Frank’s announcement for his performance at DADAFEST 2003:
THE SHAMAN’S SHELTER FROM THE STORM DADAFEST, July 11 & 12, 2003 Somarts Gallery, S.F.
For this year’s DADAFEST, I’m doing the longest continuous performance I have attempted since the 48-hour DYING IS SEXY in Toronto in 1999.
From midnight Friday July 11 to midnight Saturday…within the madness that is DADAFEST…I will be in THE SHAMAN’S SHELTER FROM THE STORM, giving out magical mantras and secret gestures, doing pantanic rituals, conducting deep core music, going into trances of controlled folly, etc…all to give people WHO DARE TO COME IN magical ways to survive the upcoming TOTAL DESTRUCTION OF “CIVILIZATION”! bring your bodies, musical instruments, voices, and desires to jam with me for an hour or 2, or to spend the night with me, or to just peek in, or totally lose time itself!
THE SHAMAN’S SHELTER FROM THE STORM will be somewhere in THE SOMARTS GALLERY, 934 Brannan. s.f.
Frank wrote this after the performance:
Sunday, July 13, 2003
Well, we here are recovering from this weekend’s DADAFEST. It was quite amazing. It was much closer to the true spirit of dada than ever before. Katy and Blue took risks and by most accounts we were getting within the cave, most of the artists [and most of the audience] rose to the higher level. I can’t judge because I was in the cave for most of the 24 hours. But that was the buzz and the vibe of it. But the fact that they went outside of the socially acceptable time frame lost them press coverage and the Beach Blanket Babylon crowd. But to the dada credit of Katy and Blue…and almost everyone else…this wasn’t seen as a negative, but getting back to the dada roots. If they do it again, they now will have a good base. Just on the level of the sheer work and organizing of doing a 24-hour event that created a large and relaxed community of artists, it was quite an impressive undertaking that worked!
For this year’s DADAFEST, I did the longest continuous performance I have attempted since the 48-hour DYING IS SEXY in Toronto in 1999. We made an intimate cave out of a great portable 10×10 gazebo and the LaBash backdrops. When needed, Mikee and Linda would go out people hunting, coming back with willing victims. I lost my band that would have been outside the cave for the whole 24 hours, attracting people and would have provided just one more continuous thread to the piece. But as it was, these people hunting expeditions were rare because there was a person in the cave…if not a wild scene/happening…most of the time.
We had this sign on the cave:
Enter THE SHAMAN’S SHELTER FROM THE STORM, inside the shaman is giving out magical mantras and secret gestures, healing by touch, talking beyond frames, doing pantanic rituals, conducting deep core music, going into trances of controlled folly, loving, listening, laughing…all to give people WHO DARE TO COME IN magical ways to survive the upcoming TOTAL DESTRUCTION OF “CIVILIZATION”!
When someone came in, I asked him to read one of my poems/writings of his choosing. This became a powerful ritual because people chose things that spoke right to them, reading whole new dimensions into the poem than were there before. This ritual reminded me of tarot readings or casting the I-Ching. At times, these readings developed a community spirit that exploded pure raw dada chaos out-of-control magic…especially when the FLUFFGRRL crowd held court in the cave.
Then I asked the person to do a random gesture/act, drawn from a magical bag. These acts range from “easy” to explicitly intimate. If the people were a couple, I asked them to do a gesture together, and together with me. Most did these rituals.
Musicians kept dropping in to jam for a while. Friday night Dr. Oblivious, Nate Scott, Fluff Grrl’s Bob and Pervertidora Records’ Chris [A.K.A. GOD] jammed. Then Bob and Chris segued us into a twisted Cheech and Chong flick, in a failed search for more beer, and a match for the only joint, dropping Bob’s burnt hair all over my cave as Kaosmic Kitty showed us her nazi clit as she and I rubbed thighs as Bob sucked my cock as Chris informed us he is having a breakdown because he is off his meds as Bob obsessed on Linda’s hairy bush and the lame dada going on outside as dawn broke. There was no lame dada inside the cave!
I took a break from the cave to take part in THE CULT LEADER CONTEST. Among my disciples were Katy, Fluff Grrl’s Bob, and Michael Peppe. What can I say? I simply was the only real cult leader there!
Kirsten arrived Saturday afternoon after traveling since the wee hours across the country. We started a 5-hour pantanic dance as Linda and Mikee kept the cave within the ritual reality, which was a challenge because that was when a lot of people came through, each reading my writings extremely deeply to the dance…when Peppe and Andy Poisoner with Ronnie played music…when the Fluff Grrl crew with Joanna camped out in the cave.
The pantanic dance was extremely physically challenging, requiring a committed focus over hours to melt everything down to an explicit, slow, small, human, warm intimacy that was generated between Kirsten and my skin through dancing/rubbing. At one point, about 3 hours into the dance, it was necessary to take everyone out of cave and limit it to people coming in for the first time. At another point in the dance, it seemed to be extremely difficult for people to stay in the cave to observe the dance. This was because they were, through the dance, directly experiencing unlimited intimacy [which is quite different than sex]…and they found themselves in the state of pure dada…and they ran…but carried with them the virus of new possibilities. A DADA SUCCESS!
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 No. 101 (May/June 1994) Copy Culture, 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
Fred Hatt was the second guest ever on Frank’s streaming internet show, Frank Moore’s Shaman’s Den, on August 31, 1998 on FAKE Radio. Fred is an artist, dancer, and photographer. During the show as they talked, Fred sketched a portrait of Frank.
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.”