June 30th, 2005


Tales from an art show

Below are some of the stories that have been emerging during the art show I'm doing daily with Mai Ueda at Zach Feuer Gallery. When I'm not improvising these stories (and I write them as I speak them, basically, with no idea of where they'll go) I'm doing Tuvan throat singing or listening to Mai singing about ponies, elephants and clothes.

There's a war between travelling detergent salesmen and sugar salesmen. First they assemble to listen to Mai Ueda sing at a central point. It's a drive-in concert. Then they spread out across the country. When they meet their rivals, they kill them. The country is strewn with sugar salesmen, lying by the roadside, detergent spilling from their ears and mouths, or detergent salesmen lying on the hard shoulder, all their openings filled with sugar.

A man rides broadcast waves from the top of a TV tower down into someone's TV and has to perform in a soap opera.

Each time an ice skater completes a lap of the rink, he adds a decade to the faces in the crowd watching him. Guilty that he's killing many in the audience, he's relieved to discover that by skating backwards he can remove a decade from their ages. But many people still "die" by being taken back before the time of their birth.

Annoyed by a delay in a scheduled flight and impatient to get to the wedding of his ex-girlfriend (in order to object and halt the ceremony), a man sneaks onto the flight deck and flies the plane himself in extremely low pressure weather. He lands in the aisle of the church, objects, and flies off with the bride and groom on board. In the low pressure weather the plane somehow floats in the air immobile. The man serves food to the crew, and they live happily in mid-air.

A man follows a woman shopper to clothes and CD stores, exchanging her purchases for better ones. When she asks why, he says "Because I'm your guardian angel!" She throws him out.

I live in a house that's abstract, and I'm abstract. When the townspeople, annoyed by my difference from them, come with pitchforks to kill me, they can't... because I'm abstract.

A man hunts only endangered animals. He finds it deeply satisfying to kill the last remaining tigers, elephants and giant pandas. We're none of us so very different.

A man follows a toothpaste trail to the red light district. In a room at the end of it he finds a woman surrounded by money. He asks why she's surrounded by money. She says "Pay me, and I'll tell you." He pays, and she says other curious fools like him have paid to learn the same thing. He goes off and starts a similar business, but makes less money at it.

An ethnomusicologist goes to study the music made by a primitive people living north of Hokkaido. With his team, he records a strange alarm signal on the beach. The drummers are kamikazes; they're warning the islanders to retreat to high ground, but will, themselves, be swept away by an approaching tsunami. The ethnomusicologists are also swept away.

A man has such strong pheromones that all women find him irresistible. It becomes a problem; everywhere he goes, women won't take no for an answer. Finally he goes to a doctor to ask for some kind of cure. "Take off your clothes," she says.

I sigh and my sigh becomes a butterfly. A long sigh, a long butterfly. I climb onto its back, it carries me up high. On the butterfly's back I leave my cares behind. But without the cares the sigh-butterfly cannot survive, and I begin to plummet. Plummeting makes me sigh, though, and my sigh produces another butterfly, which saves me.

A wild goose is flying in V formation with fellow geese, flying south over and away from Denmark. Surveying the land below, the goose longs to land, to peck at corn. It lags behind its comrades, and lands. The winter comes on fast, and the goose is buried by the snow.

A man buys an inflatable woman and takes her to a love hotel. He tries to make her sing karaoke with him by controlling the flow of air escaping from her. It's so exhausting blowing her up and squeezing the air out that he falls asleep without trying to have sex with her. The next day they go to the beach. The man uses the inflatable woman as a lilo, and floats with her around the coast to a temple. He tries to have the doll accepted as a new monk, but when she's having her hair shaved off she deflates.

I am the world's greatest art critic. My rival is the world's greatest artist. I go to his new show hoping he will have failed, but everything he does is a masterpiece. I decide to wreak my revenge by writing the world's greatest art review about his show. I labour long and hard over it. My review is so astonishing that people weep and faint to read it. When it's published, I am hailed as the world's greatest artist myself. Crowds gather around my house, people throw their hats in the air. My rival is completely forgotten.

A certain kabuki actor is famous for the gesture he makes when he imitates a blind man. When he walks bent double, waving a cane around in front of him, people in the audience shout out the actor's name respectfully, as is the tradition in kabuki. One day, at the train station, I see a real blind man making exactly the same gestures. It's too late, I can't stop myself: I shout out the famous kabuki actor's name.

(The illustration is a detail from the Bruce Busby show currently at Pierogi Gallery, Brooklyn.)