By Rocio Boliver and Jill McDermid
“The performance is an encrypted code that can only be accessed during the post performance”
These photographs where taken at the end of one of my performances, namely at beginning of the “post-performance”. I have no ability to objectively infer about “everything” that crossed my mind at that moment, my body and soul (if there is a soul).
The first idea that these images transmit to almost any human being would be pain, physical pain, and as there are a few drops of blood and crying, sure of a strong physical pain.
“Crying purifies and nourishes”, like my father wrote in one of his poems.
The tears you see in my eyes are the result of catharsis. Of an action done, from the unconscious unencrypted, from the most authentic freedom of the creator.
Getting the right path of a performance is a Big Bang to restart your own cosmos.
You end up feeling devastated, and gradually reborn again to the primeval; so in this state of emptiness you have to rearrange your consciousness, bent to collapse, to restart again the infinity in crescendo loop of creation.
At the end of my performances, when everybody usually meets to celebrate, I was always wondering why I wasn’t able to join them in the joy of the party. Continuously I heard questions like: Is something wrong ? What you got? Are you angry, sad, tired … ?
I remember myself feeling strange for not being able to share a meal or a drink with my friends after doing a performance; to fall into an excessive crying and/ or laughing in the dressing room, while somebody withdrew the stitches or needles out of my skin. I remember myself trying to go out through the back door, intimidated or afraid of meeting someone strange because I could simply not get any words out. Once I realized that I had spent five hours trying to eat spaghetti and did not even manage the first bite.
In a certain moment I started to hire a taxi driver to take me home directly after the performance, and then I just threw myself on my bed, sometimes staying at home for more than a month. The worst part was, and still is, how I cannot stop thinking about the mistakes I made, and how my self-criticism becomes my worst butcher.
Since Pain is a recurring element in my performances, wildly mourning after my presentations is commonly interpreted as synonymous with the physical pain since almost always it is difficult for me to articulate coherent words on these occasions – I can just barely explain that the physical pain was not what made me cry, and that they simply should let me cry. Then, with my insane laughter attacks, they might just suppose that the pain was gone.
Through time and experience, I started to identify this phenomenon, which I call Post-Performance, and managed to get it under control, being able to explain to people around me that I just need a moment for myself and to “explode” in a private moment.
For me, the Post-Performance starts the moment I finish the piece, and it does not have an end, unless humanity ceases to exist. It is during the Post-Performance when several ideas come to my mind which clarify the vital questions about existence. Episodes from life stored in the unconscious will be revived clearly as if it happened yesterday. The actions that happen in a performance connect in the mind with seemingly unrelated feelings.
Sometimes it is easy to analyze consciously the relationship between performance language (similar to oneiric one) and the rational language, although this is logically inconsistent. My teacher Juan José Gurrola said something very important to me, which today I relate to the Post-Performance: “Do not worry that people understand your performances. The audiences take home previously unseen images and perhaps someday, not necessarily in this generation , someone will understand something that even you don’t know. The important thing is to plant in the minds new discourses. The expansion of human consciousness. It is very slow, you have to provide triggers.”
I became interested in the Post-Performance of other artists when I realized that each artist has it, that each artist lived that moment differently, but each experienced that moment very powerfully. Aside for one artist, no one told me that he or she could go from a performance to everyday life without an intense intermediate stage.
As curator of my work, Jill McDermid helped me to overcome intense Post-Performances. I told her about my interest in this topic, and we started talking about various artists and their experiences. In Beijing [10th Open Performance festival, Beijing] we organized a panel on this topic. The issue was still swirling around our heads and one night we both extended the dinner chatting about the Post Performance into a magazine idea. When Eric Letourneau heard about this idea, he also got also enthusiastic.
It was a fact that it was necessary to do something, the excitement was beating us to the core, our plans were exciting, and each one gave ideas that were putting the puzzle together: A Magazine … and what name? … Eric said: “Post-Performance”
This magazine starts a new search, a chance to dive in the abstract in order to analyze it and share intellectively, an epicenter for the expansion of the experiences of other artists, a confluence of anecdotes that unite us as a “kind” : Performance artists with a Post-Performance experience.
In 2009, when I asked the Mexican Performance Artist La Congelada de Uva [Ms. Rocio Boliver] to propose a panel topic for Week 5 at the 10th Annual Open Performance Art Festival in Beijing, China she asked if we could please have a discussion around Post-Performance. Despite my years of involvement in Performance Art I somehow hadn’t realized the importance of this topic. What the Artist and the Audience experience during a performance continues to be intense after the performance. The audience continues to process what they have experienced and seen while the artist continues to processes what they have experienced and shared.
As performance artists we know the intensity of the post-performance. Yet as presenters of performance art, we need to be aware that the frame of reference for most people is focused more on the “performance” and less on the “art”. In the Theater, there are scripts, actors, rehearsals and a prop department ensuring the gun is not loaded, the knife has no sharp edges and the blood is fake. In Performance Art, the gun is loaded, the knives are sharpened and the blood really is coming out of the body.
At Grace Exhibition Space, as artists ourselves, we like to stay close to the artists to allow them create the piece they need to create, and to take care of them when it’s over. If the artist is staying with us, we will be there with them for days after their work. I have watched an artist taking care of small cuts all over her body as the night before she performed with pins pushed through the top layers of her skin and now she needs to nurse them. Another artist can’t move for the searing pains in his stomach from the concoction he ingested the night before; another has (temporarily I hope) lost some nerve strength in both hands from a dramatic gesture in the climax of his piece. Needless to say, we have witnessed many healings, but what we have not seen are regrets. If the artists have to take care of themselves afterwards, what is most important is if the viewers were satisfied with the journey they were taken on. And if it’s any consolation to someone who is afraid of the pain in performance, I have seen these wounds heal much faster than wounds not created during a performance.
With Incident magazine focusing on Performance Art, I congratulate David LaGaccia, Esther Neff, Laura Bluer and my post-performance co-editors Rocio Boliver and Eric Letourneau for having the courage and the patience for allowing a dialogue to develop around the confusions and realities that are the aftermaths of Performance Art.
Jill McDermid has an MFA in Performance Art and Intermedia from the University of Iowa and has been a performance artist since 1998. She opened the Grace Exhibition Space for International Performance Art [GES] in 2006 with Melissa Lockwood and continues to run the space with her husband Erik Hokanson. Jill and Erik travel extensively as a performance artists and guest curators.