april 17, 2021 to april 17, 2022
at least one change to the outfit per day
no complete changes of outfit
the outfit must be visibly changed, and visibly the same
each day must contain:
– at least one emergence into public wearing the outfit, either in body or at an online event at which i will be visible (if there is more than one such occasion during the day, at least one in the outfit)
– documentation of the outfit, including the day’s change
– daily practices: listening; singing; mame-loshn; movement
the outfit will be composed primarily of things i make during the performance of the score, and secondarily of things i’ve made previously.
things i haven’t made can be added to the outfit for temperature control/comfort, without necessarily becoming part of the outfit; if they are worn repeatedly they become part of the outfit.
i won’t wash the outfit’s outer garments unless it’s necessary (based on a “safe & sanitary” model); i’ll wear linen undergarments that are washed after being worn.
Continuous Outfit – Altered Daily (COAD) is part of my ongoing Critical Reperformance project. Unlike earlier works in the series, it is not a discrete single event or a series of discrete events. It is an exploration of two long-form works that blur or negate the distinctions between performance, rehearsal, and preparation, or between “art” and “life” seen as separate endeavors.
COAD’s title, and the core of its score, comes from Yvonne Rainer’s Continuous Project – Altered Daily, which ran from March 1969 to March 1970. It began with Rainer as a dance company leader making a 30-minute attempt “to invent new material and teach new material during the performance itself.” Over the course of the year, “what ensued was an ongoing effort to examine what goes on in the rehearsal or working-out and refining process that normally precedes performance, and a growing skepticism about the necessity to make a clear separation between these two phenomena.” [source] Practically, Yvonne Rainer and Dancers used an evolving array of elements – units of performance material; modes of performance; conceptual roles, affects, and states; performance texts; performing objects; musical and film accompaniments; and sets of constraints and permissions for assembling them – to create a performance piece that was very different each time it appeared. The formal end of Continuous Project – Altered Daily marked the point at which Rainer ceased to exercise a directive role in the evolution of the piece, and instead “supported and participated in a process of ‘erosion’ and reconstruction” [Rainer, Work 1961-73, 125] which ended in the creation of the fully collaborative and improvisation-based Grand Union dance company.
With COAD, I am applying to Rainer’s piece the transformation that she applied to the source of her title, a sculpture by Robert Morris: translating its collapse of process and product into an entirely different medium while preserving its durational approach and modular structure. In a sense, I am also reperforming Continuous Project in Rainer’s Tertiary Level of Performance Reality: “performing someone else’s material in a style completely different from, and/or inappropriate to, the original.” [Rainer, Work 1961-73, 130] Instead of a group of dancers on a stage, I am working with an outfit, exploring what it means for it to be “the same” (continuous) while constantly in transformation (altered daily). The elements are different – garments; textiles; forms of ornamentation; methods of construction; the demands of daily activities; moods, affects, and social roles; weather and climate – but the relationships among them are similarly intricate and entangled. I am interested (driven partly by my background as a puppeteer) to see how this collaboration with (allegedly) inanimate objects activates the questions Rainer and her dancers wrestled with about direction and control in the creation of performance, about fixedness and spontaneity, about learning and refining while performing.
Once I decided that COAD would take the “daily” part of its title seriously and last for a year, I realized that it was already a certain kind of reperformance of another classic performance work: Linda Montano’s 7 Years of Living Art, which lasted from 1984 to 1991. The most visible aspect of that “seven-year event, based on the seven energy centers of the body” [Montano, Letters from Linda M. Montano, 156] was Montano’s cycle of year-long commitments to wear only the color associated with the energy center she was focusing on during that year. The piece’s layering of daily practices grew in part out of her experience as part of Tehching Hsieh’s Art/Life: One Year Performance (1983-84), during which the two were tied together with an 8-foot rope, and expanded into the Art/Life practice that she has cultivated ever since. In a way, 7 Years stands in the same relation to Montano’s work as Continuous Project does to Rainer’s: a turning point in the form of a durational experiment.
The score I’ve made for COAD remains in Rainer’s Tertiary Level in its relationship to 7 Years, adopting neither its energy center focus, its total length, nor the details of its daily practices. Instead, I am preserving its basic yearlong unit, its structure of layered daily practices, and its multi-sensory and multi-disciplinary approach. The listening, singing, language, and movement practices within COAD rhyme with elements of Montano’s piece, and the piece as a whole is shaped by her vision of Art/Life practice in it: like hers, “my daily life will be disciplined enough to keep me deeply alert but flexible enough to appear normal” as I “merge art and life… by structuring time with chosen tasks or intentions.” [Montano, Letters from Linda M. Montano, 159]
The two works I am reperforming can seem to form a complementary pair, with Rainer’s often discussed in terms of its constant transformation and Montano’s as an exercise in persistent sameness. I’m interested in each for the ways it contains its supposed opposite, and interested in layering the two in part for the ways the juxtaposition expands the textures of sameness and difference within each of them. One of the overall aims of Critical Reperformance is to keep classic performance work vital as a living repertoire, rather than a static archive. In the process, the project has to constantly ask what changes when a piece moves through a different body, what remains the same when a piece happens in a different time and place, and how much change a score can contain. In this reperformance, I’ll be reflecting more directly on what makes something – an outfit; a performance work – the same as itself, what makes it different from itself, and the many possible relationships between the two.
Besides these works by Rainer and Montano, some of the sources and reference points for COAD include:
Keith Haring’s polaroid photographs of his painted eyeglasses frames.
Richard Move’s performances as Martha Graham.
My great-great-aunt Gussie’s finework tailoring business.
Jenny Romaine’s work uniform practice.
Historical re-enactors & historical museum workers’ explorations of underlinens.
Abigail Levine’s choreographic investigations of mid-20th-century modernist art.
Trans daily self-documentation projects, past and present.
Tehching Hsieh’s documentation of yearlong artworks.
And as is true of all of my work, COAD wouldn’t be the piece it is without the conversations I’ve had with friends, comrades, collaborators, and lovers as I’ve refined my plans for it. Particular thanks go to J Dellecave, Milo, and Malcolm Rehberger.
The main ongoing visual documentation of COAD will be here, with varying consistency.
Reflections on the piece as it develops will be on the blog on this site, under the tag #continuous.
The section from Rainer’s book Work 1961-73 dealing with Continuous Project – Altered Daily. Performance documentation, lists of elements, letters from Rainer to her dancer/collaborators, and an array of ephemera and reflections. The closest thing to an official score for the piece that exists in published form.
The section from Montano’s book Letters from Linda M. Montano dealing with 7 Years of Living Art. Her score for the piece, and a set of “Preliminary notes” on the piece, its sources, and its intent.