Which Way TK? at ITINERANT performance art festival in Queens, NY

Somehow I ended up at the opening night of the ITINERANT performance art festival on November 12. Earlier in the day I was talking to some guys about some robots, and then all of a sudden everything kind of went hazy, and the next thing I could remember, I was in a place called the Atrium in PS 69, Queens. Or at least that’s what people told me.

I went around asking people if they could help me, because I was feeling kind of lost. Lucky for me I had a blank sketchpad and some pens with me! Remembering that Stanley Brouwn was able to get people to draw him some maps with some very helpful directions on how to get places, I thought I would do something similar, and I asked people to draw me some maps to help me understand where I was, and maybe how I got there and how to get out of there.

A number of people at the opening and on the street outside were nice enough to draw me the maps shown below. Using them, eventually I figured out where I was and how to get home.

The maps show some very helpful information. For instance, one shows that Queens is at the top of everything, and that everything else is south of it.

Several maps show the local street grid, and how to get to the subway as an example of how to get out of there. Some of them also show where Queens is in relation to Manhattan.

One offers a poetic escape: “look up, fish a star, and fly.”

One very helpful map shows where we are in relation to the whole Earth. Bjork is shown to the north, and as the map-maker said, “if you get to Bjork, you’ve gone too far.” Santa Claus is confusingly shown at the South Pole here; perhaps he has recently relocated. Elvis is shown to live on Pluto, Carl Sagan and Tupac share a spot on the Moon, and Noam Chomsky is way out there. I think this is the map that helped me to contextualize myself the most.

The meaning of the final map, “optimistic boy,” is unclear, but perhaps refers to the mapmaker’s pessimistic belief that I would never find my way home. Luckily, I am indeed an optimistic TK, and managed to use the information on all these maps to figure out where I came from, where I was, and where I was going.

 

“Sci-Fi Fan as Performance Artist” lecture, and more TK Art <3er, at ASU

For those of you who have been wondering if Corporal Outis would ever get around to looking at some more art as part of TK Art <3er (last seen way back last summer), wonder no more! I finally got back to indulging my eyes last week.

And, for those of you who have been wondering if Corporal Outis would stop staring at things, get behind a podium, and give an academic lecture (probably not a huge number of you), wonder no more either!

I just spent two days at the Stage the Future: The Second International Conference on Science Fiction Theater, at Arizona State University in Tempe (also here on Facebook). The conference was held in association with ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, and the Center for Science and the Imagination, which works to combine science and the arts.

I gave a presentation called “The Sci-Fi Fan as Performance Artist: Building Objects and Communities,” as part of the Pop! Goes the Science Imaginary panel, along with fellow panelists Jeff Sachs and Robert Kroll, both of whom gave interesting talks about Doctor Who.

I described the 501st Legion, the Star Wars costuming group, and presented my theory that 501st participants, most of whom work outside of the arts in their “straight” lives, should nonetheless be considered as artists. I argued that their physical builds, which involve high degrees of skill, creativity, and vision; and their events, which I see as performance art; are artworks–which is probably not a particularly controversial claim. My more unusual argument, perhaps, is that the 501st (and other cosplayers) members’ participation in their online forums is also a form of creative production and equivalent to performance art. These threads include both build and discussion threads, and are a big part of the way the 501st communicates and creates community. While I would guess that most 501st members wouldn’t think of this aspect of the community as art, I see this online visual and verbal dialog as being equivalent to numerous discussion-based artworks by conceptual artists from Joseph Beuys to Ian Wilson to Rirkrit Tiravanija, which use dialog as a pure form of communication and mindfulness among individuals.  In essence I invite others to consider these forums as art and see how that changes their perception of them.

The talk and its ideas were received well, and the audience members were interested to hear of the 501st’s level of costume research and quality, as well as its involvement in charities. I, incidentally, found out that it is much harder to breathe while giving a lecture in armor than it is to have a normal conversation!

I asked the audience, which took lots of pictures, to send them to me, so hopefully soon I can post some of them here.

The rest of the conference had several interesting presentations on the confluence of theater/performance and science fiction.

The next day, I finally followed up on TK Art <3er, in which I walk around and look at art in galleries, museums, and public spaces. I started off by going to the Meteorite Gallery, which was in the same building as the conference. This building has several very well-designed visual displays to present science information, including the Meteorite Gallery. The exhibition was very informative and had quite a few beautiful meteorite pieces.

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Photo by Carol Stewart

 

Then I went off into the rest of the ASU campus in search of some student galleries. First I went to the Northlight Gallery, but unfortunately it was closed due to spring break. Then I went to the ASU Art building just to look around. The building was open, and I saw several examples of student work on the walls. I liked a display of “artistic manhole covers.” The Art building’s Harry Wood gallery was closed, but I was able to look in through the window, it looked like a good space.

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I moved on to look for the Step Gallery, which I couldn’t find, but found Gallery 100, which is in the same building complex. In any case, both of them were closed for spring break as well. Here’s a Stormtrooper Selfie in front of the Gallery 100!

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As I walked around, I saw several examples of public sculpture on the campus. Here’s another Stormtrooper Selfie in front of one of them.

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Finally I arrived at the ASU Art Museum, a major contemporary art museum on campus, which thankfully was not closed! It has some pretty cool architecture that winds up and down in space. The students in the reception area were very welcoming and explained how to best navigate the museum. There were five main galleries with several shows. I liked a sculpture of some California-style houses and a swimming pool the most; the houses were sort of floating on the swimming pools, which were real water.

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In the last one, you can see me reflected in a mirrored painting.  The guards and some other visitors, who were all very helpful, took the rest of these pictures for me.

The ASU campus actually has a large number of student and professional galleries, so it’s too bad that my timing was off (doing this on a Saturday during spring break), but the work I did see was enjoyable.

Overall, I was very happy with both the talk and the TK Art <3er performance. I’ll hopefully be doing some more TK Art <3er visits around New York once the weather gets warmer.

Upcoming: Stage the Future 2, at ASU

I’ll be attending Stage the Future 2, the annual conference on Science Fiction Theater, at Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination this week (March 6 and 7).

I’ll be giving a talk called The Sci-Fi Fan as Performance Artist: Building Objects and Communities, about my work as Corporal Outis.

Then I’ll continue my TK Art <3er performance at some of the local art venues in Phoenix and Tempe.

Recap of “Doctor Outis Is In!” at the Performance Arcade

I provided free talk therapy sessions to people at the Performance Arcade, in Wellington, New Zealand, from February 18-22, in a project called Doctor Outis Is In!, in honor of the esteemed psychiatric work of Lucy van Pelt.

Photo Credit Gussie Larkin

Photo credit: Gussie Larkin

These performances lasted up to 13 hours a day, and brought in somewhere between one and two hundred patients over the five days of the show. I did individual, small group, and large group sessions. Each session lasted 15 minutes.

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Photo credit: Peter Wickham

My office was suitably furnished with a chair for the participants and a stool for me (since I can’t sit down in my armor), along with a lamp and an appropriately black and white rug. Portraits of Freud, Lucy (seen here), and Emperor Palpatine hung on the wall to help us focus on the important aspects of the moment. Sessions were private, but there was a peephole in the door so the people outside in line could see us without hearing us.

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The therapy sessions ranged in tone from humorous to serious, depending on what the participant was looking for. As I stressed to my patients, Corporal Outis has no therapy experience or expertise whatsoever. Sometimes we talked about the project, and how my mask provided a neutral, blank, expressionless affect that made it easier for them to talk with me than a normal human. But mostly people came in for actual therapy, and often had specific personal issues they wanted to seriously discuss.

Photo credit: Peter Wickham

Staged session with model, not a real participant.  Photo credit: Peter Wickham

I talked with people about their relationships with their families, their hopes and fears, and their sources of pride. People wanted to discuss breakups with romantic partners, the desire to cheat on their significant others, difficulties at work, various phobias (including a fear of Stormtroopers), problems with roommates, anxiety about moving, feeling inhuman, the process of coming out to family members, and the guilt over not being able to save people from harm. I talked with multiple “real” therapists, and enabled at least one to come to a moment of clarity about her own practice. Multiple participants remarked that I was “better than their real therapist,” and most were volubly thankful for their experience.

Overall it was a great success, with numerous deep conversations that built a strong set of interpersonal relationships and experiences.

Photo credit: Peter Wickham

Photo credit: Peter Wickham

Sign up for Therapy Sessions with Corporal Outis here!

Here is the complete list of all my therapy slots at the Performance Arcade in Wellington, New Zealand from February 18-22.

I am providing free talk therapy for anyone who wants it.  Take a chance and tell your deepest secrets to a trooper! As a tool of the Empire, I am dedicated to bringing peace to the galaxy.  Let’s start with your own inner peace! I have no training in talk therapy whatsoever, but I promise not to tell anyone what we talked about, not even the Emperor!

If a time slot is blank, that means it is available for you to sign up for an appointment. Please contact me via comment or email (corporaloutis@gmail.com) to sign up for any of the blank slots!

If a time slot says “walk-in,” that means the slot is only available for walk-in traffic at the Arcade.  Just wait in line at my container at the Arcade and I’ll take people in the order in which they showed up!

The last slot of each day is a half-hour group therapy session for everyone in line who didn’t manage to get in during one of the previous one-on-one sessions.

[time slots have been edited out, since the performance is now over]

Therapy Appointments Times for the Performance Arcade COMING SOON

I, Corporal Outis, will be providing free therapy sessions at the Performance Arcade in Wellington, New Zealand from February 18-22.  Please note that I have no therapy background whatsoever. However, as a servant of the Empire I am dedicated to expanding peace throughout the galaxy, and that includes spreading peace of mind!

Attendees to the festival will be able to sign up for brief therapy sessions through this site.  I will also have walk-in slots.

I will post the sign-up process in the next week or so.  Come back soon to get your appointment!

TK Art<3er

Today I began my new, long awaited project, TK Art<3er.  I plan to attend a lots of art galleries and see what kind of great art they have to see!

This week I visited the Cazenovia College Art Gallery and the Stone Quarry Hill Art Park and its gallery.

The Cazenovia College Art Gallery had some interesting work in a variety of media by Sylvia Wyckoff as part of their Summer Art Series.  Nice show, although I almost couldn’t get in because I tried the wrong door at first.  Luckily someone else came in at the same time and helped me find the right way to the gallery.  I also checked out their cool little sculpture garden.

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I also had a great time seeing the beautiful sculpture park at Stone Quarry Hill, wandering around in the green fields and talking with some of the other visitors.  Then I checked out their All Things Cazenovia juried show, with some nice work by many local artists, including some cool pieces by Anita Welych and Anne Cofer.

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I’m hoping to see at least one more art show this summer, and then hit some more in the fall.

If You Can Dish It Out, I Can Take It: Day 4

The final day was once again at Oksasenkatu 11, and featured a performance by Jeffery Byrd from 10 a.m. through 5 p.m.  He wrote words, selected for their beautiful sounds, on colorful post-it notes and stuck them to the gallery’s storefront window, eventually filling it up.

Unfortunately, there weren’t as many visitors that day.  Those who did come could suggest words, and he would add them to the window.  He was happy to talk, and we chatted throughout the day.  I offered several words for his notes.

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He ended a little early, and the gallery attendants weren’t there at the time.  The door seemed to be locked, and we couldn’t get out, and spent an extra hour just hanging out in the gallery together.  Eventually one of the gallery attendants stopped by and left us out (embarrassingly, it turned out that the door was just stuck, not locked, and we could have left at any time).  Here, Jeffrey unsuccessfully tries to open the door (I couldn’t open it either).

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While this performance didn’t foster the same kind of boot-camp-like mutual bonding experience as the previous day, it had its own closeness fostered by our daylong conversation and Jeffrey’s own interest in sci-fi culture.  It was a good end to my series of performances.  They dished it out, and I took it.

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.

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.