"Pittsburgh City Paper" - october 4-11, 2006
Writer: BILL O'DRISCOLL
To be understood is a luxury. According to tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE, it can also be boring. As a filmmaker, writer, performer and multipurpose provocateur, his goal is to give audiences new experiences - even if that means they won't know what the hell is going on. At the Oct. 10 installment of the Film Kitchen screening series, Tent will show video to complement readings from his new book, Footnotes. One video, "B.T.O.U.C.," documents a performance that got him arrested: a 1983 New Year's Eve party in a Baltimore sewer tunnel that involved nudity, two dog carcasses and accusations that Tent was a cult leader - even though, as he notes, at the time he was so unpopular that he "couldn't find a roommate."
[tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE note: This is an accidental conflation of 2 different events]
How is not understanding fruitful?
That's an obsession of mine, because one common performer philosophy is that one should be populist: One should have a clear agenda, a clear message, and one should get across that message in a way that reaches the most people. But my attitude is that people tend to be too simple-minded, and that it's good to challenge people's simple-mindedness with what I call "conceptual obstacle courses."
What I sometimes try to do is create a situation that I'm fairly sure will not be easily understood with ideas based on people's previous ideas or their prejudices, in the hope that it will stimulate them to think in a new way, or let's say, create new neural pathways in their brain.
Do people respond as you'd hope?
What more typically happens is that people just superimpose wildly inappropriate stereotype projections on the situation, instead of learning something new from it.
Your essay "Reactionary Muddle America" centers on students' written reactions to a 1992 performance and video presentation at the University of Maryland.
As is evident by reading those papers, the students just couldn't handle it and had a very reactionary reaction to it, "reactionary" meaning in this case "close-minded" - but shockingly so, to me.
What the students did was generally pick one pretty small aspect of the performance and blow it out of proportion to an extreme extent. They generally disliked that I used sexual footage. But the sexual footage constituted an extreme minority of the evening. For example, I used a loop of a penis starting to enter a vagina and then popping back out again. And it was meant to be a tension-building device - something that would keep them on the edge of their seats, because obviously people would have this biological need for the penis to finally succeed in penetrating, but it never does. And it was driving them crazy. I knew it would! But it was also an extremely minor aspect of what was going on.
The show also included video of the One Word Per Person Party.
I have been to many, many parties over the years, and I found most of them boring because there was very little imagination to them. So some friends and I tried to throw different types of parties, like nudist parties, or whatever. One of them was the One Word Per Person Party, where we all decided to restrict ourselves to just one word for two hours, and say that word over and over again. The interesting part was to see which word each person would pick. One person picked the word "kiss," and she only said it when she was kissing people. Another person picked the word "random," and he only said it when the second hand of his watch reached 12 - so he never said it at a random time. Another person said "lalochezia," which means the use of vulgar language for the release of tension. It became interesting to see how expressive you could be with your one word.
What did the students think?
The students utterly, utterly hated it, and just thought we were morons for doing something like this. And yet I think if you were to go to the average party, if there is such a thing, you'd find that the conversations are often conceptually repetitive in a way that's not really so far off from people saying one word.
Not a single [student] really addressed what the movie what actually about. One student described the One Word Per Person Party as "the party where everybody just says dirty words." In the book I psychoanalize why he did this in a way that is definitely not flattering to him.
Why respond to the students' comments at all?
It's a source of frustration to me when the opportunity to have one's mind challenged and consciousness expanded is responded to with the opposite effect - with the contraction of thinking. I respond to those papers because I wanted to refute their contraction, and I wanted to refute it in great detail in order to demonstrate that I am very serious about what I am doing, and I am thinking about it, and it's not just random noise, which is what people often respond to it as being.
Film Kitchen 8 p.m. Tue., Oct. 10 (7 p.m. reception). Melwood. $4. 412-316-3342, x178
to the tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE movie-making "Press: Criticism, Interviews, Reviews" home-page
to the "tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - Sprocket Scientist" home-page
to the "FLICKER" home-page for the alternative cinematic experience
to find out more about why the S.P.C.S.M.E.F. (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Sea Monkeys by Experimental Filmmakers) is so important
for A Mere Outline for One Aspect of a Book on Mystery Catalysts, Guerrilla Playfare, booed usic, Mad Scientist Didactions, Acts of As-Beenism, So-Called Whatevers, Psychopathfinding, Uncerts, Air Dressing, Practicing Promotextuality, Imp Activism, etc..
for info on tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE's tape/CD publishing label: WIdémoUTH
to see an underdeveloped site re the N.A.A.M.C.P. (National Association for the Advancement of Multi-Colored Peoples)