project image
Kevin Mahoney

first performed on May 27, 2016
Poole Building, Gainesville, FL
performed once in 2016


Seattle, WA


In 2013 I purchased a clear plastic backpack from I was primarily interested in this object’s institutional use. School children are forced to wear the clear backpack for safety reasons at public schools where smuggled weapons are an issue. In Seattle, where I currently live, sports fans are required to use clear plastic totes as a means of security when entering stadiums. In this way, the exposure of one’s personal effects is a tool of surveillance. By utilizing the clear backpack, I hoped to subvert this institutional surveillance. In a sense, it led me to more consciously curate the objects within, as they would be on display to the public wherever I went.

In 2016 I was asked to create an installation in an abandoned factory that had been recalibrated as an ad hoc art space. I decided to create a place of solitude for people to enter and exit as they please while I enacted a durational performance. This performance would engage my current interest in the language and environments of self-care, and the inherent claustrophobia found within these spaces.

I hung my clear backpack from the ceiling by two rubber bungee cords. I then proceeded to fill the backpack with ice. I closed the bag, took my shirt off, affixed tanning goggles to my face, and laid down on a yoga mat beneath the dangling sculpture. I remained in situ underneath three fluorescent blacklight fixtures for several hours. The intention was to create a hermetically sealed chamber emanating a quiet, almost mortuaryesque experience.

The 90 degree heat crept its way through the poor insulation of the space, and as planned the ice began to melt rapidly. The ice dripped from the bag onto my chest, a gesture reminiscent of Chinese water torture. That said, I could not help but find the cool rhythm of the drip pleasurable in my repose. A sequenced percussive track from friend James Seadale played twice over the course of my performance.

At the end of the performance, I rose, and gave a poetry reading via headlamp in the dark space to a crowd of about 20 people. I encouraged others to lay underneath the leaking sculpture, as it might be a source of relaxation. Later in the evening, the remaining ice was scooped from the backpack into red Solo cups to cool drinks.