much, pissed too much… so i held it in until i couldn’t anymore… and then sat in it because i needed too many baths. sat in it until after college… it was the least a burden such as i could do!
they were going to leave me again….. the floppy ugly thick-lipped, buck-tooth dumbo-ear no-future me… for 2 years… i’d be 10 before i’d see them again… if then… but my hives put an end to that!
frames steel and leather pinched, rub blisters, rub raw red sores from hips to ankles, framing imprisoning chaining this gross abnormal beast down into the sacred appearance of normalcy, that abstract state. if the beast crossed his legs, the illusion would crack… so wedge a lead bar between these frustrated legs for 26 years… never mind it pinches his balls. he will just watch tv all his life.
me lying on a hard table, listening to the professionals discussing my doomed fate. me only in underpants. they want always to cut open my body and brain. i knew kids who were twisted zombies after doctors cut them open. doctors want to give me drugs to stop my slobbering and to tranquilize my body into the american dream… or in the ballpark. they settled on daily physical torture.
dad missed my ninth birthday party for a bender…. babbling drunkenly later about how he loved me. teachers bribing one another about who would get the freak. one quit. but the professionals decided the schools weren’t equipped to handle such a creature. sentenced to isolation with mother in the towers… with daily outings to physical tortures. bent fingers, arms, legs so far into unnatural positions that it took three of them to do it, so far i screamed in pain, screaming i want to be normal. i lied, i never wanted that! one time i stuck my hand up into their cunts. they rubbed ice all over my body, then brushed me hard with a house paint brush. i awoke when i was 13 after an operation to pull my balls down, i awoke to hear one nurse saying to another, “why did they bother, no woman would make love with him.” mom once told me, “any girl who would want you must be crazy.” in the towers, i lost my hearing. the teenage “babysitter” blindfolded 14-year old me so i couldn’t see her and two girlfriends dance sexually with one another.
dad was pissed. he couldn’t hit a crip. so every night at the dinertable he would scream at my brother, humiliated my brother, backhand slapped my brother, whipped my brother with a belt…. and then exited to the local bar. i always cried. my high school teacher made me eat clorets because my breathe and body odor stank bad. college wouldn’t take me because my slobbering would offend and distract other students. airlines used this logic to not let me on their planes.
rubbing myself into climax in college, nothing came out like before. orgasms weren’t messy like before… before that bladder operation. curious, i went to the college nurse, who checked with the doctor who didn’t see any reason to tell a 27-year old virgin ugly rag doll about the side-effect of the operation of no-mess orgasm… after all, rag dolls don’t have sex or kids… we don’t want to have more rag dolls! my would-be mother-in-law told my would-be wife “marry somebody else… and adopt frank!” she said a lot more choice things… but time and space are limited. but she did bribe every justice of the peace for miles around to not marry us.
if you don’t shut-up, you spoiled brat… living with old drunk male nurse who kept rag dolls in their place by punching them out. lived with him for 6-months… until he pulled a loaded gun on me. then i screamed him to sleep. a knife at the crashpad… if i didn’t stop laughing at him… i wasn’t laughing. a paper dixie cup at the headshop… if i didn’t start talking, he’d push it down my throat. never mind the hitman. never mind linda’s mafia papa. and i’m sure i’ve forgotten a lot. my first french kiss was from a guy who then tried to rape me putting his penis in my mouth. i like french kissing.
Cherotic Magic by Frank Moore by Barbara Smith, 1991
Due to complex reasons of historical conditions and need, artists from the industrialized nations of the world more or less simultaneously (late 1950’s – early 1970’s) felt a depth of experience uncontainable in ordinary and available cultural forms. They emerged with a language of remarkable similarity – clearly felt in retrospect to be shamanic and whose purposes extended far beyond the realm of the commercialized art market. One of these performance artists is Frank Moore who has just published an introductory manual for prospective apprentices in shamanic/art practices. The book is also a very helpful means of access to this particular realm of performance art for the historian and student.
Moore, paradoxically a severely disabled cerebral palsied human being, who cannot clearly utter a single word is simultaneously a clear and eloquent writer about a reality-shifting form of art he calls Cherotic Magic and a spectacularly courageous, ecstatic journeyer and practitioner of shamanic transformational art.
Reversing the ideas of normal causality, his book guides one towards powerful experiences of re-integration into a unified field of consciousness brought about by the apprenticeship. The radical purposes of the book initiate a teacher/student relationship more appropriately similar to a guru situation than the normal art student context which we all know can be one which borders on charismatic adulation. Rather, the relationship is intended to awaken and restructure the whole being with access to an interrelated “web of all possibilities,” a potentiated ground of existence, from which the student may return empowered with energy, vision and unflinching faith to change the so-called reality structure of this fragmented and specialized culture. The process is a form of magic, which inspires a sense of body wholeness and aliveness where the personal power is to be found. A manual of faith and a description of the nature of apprenticeship, the book is a clarification of the sort of contractual agreement one enters with a teacher, rarely stipulated but here clearly spelled out. This agreement is one of mutual responsibility where the risk is clearly seen to be taken by both parties.
Having explored these realms a good deal myself both in terms of self-discovery and also with teachers, I find the book to be rigorously tough in its demands (on the potential student and quite naturally the teacher as well), and it also very clearly describes qualities required (such as trust) and the benefits to be gained in these explorations (such as love).
Moore has broken the apprenticeship into segments with re-entry periods back into ordinary life between the intervals in order to accommodate Western students’ difficulty in going through the lengthy course in a sustained fashion. The fact that the student must exhibit a deep and long-term calling, will or faith to repeatedly return to the teaching is Moore’s greatest risk, for spiritual apprenticeship is not a common practice in Western culture. This is a little known fact that the apprenticeship entails risk in the making and/or breaking of the relationship not only in regard to the student but more so for the teacher.
Moore speaks of the a-logical interaction, as a journey along which student and teacher become soul mirrors. Moore is not seeking a following, however. He states to his credit, I believe, that such work is highly personal and requires one-to-one attention and becomes non-productive when he has many followers.
The radical nature of this esoteric apprenticeship practice includes the breaking of social mores and taboos in order to reach direct experience particularly in the realm of conventional sexuality. Moore clearly states however that the touching and erotic playing involved (Eroplay) is not driven by the goal of sexual intercourse, but is the refreshing awakening of what he calls Cherotic energy which becomes a free fund of available and heightened “juice” for healing and creativity. (These teachings parallel quite exactly the teachings I’ve experienced from my Native American shaman teacher and also Tantric practices.)
My first response to reading Cherotic Magic is one of resonance and appreciation, the feeling of knowing very deeply that of which he speaks as true and uncompromising. He gives examples and authentication through powerfully written, illuminating stories about his own early life of terrible isolation and study; the breakthroughs which allowed him to finally believe in his own intelligence, joy and beauty and to receive the powerful inner flow of intrinsically experienced wisdom and knowledge of these liberating teachings. These life passages correspond to such experiences of mystics everywhere. I appreciate many things about this book, not the least of which are the words Moore has coined to name certain qualities and goals of his work (such as Eroplay and Chero). One such word Erour, means vulnerable strength. Its meaning corresponds exactly to my own early performance experience. In the past, I put myself in very psychologically risky positions in performances and I was frequently criticized for doing so as if I were “hurting myself”. My own experience was quite to the contrary, although I was in fact going to “the place of fear or pain or constraint” in myself with vulnerability and because I deliberately chose to do so, it was an act of strength and I returned with released energy and power.
If anything in his book is weak, it is this issue of authority and how to define the limits (and/or goals) of guru/student practice. It is weak not because I think Frank is either weak or inauthentic … but because we live in a spiritually naïve culture. Most people I imagine are cynics. The book is not written for such people as there is no language that I know of to convince them a priori to any experience which in itself is convincing. Further, the way one meets one’s teachers in life is often inherently mysterious and a unique process. Perhaps the only ways a potential student can judge such persons and situations have first of all to do with one’s depth of calling and an experienced synchronicity. Failing that, one needs to feel one may leave the teacher at any time despite the pressure to stay and one can also inquire of former students as to their experience.
For me, it would be advantageous if he could paint a picture of what completion might look like. Is it simply staying the course (twelve years for a resident; seven on, five off approximately / seven days for the introductory course)? The difficulty is that completion of such a practice might look very different in each of the “graduates” and only a sense of demonstrable knowing and changed behavior would be adequate.
The book is replete with black and white drawings by Michael LaBash. Depending on prior biases, they can appear to be psychedelically violent and visceral with a heavy emphasis on sex. They are intricate intertwinings of interpenetrating fields which writhe over the entire drawing area with no central image. Rather, naked figures whole or in parts of both sexes and composite hermaphrodites with breasts and cocks weave in an out of planes and orifices. As I have said, Moore speaks in the text of making clear how Eroplay is not to be thought of as driving for sex or focused on it. Rather it comes from a presexual state of infancy, yet here the drawings are strongly sexual in my view and often horrific. (No doubt, however, not meant so much to be sexual as frank (pun intended).
Moore’s writing about the ethics of commitment is a powerful critique of our shallow culture. What he says rings true and created a sense of gratitude in me and inner resolution. He speaks with great personal authority.
In the general dialog of art and culture this form of art appears to be the most difficult to speak about partly due to its radicality and partly because it re-integrates art into religion, magic, belief, and effect. It means and makes change. I, myself have twice come to a bifurcation point re: some need to synthesize art as I practice it somewhat within the cultural dialog and spaces of my profession as against a chosen spiritual path (Buddhism or Native American teachings). I finally had to ask the question: which was my core path, art or the spiritual path? And could the creative process itself be a path to spiritual awakening and inner knowledge? Or was a core of spirit teachings the only way and the art must be derived from it. Not the least of which is the question of feminism. The female spiritual journey is for me a major issue within this questioning.
Moore himself raises the question of Shamanism /as art – /as performance – /as therapy. He cites performance as the bed of mystical initiation, rites of passage, mystical ceremonies where art/science, philosophy, and psychology and theology merge and become whole once again. Here, we may experience these things as at once ancient and strange. The breaking of restricting taboos and inner barriers moves towards a place not of isolated individualism, but one of connectedness both in the interior landscapes and with each other.
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
Published in New Observations Issue #1, May/June 1994 and many other publications.
This will be personal. But the personal level is the key to understanding the cultural, artistic, and political movement which is taking back technology into the personal control of anyone who has something to say, something to create. It is personal technology, anarchistic technology. It is not like cable T.V. which we were told ten years ago would liberate the person by giving him intimate and direct information and communication channels…but which today is simply more channels for the money types who have always controlled the communication flowing through mass media…just more monopolized channels for passive entertainment, selling, and manipulation of information and of reality. The only exception to this is the local access channels which are kept in the closet and are always in danger of being axed by the cable company. These access channels are a part of the personal technology.
Personal technology is basically a slip up of what I have called elsewhere “the combine plot”. I took the term “combine” from the Ken Kesey novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The combine plot is a hidden dynamic system of power, control, and interest that keeps the tools of creation and of effective change out of the hands of the common people. This keeps the people powerless, keeping the power within an elite. The tools of effective change have been kept out of the hands of the common people by false rituals of education, money, and bulky expensive equipment which took a cult knowledge to operate. Added to this maze of creative blocks were the false myths about talent and the acceptable quality levels needed to reach people, acceptable quality levels below which people are trained to not watch or listen.
All of this is too abstract and philosophical. In this article, I will try to pull these issues down into the real world by using my own artistic experiences as a context. But it is important to realize at the beginning that personal technology, anarchistic technology is still technology. All technology has hidden, built-in links to the established order of isolation and fragmentation. These links can frustrate attempts to use technology to subvert the established reality. Only by being always aware of these links to isolation and fragmentation inherent in all technology, can technology be safely used as a tool of cultural subversion. This fact again banged me over the head when I was talking to a successful musician who didn’t understand why all performers do not stop touring, considering the pollution caused by traveling…and do what he does, which is do everything through telecommunications. I just said you can not touch through phones, computers, videos…and even through writing. To restore humanity to our culture by using technology, we must know and admit the limitations of that technology.
All technology is a double-edged sword. This includes the very first communication technology…writing/reading. We usually think of the invention of writing as extremely liberating. And in so many ways it was. But in so many other ways it confined humanity. For one thing, it placed a fixed linear frame of thinking within the human brain much more than spoken language had done. Moreover, writing/reading created a very exclusive elite for most of the known human history. Before writing, everyone knew the tribal language…everyone knew how to paint, sing, dance. Information flowed both between people and within time to the future through this tribal accessible language both of spoken word and of art. If information did not flow through this tribal channel, that information was lost. All of this changed when writing was invented. Now there was a channel that was not accessible to everyone, a channel that did not easily lose information. Those who could access this channel had power. Because of this, for most of recorded history, the skill of reading/writing was monopolized by the ruling elite to maintain its power. This was true even after a larger minority gained limited access to the flowing channel of writing. One of the ways the elite maintained its control was by withdrawing the important ideas…dangerous ideas…both sacred and profane, away from the common people, withdrawing the dangerous ideas into a dead language such as Latin or Greek. Only the members of the elite who went through the rituals of education of the established order (be it religious, political, and/or class) could read or speak this dead language of power. There was another channel of flowing information which was folk art, folk music, and folk words, be it written or spoken. This folk channel was accessible to everyone. It was a dynamic, interactive channel of communication. But the full force of this folk channel was always kept in check by the elite channel with the myth that anything which comes through the folk channel was not worthy or important because it did not come from the hidden knowledge.
This control by the elite did not start to break down until the printing press became cost-accessible to the members of the common people. This opened to the common people a communication channel which was not rooted in physical time…that is, you write something and someone within another time, another place reads exactly what you thought. This is the real force which was unlocked by the printing press, and not the ability to reach mass amounts of people. Without the printing press being to a large degree accessible to the forces of change, the American and French Revolutions may not have happened.
But the elite quickly developed strategies to limit access for the common people to this printing channel. The elite spread the myth that to be really effective, a writer had to go through the rituals of the educational system, and then be blessed by being recognized by the publishing factory, which became increasingly massive and impersonal. Self-publishing was labeled “vanity press”. The presses that offered this service were seen as cons, as scams. Writers who used this service were thought of as untalented fools who got conned. The individual who believed in this myth of the power of the corporate media system to bestow access to communications, and to bestow validity through acceptance, was frozen out of any real position for subversive change.
All of this is an historical background on which I can talk about the issues of personal technology, anarchistic technology in the context of cultural subversion.
I started out in the late ’60s writing for underground papers as a political columnist…sneaking into the mimeograph room at school to run off a hundred copies under the protection of a friendly teacher. Of course, the teacher always, as well as us, got into hot water…and the access to the mimeograph machine was closed. No access, no underground paper. There was not any question about our buying our own mimeograph machine…no money.
But it took only a year or so for the underground press to move from the mimeograph stage into being run off at offset print shops. The underground press had its roots going back through the radical press of the ’20s and ’30s and in the poetry press. The kind of person who put out these papers poured all their personal money into it, then hoped by selling ads, selling papers, by magic, the paper would stay afloat. There was rarely any question of making money on it. But when your nest egg, your dead aunt’s money, ads, sales, or whatever was supporting your rag ran out, that paper of visions died. But there was always a new paper being born to fill the empty space.
There was a rejection of the old standards of quality of both form and content which had kept the common people from creating. As a result of this rejection, a new way of looking at art, politics, and life was thus created. The underground press became so effective that by the early ’70s there were over 700 of these papers and an underground press network. It became so effective that the F.B.I. targeted the underground press for destruction by a covert war. By using the fact that the underground papers rarely had direct access to a printing press, and by using the organization which developed around the underground press, the F.B.I. and the rest of the combine could bring the underground press into control, into the fold.
Around this time, I rejected politics as a means for effective subversive change, and began looking towards art and magic for an effective channel. I took a film-making course, learning the technical rituals of 16mm. 16mm was then the home movie technology. But when I did the technological rituals of lighting, shooting, splicing, etc., they took me away from the actual magic of doing. Hidden within these technological rituals are deadening roadblocks to direct personal creative communications. Roadblocks can be gotten around. But why bother when there are direct alternative routes?
After the film course, I still had no money to make films. One road would have been to put my time and energy into getting money or a position to make films. But I always have mistrusted the myth of changing the system from within. It never works. Once you compromised, modified, changed, distorted both yourself and your message to get the media channel, why bother sending the message? The system myth is a major vacuum that sucks creative power away from people by putting vast amounts of time between the person and the act of creation. Whether the myth is of waiting to get enough money, education, or power before you create, the effect is the same…waiting for Godot.
For these reasons, I created a no/low tech form of live performance which did not need money, theater space, sets, stage lighting, approval, or a particular audience size. This no/low tech form is vital to work which is culturally subversive by expanding the concept of sexuality and reality beyond the frame of taboos.
For me as a no/low tech artist, the personal technology, anarchistic technology is a very important dimension. I first realized this when I was trying to get established in N.Y.C. in the early ’70s. I could not find out about art events until after the fact when I read about them in THE VILLAGE VOICE. So I couldn’t go to them. So I couldn’t meet people with whom I could have gotten something going. One reason for this was there was very little flyering. In N.Y.C., organized crime has a monopoly on putting up posters. I did not realize how much no flyering isolated people until I moved to Berkeley where on every telephone pole, there were 10, 20, 30 flyers. Anyone who has an event, a group, a cause, something to say, can go to a xerox place, run off hundreds, or even thousands of flyers and staple them up all over town. This direct two-way form of the press plugged me immediately into the community where I could do my work.
We have to start seeing flyering, be it on telephone poles or on computer bulletin boards, as a form of personal press, and as such is protected under the freedom of press. Big Brother comes in many forms from the mafia to government (down to the anti-flyer laws as part of a city’s “beautification” campaign) to corporations such as A.T.&T. and Blockbuster Videos.
Just recently I saw the power of this direct personal press. For years I have not been able to be booked in the “alternative” performance galleries in the Bay Area for various reasons…so I put 500 “too controversial for the Bay Area” flyers up asking for leads to spaces in which to perform. From the very first flyer we put up came three good leads into the true alternative art scene. Moreover, the flyer directly exposed the true condition of the established “alternative” art world.
This direct exposing is one of the strengths of the personal technology, anarchistic technology in the context of cultural subversion. Be it a camcorder capturing police brutality or a xerox zine publishing radical heretofore unpublishable material, the effect is to decentralize power, putting it into the personal level. I noticed this again last year when Senator Jesse Helms targeted me for investigation for my art. With only one exception, no one from the regular press contacted me to get my reaction or story. Some of the art magazines printed my open letter to Helms and my article on censorship. But I reached a wide national audience when THE SPIRITUAL REVOLUTIONARY (TSR), a newsletter zine by S/R PRESS, printed both. While TSR has a small readership, other zines reprinted my two pieces from TSR, without my permission but without editing. Then still other zines reprinted the material from those zines. The effect of this anarchistic grapevine of xerox zines is I had exposure to a wide national audience which was made up of small subcultures.
The combine recognizes the uncontrollable force represented by the direct personal communications through the anarchistic technology. The combine is trying to put this genie back in the bottle. The easiest, and the most obvious way to do this is to censor the physical channels…be it phone lines, the mail, or T.V./radio waves.
But there are hidden means by which the combine can thwart the direct personal use of technology. One of these is making equipment such as computers, obsolete every six months, not for any real functional improvement, but for progress. The effect of habitual upgrading is not only that we keep having to buy new soft/hardware, but it also creates a false mystery around the computer very much like the dead language of Latin did in the Dark Ages.
But the best way for the combine to curb the use of personal technology is by the standards of “professional quality”.
When I xerox-published by first two books, I did not run into this wall of “professional quality”. This is because I sold them directly, personally at my performances, as well as by the mail through a review in BOX OF WATER.
But when S/R PRESS xerox-published by book, CHEROTIC MAGIC, we took it, along with my zine THE CHEROTIC rEVOLUTIONARY, around to bookstores. The reason why a lot of the bookstores gave for not carrying the book was not the written or the visual contents of the book, but that it had a spiral binding, rather than a regular binding. Having a regular binding would boost the cost out of the realm of personal level and into the traditional publishing with its concerns of mass sales. Kyle Griffith is fond of saying that if the book’s format is too revolutionary for a bookstore, then the content is also…so it would serve no purpose for us to try to package it differently. I must quickly add that there are quite a few bookstores that are not locked into buying solely from a distributor, that will carry personal xerox-published books and zines. Moreover, there are bookstores devoted to personal xerox publications…for example, METROPOPHOBOBIA in, of all places, Phoenix! These outlets for personal publications will multiply in the coming years.
I have dealt with the barriers of format and technology to personal direct human involvement in every medium I have tried. A lot of people have assumed this was because I was poor, did not know how to get grants, did not know how to use technology, or did not know how to use the system. In reality, even if I had tons of money, I would still use the same no/low tech, because that is the best way to take back the creative force from the combine…back into the hands of anyone with a creative urge…or, for that matter, a destructive urge.
Since we are communicating on the personal level, you can send feedback, inquiries, or whatever to me at:
Frank Moore P.O. Box 11445 Berkeley, CA 94712 e-mail: email@example.com
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 Leigh Gates, Michael LaBash, Alexi Malenky & Rourke Smith
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)
Today we shipped the box to Performistanbul in Istanbul, Turkey!!!
Among the contents are a hard drive of almost 1000 of Frank’s videos, copies of Frank’s books, tons of posters (hard and digital copies), original scripts, original xerox copies of Frank’s writings and lots of miscellaneous stuff!!
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.
Published in The Drama Review (TDR) in 1991 and in various magazines and newspapers throughout the U.S.A. The letter was read at the Anti-Censorship Procession in San Francisco, California and was buried in the ART TIME CAPSULE along with Frank’s “The Combine Plot” at the same event. This letter was also read at Cooper Union Hall, New York, New York, as part of a STOP JESSE HELMS fund raiser in 1990.
Here is the letter:
Enough is enough. I have read in the L.A. TIMES and THE VILLAGE VOICE that you have the General Accounting Office investigating Karen Finley, Johanna Went, Cheri Gaulke, and myself. Why are you going behind our backs? Why aren’t you talking directly to us artists, instead of having the G.A.O., at the taxpayers’ expense, going to the galleries and the theaters we have performed in to ask veiled questions about us?
Here I am. Let’s talk, man to man. It is the American Way. What do you want to know about me? You had my address because I sent you my article about how I think what you are doing is patently offensive to the Bill of Rights. After all, it is the American Way to directly confront your opponent, giving him a chance to answer, and giving the people a dialog. But you did not send me a letter. You sent the G.A.O.
This is not an investigation for information. It is an investigation for extortion. It is part of the campaign to smear us four artists — as well as Holly Hughes, Tim Miller, Annie Sprinkle and John Fleck — as untouchable, unfundable, unbookable. The paint that is used to smear is that of “obscene artists”. Are you trying to find out whether or not our work falls into the legal definition of obscene? Have you seen my performances or even talked to anyone who has? Have you read my writings on art in professional and scholarly journals, or my resume of over 20 years? I think not.
I think you know you can not show that any of us untouchable eight are even remotely legally obscene. So you and your ilk are trying to create the atmosphere of fear by using the extortion tactics of the mafia. The N.E.A. chairman, Frohnmayer, used this atmosphere of fear, under the catchy phrase “certain political reality”, to take away the N.E.A. grants from Finley, Hughes, Fleck and Miller. Your extortion is what has created this political reality.
This extortion is an attempt to blacklist us untouchable eight and other artists who have the nerve to do difficult art. This so-called investigation is really the extortionist’s message to galleries that, if they book us or artists like us, they are risking the possibility of funding being cut off, of being audited, of being closed down by the fire department, of being hassled by the vice squad and other governmental agencies. All of which has occurred to the galleries that have booked us untouchable eight.
Why are you closing channels of expression and of funding to me without due process of law? It is a political and cultural blacklist under the cover of obscenity. Extortion and blacklists are against the American ideals and spirit.
If you have anything to say to me or to ask me, come to talk to me man to man. Otherwise, get your big brother foot off my back.
In Freedom, Frank Moore, 1990
This is the article that set off the Jesse Helms GAO investigation back in 1990. Thanks to Harley Spiller at Franklin Furnace for pulling this article out of their archives for us!!