If You Can Dish It Out, I Can Take It: Day 3

The last two days were both in Oksasenkatu 11, a white-walls-style art gallery, and mostly took place in its small front room, with a storefront window onto the street.

Once again I missed the beginning of the main performance by Peter Shaw, which ran from 10 a.m. until about 8 p.m.  I got lost trying to find the gallery and unfortunately there’s no space for a cell phone in a set of Stormtrooper armor.

I arrived around 11 and saw the rest of the performance.  Peter created a set of clothes out of chicken wire and pulled it tightly around his body, then put on an all-blue set of clothes on top.  This took most of the day.  During that time, people wandered in and out of the gallery, but there were never more than a handful, and the gallery was often empty besides the two of us.

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The gallery is perhaps 15×20′, so it was close quarters.  I felt like I was right on top of him, and since it was often just us, our mutual presence was impossible to ignore.  At first, I think he felt uncomfortable at my presence, and couldn’t ignore me as much as he wanted; I was basically interfering with his headspace.  It must be a strange thing to be alone in a room with a Stormtrooper watching your every move.  He was also not talking, so it was very silent.  As time wore on, however, we started feeling bonded together in the experience, and sometimes conversed.

Eventually, Peter finished his suit; about 20 people showed up to watch at that point.  Then an experimental music group, the Krachkisten Orchestra, put on a music show in the basement.  I took pictures with most of the band and we had a good time.  At the end of the music show, people sang the Imperial March a capella, which was very gratifying and entertaining for everyone.

Then Peter started the final phase of his performance: walking a few miles to one of the other galleries in the Festival while wearing his chickenwire suit, which was very stiff and painful. Unfortunately, while the crowd had originally seemed poised to go with him, in the end only a couple members of the Festival staff and I, and my own traveling companion, went along.  It took two hours, and was freezing cold.

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When we finally got to the end, it had been an exceedingly long day, and we were all tired and cold.  Peter stripped off the chicken wire as we watched, which was the finale of his piece.  We all felt like it had been a great bonding experience.  He had, I think, transformed to being somewhat uncomfortable with my presence to being grateful for it, as one of the only people to see it through to the end.  For my own part, I really felt the power of the end of his performance, having watched so much of it and having participated in the marathon at the end of it.  It was a shared feeling of exultation.

My performance on Day 3 was very satisfying.

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