Strike a Pose

Updated: Aug 2, 2019

List of things you notice as a human statue:

  • The slight twitch of every muscle in your body

  • The tingling sensation of being watched

  • Labored breathing and shaking when struggling to hold a difficult position

  • Nervousness

  • Shadows cast on the wall by your body

  • Shadows of onlookers passing over you as they walk by

  • Peoples' shoes at eye level when you're laying on the floor

  • A fly landing on you and walking across your skin

  • Blood pooling in your palms where they support your weight

  • The intimacy of inviting people to stare at you

  • People's unwillingness to be still and pay attention

  • Your own waning attention span

  • The number of times you blink in a minute

  • The fear of stifling a sneeze

  • Restlessness

  • Fatigue

  • A torrent of distracting thoughts

  • Jealousy towards inanimate objects that steal the audience's attention from you

  • Anger at people who walk right by

  • Anger at people who invade your space

  • Anger at yourself for getting angry

  • Forgetting where you are and why

  • Needing to pee

  • How long a minute takes 

  • A sense of superiority for belonging there

  • Boredom

  • Serenity

  • The "is-ness" of just being there

These last few months I have been performing as part of Bruce Nauman's Disappearing Acts art exhibition. It has been my job to pose in a series of 28 positions for roughly one minute each, and to perform this sequence 3-4 times in a day. 

It is a strange thing, performance art, in that it really doesn't exist without an audience. I've spent so much time in stillness these past few months, thinking about what it is to be an artist. Is it vanity if what I do means nothing until it's acknowledged by others? When I perform Bruce Nauman's work I'm not creating anything; I'm reenacting, and really I'm asking something of other people, begging them even, to be witnesses and thereby make what I'm doing a performance.

Yesterday I attempted my own impromptu performance piece. I went to a busy walkway along the Rhine river and stood in the middle of the path, facing oncoming pedestrians in a neutral stance with my arms by my sides. I stood there, not moving, for what must've been about 40 minutes. This may sound like nothing, on the way to that place I thought it would be nothing. But standing there, noticing people's gaze, their questioning looks at what I was doing, and my own discomfort at not blending in, I could tell it was not nothing. 

I didn't know what to expect from the experience. I was feeling so many different emotions and sensations: nervousness, frustration, indifference, my feet and legs growing numb from standing in one place, and at one point I even felt disembodied. I eventually made the decision to stay there until someone interacted with me. 

I was finally released from my stillness when a man asked me for some change. I had watched him coming down the path for over a minute, going from one group of people to the next, hands outstretched, pleading; and it occurred to me that him and I were not so different. We were both asking people to help us, to notice us, to take a pause from what they were doing and look up and respond. 

When the man came to me I reached into my bag at my feet and put a handful of coins into his open palm. He held my hand there, kissed it lightly, and thanked me. But he didn't know I had just paid him for a service he had done- freeing me from my lonely stance in a sea of people who only knew how to pass me by.