project image
Ray Sweeten & Lisa Gwilliam

first performed on November 17, 2013
Microscope Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
performed once in 2013


Brooklyn, NY


On Nov 17, 2013 I performed a piece for the Highwaymen reading series in the Bushwick neighborhood of New York. The night before I’d attended a performance at Segue with Eleanor and David Antin, in which David stood on stage and delivered something he called “talk poetry.” Antin’s improvisational and extemporaneous approach to poetics seemed to me a way to refresh the “poetry reading” experience and to relate more directly to the audience. His performance, and my notes from the event, centered on the idea of “narrative.” I recorded the following:

– narrative: to explain something not otherwise explained by abstract pattern

– narrative: a series of distances

– like a microscope trying to read in and out of focus

– in and out of specific pieces of time

Using these notes, and my personal narrative, I performed something like “talk poetry” the next night. My narrative began with a dream I had exactly one year ago that prophesied my death in a couple of years. The performance then became a way to relate the dream to an audience, thereby trying to negate it according to the superstitions of my culture and to also share a piece of my narrative with others should it come true. I talked about the way I’ve learned to read patterns into everything as a way of trying to understand my narrative, turning things into signs and trying to make sense from abstraction. I use anything around me, including the work on exhibit at Microscope at the time, titled “THRESHOLDS” by Ray Sweeten and Lisa Gwilliam and alternatively titled “DataSpaceTime”; I took it as a sign and riffed off the way the data constantly evolved in the video. I also mentioned what it was like to start the reading that night with a performance of John Cage’s “4”33.” The blank page turned into a system of interlocking threads; I was making patterns again and the minutes went by slower. That gave me hope for my remaining year.

It was important to me that the work remain unphotographed and undocumented that night so that the experience could live on differently in each listener and take on a life of its own. Therefore, the image on the left is from the exhibit that surrounded the performance (the image comes from a browser-based animated gif installation, “the ___ of strings and objects,” by Lisa Gwilliam & Ray Sweeten).

Whatever happens next year, if I’m granted it, I intend to perform “Narrative” again on Nov 17, 2014.