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Gilles O’Kane

first performed on October 13, 2019
Pelican Point, Crystal Cove State Park, Newport Beach, CA
performed once in 2019


Gilles O’Kane, Antonin Fajt

Los Angeles, CA


On October 13, I stood for twelve hours on the edge of the Pacific as the tide swelled from my mid-shins to my shoulders then almost indistinguishably rolled back off me. I did this on the full moon, when the tide rises and falls most dramatically. The score was, simply, to be a point of comparison to the gradually shifting water. In measuring success by this benchmark—the act of being a pillar in a tidal body—one could argue that I failed: when the tide retreated in the late afternoon I bent down to the earth unable to stand any longer. For ten minutes I rested on the sand watching the sky until I was able to rise and finish the day.

This piece offers time and space to observe natural cycles that often go ignored in the busyness of capitalistic life. By eliminating other stimuli and activities, I could pay attention to my own perception of these gradual shifts and my mind-body responses to the act of standing. I frequently found myself so absorbed in my own thinking that I lost track of the subtle progress of the sun’s arc through the sky and the waves’ relationship to my position on the shore. In moments of embodied presence I found myself trying to remember the day, to inscribe its image into my memory. This in-and-out presence made me notice changes in light and color as if they were abrupt rather than unfolding gently before me.

Coming to the land to witness it but then failing to do so without the impositions of attachment, perfectionism, and egoism, I became aware of my broader uneasiness about making land-based art as a settler. I longed for community and ceremony and felt ashamed of my ignorance about the specific place-histories of the Acjachamen and Tongva land upon which I was standing. I saw a tension between my desire to reclaim my relationship to the earth and the recognition that the land that I come to for rest and strength has been stolen through genocide and continues to be in a state of active colonization. I realized for the first time that one settles because they are unsettled—that there is something we are running away from. It was this realization more so than the physical duress that brought me to the ground in late afternoon in grief and agitation.