In the primitive world, reality shaping was the function of magic and of the shamans. The shamans used rituals and myths as dream boats to travel outside of the normal frame of reality into the web of all possibilities to communicate with the gods and to shape reality for their tribe. Sometimes through the myths and rituals, the shamans took the whole tribe into the web. But often the shamans went deeper into the web alone…alone because of the increasing dangers that exist in the web. This magical activity was seen by the tribe as vital to their survival. The shamanistic activity was not limited by the reality frame, by what was practical, although the practical reality was shaped by the shamanistic activity. As a result of these common mythical journeys, the frame was very flexible for all in the tribe.
But this began to change in the modern cultures, especially in the West. The shamanistic activity began to divide into philosophy, religion, art, science, and the occult. Each of these areas began to subdivide into sects, schools, disciplines, mediums, etc. They also divided into “pure” and “applied.” “Pure” activities are done for themselves to explore, shape, create reality, to travel outside the normal frame, to capture possibilities not enclosed within the frame, to bring these “new” possibilities into the frame to magically widen or shift the frame of reality.
The “applied” activities try to use, to control, harness these new possibilities into the service of the established frame. This is the washte brain activity. In the modern culture, the pure activity is seen as being of value only as it relates to the applied activity. This severely limits the magic change of reality shaping which is what the pure activity is meant to be. What also limits the shamanistic magic in the modern world is the fragmentation of the pure activity. There is a holistic myth developing in science, in philosophy, in art and theatre, in religion, in psychology, in the occult. But this myth cannot get into the frame because the modern myth travelers are talking, thinking, and seeing in different technical languages, depending on their fields. Because of this, they do not realize they are visualizing the same myth. So the new possibilities contained in this myth cannot get through except in fragments.
Originally written in 1990, The Combine Plot was widely published in such publications as P-Form Magazine and Short Fuse.
For months I have been thinking about writing a piece about what I call the plot of fragmentation. It would be about the aspect of the plot that focuses on making us think that to do anything meaningful, to be an effective force for change, you have to reach a large number of people, commonly known as THE MASSES or THE MASS MARKET. I was going to talk about how this aspect of the plot has limited art by making artists and galleries think that to reach this market, or at least a fraction of it, artists have to reach levels of educational, technical, and marketing skills which are set by, and acceptable to, the real world of mass communications.
Moreover, the subject matter was set to certain “in fashion” areas such as AIDS, feminism, the homeless, the environment, etc…what are “in fashion” subjects keep changing every six months or a year (obviously, the homeless people did not get homes nor did people stop dying of AIDS…rather, the glamour attention-span wears off and the focus quickly switches before things crack through the surface into the uncomfortable depth of universals where issues explode, leaving us trying to live together).
This aspect of the plot leads artists on a chase of college degrees, of skills to operate high-tech art-making machines, of money or positions that will give them the opportunity to do art, even when the style, the subject matter, and maybe the content of the art is dictated by this chase, by the combine plot.
This was what I was planning to write about. I was going to call it THE PLOT OF BIGNESS. But the plot has overtaken me during my thinking about the article. I see in the press that Sen. Jesse Helms and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher have nominated me, along with Annie Sprinkle, Karen Finley, Johanna Went, Cheri Gaulke, as well as other unnamed artists, to be the next target in their war on art. By doing so, Dana and Jesse have given us artists a platform from which to fight the plot. Because doing battle with the combine plot is one of the main functions of an artist, I am flattered to be nominated as one of the top ten on the new McCarthy hit list. I was feeling left out. All my heroes in the past were banned, jailed, harassed for their work. Artists such as Finley who I respect have been fighting the censors for years. My ego was crushed when I saw Rohrabacher on CNN label Annie Sprinkle a threat to the established moral order. After all, my work is as threatening as hers. But days later, someone sent me the NEW YORK CITY TRIBUNE (Feb. 5) special report that named names, and my name was there. What a relief! I only wish Dana and Jesse had invited me to testify. Jesse, I am available.
I know the last paragraph sounds like light humor…not taking the war seriously. It is a serious war with the high stakes of freedom and liberty for everyone. But you must understand the nature of the combine plot. It does not understand humor or the personal level. It can crush you if you operate by the mass rules and try to fight it on its terms. But once you drop out of the mass headset, the plot becomes very fragile, very threatened. This is why the plot’s Helms is after me and you. Because of this, my article is forced to take on a larger scope and a certain nonlinear quality. Please bear with it.
To understand what is really going on under this “sex” witch-hunt, it is important to understand the nature of the general plot of fragmentation, the combine plot. I took the word “combine” from the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey. In the book, the combine is a fear machine network which secretly installed pacemakers of fear, doubt, and mistrust in almost everyone in childhood. This made people much easier to control. It isolates people into cells padded with fear and doubt, making the people part of the combine. There are some misfits whom the combine missed with its fear pacemakers. In others, the fear pacemakers blow their fuses. These people without the fear pacemakers are very dangerous to the combine because if they are not checked, destroyed, discredited, isolated, or enfolded into the combine, they can show others how to blow out their own fear pacemakers, can show others how to be free humans linked to other free humans. The combine rarely has to directly destroy the misfits itself. Just direct eliminations would reveal the existence of the combine. So such direct eliminations are kept to the minimum. The real tool of the combine is a vague sense of uncomfortableness, of inferiority, and of mistrust within the victims of the combine. The setting of the novel is a mental ward in which most of the patients are self‑committed. They believe themselves weak, unable to cope with the outside world. They believe the fear comes from themselves, not from the pacemakers. They just have to start believing in themselves, and they could pull out the pacemakers and walk out of the hospital. But every time they reach this threshold of freedom, the combine, by clever remote manipulation, turns up the vague uncomfortableness and mistrust. The victims themselves do the destroying of the misfit either in themselves or that con man pied piper who laughs at their fears and limits, who shows them the way to freedom. It is the victims who do most of the censoring.
“WE ARE IN THE CAVE OF DREAM. WE ARE IN A BATTLE OF AN UNDERGROUND WAR AGAINST FRAGMENTATION. ART IS WAR AGAINST FRAGMENTATION. THE BATTLE IS ON ALL REALITIES. THE CONTROLLERS HAVE ALWAYS TRIED TO FRAGMENT US. FRAGMENT US FROM EACH OTHER. IMPRISON US IN ISLANDS OF SEX, COLOR, RELIGION, POLITICS, CLASSES, 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. THEY HAVE DIVIDED US FROM OUR POWER, FROM OUR BEAUTY, FROM OUR LUST OF LIFE AND PLEASURE. THEY HAVE DIVIDED US FROM MOST OF REALITY…DYING FROM LIVING…SEX FROM LIVING, SEX FROM PLEASURE. WE ARE KEPT IN BOXES OF FEAR, OF MISTRUST. WE ARE KEPT WAITING…KEPT WAITING TO DO WHAT WE WANT…WAITING FOR ENOUGH MONEY, ENOUGH SCHOOLING, FOR EVERYTHING TO BE RIGHT. WE ARE KEPT WAITING AND PROTECTING AND HIDING AND SUFFERING.”
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. Fragment us from each other. Imprison us in islands of sex, color, religion, politics, classes, 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. They have divided us from our power, from our beauty, from our lust for life and pleasure. They have divided us from most of reality – divided dying from living – sex from living, sex from pleasure. We are kept in boxes of fear, of mistrust. We are kept waiting – kept waiting to do what we want – waiting for enough money, enough schooling, for everything to be right. We are kept waiting and protecting and hiding and suffering.
This is the time to do battle with the boxes.
As artists, our tools are magic, our bodies, taboos, and dreams.
This kind of art can be bubbles of childhood – hidden places where you can play and explore – it is the kids’ under-the-covers world, the playhouse, the treehouse, the cave, behind the barn, playing doctor, cars at drive-ins before going all the way, Huck Finn’s raft, tepees. People are afraid of this area of lusty exploring that they think they have out-grown — but they are sucked into it.
But this kind of art can have a more heavy-duty magical side to it that shocks, offends, and breaks new ground. This side is what is locked in, the subconscious, the womb, the underground, hell/heaven, pleasure/torture, the coffin, the grave, birth/death/rebirth, dream/nightmare, the hidden world of taboos.
Artists of this breed need to be warriors who are willing to go into the areas of taboo, willing to push beyond where it is comfortable and safe to explore and build a larger zone of safeness. They need to be idealists, willing to live ideals.
Frank wrote a column called “Frankly Speaking” for each issue of his zine, The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary, TC(r), that he published in the 1990s. Reading through them now … they are filled with gems … and so much of it applies to right now.
This, for example, is excerpted from the TC(r) #2 “Frankly Speaking” column:
“I’m lazy. For months I have been thinking about writing about the liberal sickness called “political correctness.” This sickness fragments people into artificial groups (black, gay, women, disabled, etc.) within which they then are forced to stay. This sickness makes the individual so fragile that any “bad” or “wrong” word or image (nigger, fag, chick, cripple) can completely shatter the person. This fragileness makes it impossible to function in the real world without the artificial dome of pc-censorship. I was going to examine this sickness within the art world, using the art combine Highways/High Performance magazine as my case study. But I kept putting it off. I’m lazy. Then Curtis York’s letter fell into my hands. Now I don’t need to write that article!
Talking about pc-censorship brings us to the cartoon by the rock’n’roll artist John Seabury. We have gotten shit for running his “pig rape” drawing in this issue … from people who normally are against censorship. I’ve been thinking about why this drawing gets people so angry or uptight. I don’t think it is the images. After all, look at LaBash’s drawings. The taboo-breaking image contents are equal between them. The difference between these two artists is LaBash is nonlinear while Seabury is linear.”
And then there is this excerpted from Frank’s column in Issue #4:
“I was feeling better. Then I remembered that some “gay” bookstores will not carry T.C.(r) because it is not “queer enough”! It doesn’t matter that about eighty percent of our contributors consider themselves gay or bi. It doesn’t matter that some of the works focus directly on “gay” reality. It doesn’t matter that T.C.(r.) has always been included in the queer zine scene. And it does not matter that I am a lesbian in a male body.”
This is the very first “Frankly Speaking” column. It appeared in Issue #0. Frank thought that Issue #0 was totally self-promotion so he didn’t put it on the website and it wasn’t available to buy! We have just added this column to the site. Issue #0 will appear in the compilation book.
SPEAKING FRANKLY Editorial by FRANK MOORE April 10, 1991
At first look, this first issue of TCR looks like a shameless self-promotion, a big advertisement for my book, Cherotic Magic, for my apprenticeship, for my 6-session course, for my performance art and videos and tapes, and who knows what else. Well, you have to start somewhere. And that somewhere is the exploration of the magical edge I have been on for about 25 years. This promotion that we call TCR is a promotion of the edge itself.
Since Cherotic Magic was published, there has been a written dialog centering around the book. What is exciting about this dialog is that the people in the dialog are serious explorers of the edge themselves. They are writers, artists, publishers, cultural revolutionaries, reality subverters around the world. In this issue, under the cover of writing about my work, they talk about magical issues that I for one have been hungry to talk about for a long time in the depth that is possible with people who have committed their lives to going across the taboo border to effect evolutionary change. In future issues of TCR, I hope we will move far beyond the book, Cherotic Magic, and give one another aid and comfort on the edge by linking together, by announcing new findings of our hidden experiments of nonlinear change.
TCR is a journal of the edge. TCR is an offensive movement or measure, offering alternatives to the fragmentation, isolation, personal helplessness which is actively promoted by the combine of power systems. TCR is anarchical, based on the personal responsibility to reshape reality into a more human, trusting, loving reality, full of fun and pleasure. TCR is not a reaction. It is a magical act of enjoying life. It is a journal of and for people who are doing this magical act. Thanks to S/R Press, we finally have a channel of communications among the personal revolutions … otherwise known as mutations … which has always been the main fuel for evolution. Now we magical misfits know we are not alone, that there are others out/in here/there feeling, thinking, trying, doing similar things. This just by itself should speed evolution up.
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.