project image
Silvia Beatriz Abisaab

first performed on June 4, 2016
50/50, Kansas City, MO
performed once in 2016


Kansas City, MO


For this performance, I facilitated a collaborative reading of photography technique books as poetry. At the outset, I placed a sheet of unexposed photo paper on a table, which immediately began to darken in the sun (the performance was outdoors). I then set a small handmade Mexican saucer that I inherited from my late grandmother last year atop the paper. I then placed a stick of copal resin incense on the plate —propped by two small chunks of asphalt found in the gallery parking lot. I lit the incense, which effectively began the performance.

I then spoke to the audience briefly about my interest in photography technique books and their peculiar reductive descriptions of photographic subjects, but how reading excerpts of these texts as poems has the potential for the text to be expansive. I read a poem from a particular photography technique book from my personal collection and I then invited the audience to find and read excerpts from a stack of books that I brought.

For about 30 minutes, participants browsed the provided books, searched and located very specific excerpts of captions, lists, and charts, and then took turns reading what they found aloud to the group. Removed from their context, passages describing qualities of light, color, and scenes became humorous, absurd, somber, cinematic, and evocative. Beyond that, I was interested in the potential for the texts, as read, to coincidentally describe the immediate environment of the performance —the space that we collectively shared—that a participant having read “skin in sunlight, skin in shade” from an exposure table also described the light conditions around us, at that moment. I was hopeful that these poems might encourage an active but reflective experience of becoming an observing reader—sensitive to one’s situatedness, of a specific time, of a specific place.

I then extinguished the incense to conclude the performance. I noticed small circular forms on the photo paper, caused by rain drops from a very brief rain shower that passed during the reading, while the plate and incense stick left a distinct shadow on the paper. This temporal sculpture directly reflected environmental changes—meant to mark the duration of the gathering of the small group of participants and to call attention to the specificity of the shared immediate experience.