If You Can Dish It Out, I Can Take It: Day 2

I traveled from Estonia to Finland via ferry the next morning and arrived a few minutes late, missing the beginning of the next performance.

Day 2 featured three long-term performances, all in a “public square”-style space in the Kamppi Shopping Center, a major upscale mall.

The first was Philip Levine, who stood on a pedestal and wore diamonds all over his scalp in place of hair.  He was there for a few hours.  The second was a twenty minute performance by Francesca Fini, who attempted to apply makeup to her face while her arm muscles were randomly stimulated by electrical devices attached to her body.  There was also a short performance by Meri Nikula, which I had to skip in order to tend to my armor.  The third performance was by Rooms, a group that sung numbers in order, with the sound for each number lasting as long as that number is, in seconds.  This also lasted a few hours.

This performance went completely differently from the first.  The mall setting was radically different from the darkened abandoned factory, which was attended mostly by other performance artists.  This was a well-lit, commercial space filled with shoppers who had no idea they would run into some performance art in the course of their day.  Some of the artists were much more interactive with the audience, and with me, so I built up a relationship with some of them that did not exist with the artists on the previous night.  In general, these circumstances made for a much more interesting series of conversations and experiences for me.

Philip Levine was the most interesting.  He and I were both just standing there the whole time.  He had already applied the diamonds to his head, and was just there to talk to passersby.  I stood perhaps thirty feet away, at about a 30-degree angle to his left.  As he discussed his work with people who stopped by, he often pointed me out and sent them over to talk to me.  I did the same thing with people who stopped by me first.  It was a very symbiotic relationship.  The people in the mall very very excited and interested to see a Stormtrooper, and excitedly talked with me and took pictures with me.

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As the day went on, the mall’s visitors changed somewhat demographically.  In the morning, they were mostly adults and younger kids.  As the day wore on, there were more and more teenagers, who reacted to me somewhat differently.  Sometimes they were just excited to see me, but other times they felt a classic teen need to deal with me in some sort of ironic or jaded way, making handsigns behind my back and so on.

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The second show created a bit of a stage, roping off the center performance area, and people gathered together to watch in a crowd, as they had not done for Levine.  I simply stood along with the rest of the crowd.

The Hours stood in the central area, but it was not roped off.  They gathered somewhat of a crowd as well, but since it was a longer performance, and it was less clear what they were doing from the point of view of a casual observer, people usually only stayed for a short time.  I moved around more during this performance, watching them from different angles and distances.  At one point, one of the Hours’ off-duty members asked me to watch from a little farther off, as people had started wondering if I was part of their performance.  I had expected that this might happen at some performances, and was happy to move back a bit.  I felt like I had somewhat of a symbiotic relationship with them, but less than Levine’s, since they generally were also a somewhat theatrical, non-interactive performance, and the mall was pretty packed at that point.

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Overall, it was an interesting day, in terms of my relationship with the artists, and also with the rest of the audience.  Since it was a commercial space, most mall visitors seemed to think I was just another independent event, possibly commercial or pop cultural in nature, and not necessarily related to the performance art world.  It was nice to see the entirety of each performance, which certainly no one else did. Interestingly, the only other people who saw nearly as much as I did were the festival staff, who were there to help the artists and intervene with the shoppers when necessary.  Since we shared the same long-term view of each performance, we often ended up chatting about the show throughout the day.

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