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.”
the two nude figures sit in time and space. one upon the other. rocking together. rocking in their cave.
two magic figures rocking together against time. rocking back through time. back and forth.
mother rocking her baby. rocking against sickness and tears. rocking back into love and peace.
in the cave, unseen except by the spirits, the holymen rock out of this reality of personal isolation of greys. rock until they rock into the pulse of pure light. back and forth until at-one-ness came, until atonement came… not just for them… but those outside the cave. magic rocking. passion rocking. almost sexual, not quite… very sexual… beyond sexual.
two bodies rocking together, rubbing isolation away.
grandpa sits in his rocking chair, slowly holding onto creaking passion of living. lovers dance, rocking back and forth to the music. sometimes fast. sometimes slow. passion rises warm and comforting. pain and grief disappear. a kid holding onto a blanket, rocks back and forth, holding onto the wrapping that holds us all together. colorful ribbons of our cocoon. the 2 lovers pumping hard on the swing, working together to get the highest thrilling flying and swooshing drop on their bellies and, yes, in their loins. almost sexual, but not quite…. very sexy… beyond sex. mere sex would get in the way of the child-like melting of earth and sky. back and forth, up and down, wrapping us together in brightness and softness and the magical commonness.
a girl laughs on a big old rocking horse. a g.i. holding his guts in, blood oozing out, rocks on the battlefield… rocks to keep life in and pain out.
light pulses, reflected off tin and plastic.
daddy rocking baby to sleep on his lap. cozy togetherness in ribbons, rocking by the fire far away from reality.
the arab woman, on her knees beside the unrecognizable remains of her husband rocking to handle grief and pain. a crazy rocks on the street corner, talking to beings from another reality. wrap us up cozy. wrap us warmly. maypole dancers with ribbons. admit that we all are wrapped up together in see-through ties.
the gypsy woman, eyes closed, rocks back and forth, giving master spirits her voice and her body to speak through. rocking in her tent.
the boys rocking uncontrollable from laughter at their childish pranks.
rocking surrealistic in the darkness, in their colorful bonds, the two nude figures, using magical passion to melt together, rock like the blind, like the insane, like the holy men, like lovers… and the magical melting spreads out of the cave and into the world.
“Wrapping/Rocking” Poem by Frank Moore Chanted by Michael LaBash Background music: excerpt from “Body Music” performed by Frank Moore’s Chero Company: Leigh Gates, Michael LaBash, Alexi Malenky & Rourke Smith Thumbnail photo by Kevin Rice A segment from the web video series LET ME BE FRANK, Episode 4. Website for the series: http://frankadelic.com/
Here are some Wrapping/Rocking performances:
Wrapping/Rocking @ The Intersection, San Francisco, California March 14, 1986
Wrapping/Rocking, Sixth Sense Gallery, NYC May 19, 1987
Wrapping/Rocking, Painted Bride, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
May 23, 1987
Wrapping/Rocking & Statues, EZTV, Los Angeles, California
September 9, 1988
“Wrapping/Rocking”, Berkeley, California
January 14, 1989
A live performance by Frank Moore 1982-1983 U.C. Berkeley Art Museum, Bancroft Way
From Frank: In “Living Sculpture” I sat for six hours in my position in the museum, waiting for people who were willing to take the time and the energy to talk to me on my word board, letter by letter. I do my art to be with people in a deeper, slower way than normal, polite, social interaction allows. My body is a great tool in this.
Frank performed Journey To Lila on two weekends at Franklin Furnace in New York City in June 1989. Here is an excerpt from a letter Frank received from Fred Hatt in 1997, almost 8 years after the performance, who had attended one of those performances. He had just discovered Frank on the web and emailed Frank to introduce himself and tell him about the impact his experience at this performance had on his own work:
I feel like all of these things were potential in my interests and my work at the time in 1989 when I came to experience a journey to the planet Lila with you and your friends. But I had never seen real experiential magic presented as art before – not distanced by anthropology, not burdened by cosmological mysticism or pretensions of grandeur. You showed how simple magical consciousness really is, and how effective in opening people up, expanding their freedom and then going beyond that to make them feel their connectedness. The steps of the journey peeled away layer after layer of psychological armor with scalpel precision. As an artist, I had always felt isolated, a loner, awkward dealing with other people, although I craved collaboration. Some things I learned from your performance changed me immediately, but others grew over a period of long years, nurtured through my own trial and error and through all I learned from so many others along the way, and are growing still. I am no master of magic, but I am free and live my life in joy, and though I enjoy solitude, I no longer feel so isolated or awkward and I love to work with others.
… I am glad that you are still spreading subversive joy and I am glad to be in communication with you since you are one of my heroes and teachers!
While in New York City, Annie Sprinkle introduced us to the photographer, Eric Kroll, who then scheduled a photo shoot with us while we were in town. Here are some outtakes from the photo shoot at his studio.