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|VISUALEYEZ 2005 JOURNAL: MAY 28|
Gerry Morita's performance began at City Hall, near Churchill Square, where there was a Battle of the Bands (someone was playing the Red Hot Chili Peppers' ‘Californication' as I walked through the square, which seamed typical—the music at these sorts of events tends to be quite conventional). There are several different corporate promotion events, and logos everywhere. This includes Porsche, and a Bell, Volvo and Motrin-sponsored event described by the organizers as “community” (what does that term mean anymore these days), but seems closer to reality TV or extreme sports. There are several Porsches in the square, including a bright red one with a piece of paper on the hood reading, “don't lean on the car unless you're the nude”. The atmosphere was one of commodified rebellion, adolescent rites of passage seamlessly integrated into consumer culture, and some quite aggressive attempts to market to the teenage demographic (let's get em' while they still have a disposable income because they're living with their parents'). While in conversation prior to the performance, Gerry Morita wondered about the suitability of the context to her project, it seemed appropriate here, as marriage fits perfectly into this mix of stereotype, rites of adolescence and early adulthood, and marketing.
Gerry Morita was wearing a bridal gown, followed by a long gauze train of about 20 feet, covered in domestic objects and dusty from the street. She was moving quite slowly, although not as slowly as I imagined, in terms of the “butoh-slowness” evoked by the description.
Gerry walked across Churchill Square, down the surrounding streets, then back to City Hall. Towards the end, she passed through a square where some skateboarders were practicing. One of them said, in a typical adolescent dismissive way, “what's the point of her doing that?” They then proceeded to try to jump over her train with their skateboards.
The performance ended with Gerry moving through an arbour (similar to ‘walking down the aisle'), then spun slowly in a circle, wrapping the train around herself, with all the objects. Three people carried her into a van, which drove away.
Gerry remained ‘in character' in a theatrical sense. Her interactions with people were mainly silent, though occasionally saying stereotypical ‘bride things', and performing actions such as throwing the flowers. Sometimes people threw objects onto the train, either their own or stuff they found on the street. They also helped her move the train onto the street or sidewalk; as the performance progressed, the objects on the train accumulated, also making it easier for them to fall off as she walked.
What struck me about her performance was its obviousness: the literal obviousness of the symbol of the bride, and the ways in which her presence seemed to fit into the conventions of street theatre (the way she remained ‘in character'). When speaking to Gerry earlier, she said that she was aware of how obvious the symbol of the bride was, but felt that the obviousness would make it accessible to the general public. She also felt that issues around gender roles still need to be addressed; she said that the wedding is still seen as “the most important day of a girl's life”, and that one's status (still, even in 2005, based on one's appearance and sexual desirability) deteriorates from that point on. Judging from some of the reactions (the skateboarders, or a woman in Churchill Square who asked Gerry if she was actually getting married) this was not obvious enough for them.
This also raises a question around audience. Art audiences are trained to understand sophisticated visual languages, and because of this feel unsatisfied with literal/cliché symbolism. Unless you study art, you don't get this sort of training (if my experience of high school art was any indication), and we generally live in a society where we are socialized to distrust what we don't immediately understand, and to feel that we are ‘too stupid'. We are also socialized to spend a short time with works, to not let the meaning become apparent over time. If one's audience is the general public, does it then mean that one must speak in obvious terms and use conventional symbols in order to communicate? If one chooses to communicate in conventional terms, how does one ensure that the work engages us on other levels, beyond the obvious? This is where the context was useful (the Battle of the Bands, the corporate promotions) in terms of adding other layers to the work, and providing an audience who perhaps required obvious symbols.