When I began “the ball,” I thought I was writing a book-length serial poem, but as the piece expanded, the work evolved into something else: a massive performance script. Though I may have composed the words, “the ball” had seized control of the lexicon.
“the ball” represents something intangible I wanted to make tangible, to touch. Desire, ego, our collective ego: for sale. The spectacle of modern culture, the weight we carry within and without, internalized capitalism. The surveillance state. The commodification of self. I rent my insecurities as advertising space. As Debord states in Society of the Spectacle, “All that was once directly lived has become mere representation.” I wanted to take this overwhelming spectacle into my hands and toss it around. I learned it’s hard to hold, but even harder to let go.
Each performance begins with an invocation of “the ball” as a tactile and audible object, as a concrete memory. An attempt to choke the air with seemingly safe and docile nostalgia. I ask the audience: think of the image of a ball, any ball, perhaps from childhood, kids at play. Hear it bouncing around: the sound of tennis balls being hit—that pop, a baseball cracking off the bat, scores of bouncing basketballs in a high school gym, a handball court, the satisfying ring of a kickball off the inside of a foot. For me, it is always a red rubber ball: sometimes it fits in my hand, a choking hazard; sometimes its dimensions are larger than I can calculate. Imagine playing with “the ball,” outside, a lovely afternoon, a park, a playground.
Then, the audience is asked to imagine that ball being taken away. Someone snatching it. Holding it above your head. Close enough to see but not touch. You remember what it feels like, but memory is now suspect. It is in this atmosphere that the performance emerges, sections of the work delivered in animated gestures and tones from valley girl to predator under the bed, “the ball” allowing itself to be held only briefly before resuming its position as an object of desire. “the ball” as trickster working itself outward into the audience, challenging those present, as well as myself, to take responsibility for the spectacle, culminating in a line which attempts definition, but provides no comfort: “The ball is empire, the Marxists say, but the ball is the empire in you.”