The Warhol Hijack weekend.
Yael Kanerek convinces Josh Harris & Tanya Corrin
to turn over their luxury loft to the artists group, Verbal.
The group talks about the site, both the physical location and the virtual
location online. The project weliveinpublic is webcams on steroids.
The loft has been wired with 32 cameras with infrared sensors and the phones
are tapped. Indeed there is great skepticism among the group about
the fact that this will be incorporated into a larger documentary *art
piece* by Josh. The premise is the Warhol idea of stardom in some
sense and telematic voyeurism. Kevin McCoy comes up with the theme Warhol
Hijack as a way to focus the group.
From my point of view:
After a preliminary meeting with the chief tech people in particular John Morton, I was aware that the guest bathroom was the highest on the hierarchy of shots to be sifted and put out on the main video stream. I was also aware that the phone tapping would freeze the audio so that all you could hear was the phone conversations. My intention became clear. Disrupt the normal voyeuristic structure of weliveinpublic and jarr the accessors awareness of the site. The other artists in the group did this as well in different ways throughout the weekend with IMHO great success. The space makes one aware that people are watching. There is also a social dynamic within the artists who are gathered for the event. Being ON all the time is a keyword.
Ambient Phone Piece:
Using a standard Zmodem autodial script I put in a sequence of phone numbers on my laptop and jack into the phone system. The phone numbers are for various voicemail systems. The artists in the Hijack, New York Museums, Bus info, the weather, Horse Racing results, etc.. when the computer connects to a phone number it sends a modem tone trying to connect to another modem. Obviously it can't connect so it hangs up and dials the next number on the list. The accessors to the site are denied their eavesdropping and are redirected to voicemail. In the chat rooms some think we are dialing the museums. Others complain about the shrill feedback sounds. The piece is a success because it disrupts the expectations of the accessors. One person understands what is happening and on the live chat suggests that I create a phone feedback work. I do this piece at various off times in the Hijack. The video documentation shows various cameras with text superimposed over the screen announcing phone calls ch2. It's a really nice ambient mix of random camera shots and intentional audio art.
The guest bathroom has 3 cameras. One behind the mirror, on looking down into the toilet and one actually in the toilet bowl. I decide to do both a live performance and a quicktime loop of the piece. What intrigues me is the idea of using the mirror and the toilet bowl as a stage or arena for specific repetitive actions. John Morton tells me that the more movement in front of the motion detectors the more likely the shot will be bumped up the hierarchy to become the main video stream out. My goal is to disrupt the cameras causing only my performance to go out on the main stream. I also like the idea of using the mirror. It refers to any number of late 60's early 70's Conceptual Art and performance works by such people as Dan Graham, Bruce Nauman, Vito Acconci, Laurie Anderson, Carolee Schneeman, Bob Morris, Robert Smithson etc..
For the first day, I wear all black assuming that in a white bathroom that is the optimal figure/ ground contrast. For the second day I wear all white which is the inverse causing me to blend into the background. M.River remarked that the white on white was quite effective when viewed from the video screen. For the automated section of the piece I set up a quicktime loop on my laptop computer and fold it into an acute angle. I situated it over the toilet bowl facing into the bowl so that the black and white vid clip is seen by the toilet bowl camera. This occurs because Yael helps me get it just right. Thanks Yael you're the best. What happens is that accessors to the site only get the image of my face doing the performance floating in the toilet bowl. The piece is designed to be confrontational telling the accessors to buzz off and go watch TV if they want to be entertained. On the chat people are split between being frustrated and annoyed or getting into the obvious disruptive play. I accomplish my goal.
I schedule my performances for 4pm New York time. This is with a view to the European audiences who are 6 hours ahead. Since I am quite well known in France it is no surprise that for most of the morning and early afternoon the chatters are all French. I recognize several people in the chat rooms and say hello.
Crepes on Saturday morning. I make Crepes for Saturday breakfast. This is a wonderful experience. Yael is doing her exercise piece as chatters direct the type of exercises. I can see she is having a good time and making good piece. The two works interweave in a gentle way. M.River shoots video of the crepe making process. I remark that in the 70's Jean Dupuy, a Fluxus artist here in New York was known for doing Soup & Tart Performances. Indeed, there is of course a history of food events as art. Daniel Spoerri and Gordon Matta Clark come to mind. I'm quite pleased with being able to extend this notion into an ambient web presentation. It's also good fun to feed everyone and create a certain level of intimate pleasure within the forced social context.
Social Space - Disruptions:
Ricardo & Diane are constantly playing to the cameras pointing guns at the cameras moving around the furniture etc.. T.Whid & M.River write Warhol Hijack on the floor in blue tape so that the webcams read the text. Yael disrupts the weliveinpublic splash screen changing it to We Live in Shock !!!! I put a black out line over the eyes of image of Gilligan (Bob Denver) that Josh has placed by the elevator. The people in the chat rooms are flipping out commenting on how Josh will freak when he sees all the tape on the floor. The Hijack is working really well. Cary has brought his time/machine techno music rig and is blasting the loft with music.
Social Gatherings & Dysfunction:
We have a discussion in the 10 foot square tiled bathtub. This is quite good since we are huddled together in one place. The subject is loosely art in 21c. Part of the discussion is about the ways in which humans come together in a flesh link as a consequence of technology. Kevin is documenting the talk and at various times I take the camera from him when he speaks so that he too can be on the tape.
Cary start his soy love piece. Everyone is getting high. Since I have been sober for 14 years, I slip away. The noise of the music and the excitement of creating over an extended period has my nerves jangled. I go home and snap on c-span. I watch a female supreme justice of the Colorado supreme courts talk about the courts in the aftermath of the election. It's quite boring and calms me down.
After viewing the documentary video of the time just before the fight I realize the context on the other side of the door. Cary & Ricardo are moving around the space dancing to the music smoking spliff's etc.. I've essentially isolated myself in the bathroom cutting myself off from the social interactions in the loft and at the same time playing to the voyeurs on the web. The action of locking oneself in the bathroom to get away is of course one of the simplest anti-social mechanisms one can use in a home. From their perspective I'm insulating myself. Perhaps they've forgotten the cameras or perhaps my gesture elicits a response from them. Think Vito Acconci.
On the first day that I do my performance Ricardo bangs on the bathroom door while I'm inside. This disrupts my concentration. I Open the door and yell at him don't fuck with me Ricardo. Later I ask him whether this is part of his overall ambient performance strategy. I'm hoping that he gets the idea that I'm not happy about this. The next day Ricardo bangs on the door several times and is joined by Cary and others. I can't continue the performance so I prop the laptop on the toilet and leave the bathroom. Yes I lose my temper and start yelling and pushing around Ricardo and Cary. Ricardo says you should have just told me straight out you didn't want me to bang on the door. After a while we all calm down and apologize to one another. I feel terrible for losing my temper. I read later on the ourdna site that the chatters caught the fight. Interestingly enough before we entered the loft there was some talk of staging a confrontation.
After the fight is over I make the comment out loud as I'm walking through the hall to the back, You thought that was real? I really had you guys going there, didn't I? I'm playing to the cameras.
I go home Saturday night and log on to catch Tina's cybersex performance by remote. I see several of my Hijack mates on camera. Jen Crowe is sitting on Ben's lap in the control room. Tina is discussing the performance on the bed with someone. The music is blasting. I see Tamas's son rocking back & forth in front of the control room camera. I just get home and I wish I was there with my buds.
The next day when Josh returns he asks me how it went. It was a total success. Everyone did good work. We all learned a lot. We're just now assimilating what happened.
(note: this is a short sketch for a much longer essay)
Full Documentation of the event and artists statements etc..