Tao Wells

a performance by Me
Studio 18, Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces Melbourne, 26 July 2007
The eighth in series of performance projects in Tao Wells’ practice, this latest version is based on a recreation of a conversation between the two performers about the performance. Wells’ performances obey rules set out previously and agreed on by the performers-to-be, things like ‘write only what you say and everything you say’ and ‘Remember that you are creating now what will exist later. This causes fear and excitement.’ The resulting text becomes the script for the performance, which is also put onto overhead sheets and displayed by a projectionist, who becomes another character or director by having the power, according to the rules, to decide when and where to stop the performance. The twist to this version is that the two performers are on intimate terms, so in re-enacting their conversation about the performance, the audience also gets a re-enactment of a little snippet of their private life.

It’s hard to know how to approach this work, whether it is more interesting to ‘observe’ – describe how the performers make us tease out an artificial line between the ironic performance/reality of sexual tension between them, which in any case turns predictably stale as it starts to drag on, as they repeat the same lines in slightly different but unexciting ways; or ‘critique’ – ask why Wells talks up the method of using a system that the performers have no choice but to work with, when they don’t bother following the rules very closely, or why he makes a thing out of it being impersonal if he is at the centre? The other approach is the ‘review’, which this hopefully serves as – visiting NZ artist, in collaboration with local, makes sometimes intriguing but mostly forgettable performance art, despite his other work looking and sounding much more interesting.
Michael Ascroft
photo: Niki Wynnychuk


Blogger Tao said...

A little disappointed with the "review" mainly for the confusing last paragraph, presenting your own confusion as structural incomplete and strange sentences has me wondering if you were not better giving the whole thing a little more time. I don't mind that you feel the work wasn't great or forgettable, (why write about it?) I 'd like to hear a reasonable explanation of why. Plus where are the images?
Do you expect me in comment fashion and mode, a la Artbash, to tease out your opinion?
Weird writing, Michael, strangely defensive and congratulatory. HEY Beggars can be choosers.

4:01 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

well i hate to disappoint tao! here's a second attempt at a explaining of why i thought it wasn't great: i think the public/private tension between you, imogen, your text and "us", the audience, that your performance relied on was simply not substantial enough to carry this quasi-improvisation method you had going. for me those few funny, reflexive moments were genuinely intriguing but they were also in the end drowned out in the predictable game of performance…reality…performance…reality etc, etc.

10:38 AM  
Blogger Tao said...

I suspect a subtext has formed that for some reason you are avoiding, namely the power trip you originally asked me about at the interview. Is this what you are instinctively reacting to and wanting to critique? Interesting what you say about the Private/ public tension being insubstantial, at best the idea had the potential to be thin reference to a traditional plot construction, a throw back gesture. Certainly not the point and to stay there means the performance passes you by. I don't blame you for wanting to be entertained, I like to laugh, and the "play " has the look of a bohemian slacker production where Cheech and Chong drop acid. But I really want to be given the opportunity to perform thinking even more. The "predictable game of performance.. reality.. Etc" as you describe it for me is where the work begins and perhaps you stopped. Which is totally fair enough. My exp. as an audience member is if you haven't committed to an emphatic relationship with the performers you are left with nothing else. However is it possible that you want to defend Imogen's involvement, where you perceive a power imbalance, that the strength of her 'reality' and 'performance' don't substantiate? In effect you are made to feel/ see your own power inadequacies/ inappropriateness?

12:35 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

i don't know why you insinuate my criticism of your work has to be motivated by something like that. if you disagree with my interpretation, why don't you argue your own? you could start by explaining what wanting to be given the opportunity to "perform thinking" means.

1:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To offer a view from another audience member:

The performance concentrated my attention on the tension between an alluring theoretical proposition and a disappointing enactment. Repeated recounting of a specific event is a commonplace psychological technique, intended to acquit the emotional charge of the event. Thus, the increasing boredom provoked by the performance was not unexpected or revelatory. Hypothetically, the replaying of a sexually charged collaborative encounter could be imagined to contribute intellectually, reflexively and/or instinctually to the appreciation of the performance. However, beyond fleeting street gossip, the performance failed to provoke either an emotional or academic response. Perhaps the key questions that the performance inspires rise from its failings:
What could have made boredom interesting?
What could have made a banal coupling interesting?
Is a desire for declarative exhibitionism enough?

7:04 AM  
Blogger Tao said...

Great "anonymous" I love your "final nail in the coffin tone' especially that bit about, "the performance failed to provoke either an emotional or an academic response", apart from yours I assume. Again, believe it or not your type of response (and Michaels, etc etc) to the play is built into the play, as the "typical" response. Since the play puts all the emphasis on the audience to create meaning, most of us aren't that resourceful and "sacrifice" the performers instead. A point actually mentioned in the script, and implied by both actors and audience subjected to the same rules. The play is designed to divide the audience into the little group that gets that and the majority that don't, unfortunately your critique simply illuminates that you are in the 'don't' group. Which is all good, "boredom' is a category that could reflect a lazy response, that's all, it is to quickly dismissive, and in this specific context is anticipated and acts to cover up something quite interesting. Like a kid who is bored, it is usually in the face of having to do something they would rather not. You have gone to the trouble of articulating your thoughts but only revealed your true anxieties around the play as the bones of larger questions at the end. What is obvious is that you haven't thought through any of these questions for answers yourself, Like Michael you both want the 'answers' from me, the source, authority, parent or "expert". Resulting in paranoia and/or frustration expressed in dismissal rather than review or critique. You are in good company though, my favorite is a review in 1999, that proudly boasted that the play was "an insult to the fundamentals of theater", having identified and insulted each of the fundamentals of contemporary theater this review had some meat. Starting a trend of simply refusing to credit the conscious intent of the play. Which I respect as anyones right.

2:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like Tao didn't get enough reactions from scrawling his name on a wall in toilet cubicle. It's okay. Don't feel disenfranchised by a lask of whoha about your work. Beuys didn't.

4:54 AM  
Anonymous geoff lowe said...

In this context it would have been good to read Tao's version of what an appropriate review of his (your) own performance would be?

Also the whole idea of SPEECH is to take pleasure in saying and writing things that wouldn't normally appear. Being anonymous and making crazy internet comments won't really advance things much. Not that this is the case here, your comments are very thoughtful but we would really appreciate a name, even if you can't bear to use your name a nom de plume will help kind of track and build what you want to
say over this page and hopefully any other.See Tuesday, August 23, 2005 Short ride in a fast machine (on this site) for related discussion. It really does seem a bit wretched that people fear repercussions for saying-what-they-want-to.

8:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He really did scrawl his name on the wall in Gertrude st mens toilets! It said I LOVE TAO WELLS! - Obviously meant to get a reaction from the business savvy Melbourne Art Elite. Take a whiz! We love you Tao. Come back!

8:51 AM  
Blogger Tao said...

Any part time jobs going, I need a job and I'm there. At least you have a playground even if it is full of kids.

1:43 AM  
Blogger Tao said...

and just reading the review again, the strategy of, "observe', 'critique' "review" is quite apt when confronted with my work which seeks to complicate such distinctions, so by default the review works for me. Another example of why misunderstanding is just about everything, i guess.

1:52 AM  
Blogger emily said...

The 'I LOVE TAO WELLS' was on the toilet wall for at least a year and a half before Tao arrived here. It is a mystery to us all.

6:25 AM  
Blogger Rosemary said...

It must be a fairly standard frustration for a lot of artists to be faced with an audience who just "don't get it".

Tao can you explain what your ideal, more resourceful audience for this work would/should be able to "get"?

(I didn't see the performance, so apologise if I'm asking something really obvious!)

12:25 PM  
Anonymous N. Braille said...

Hi Geoff: to help with understanding the discussion thread, the original anonymous review was mine - the later anon comments are from another... I can see the utility of naming now...

2:23 AM  
Blogger Tao said...

There's no "better" audience, or response, Rosemary, As said earlier there are simply two types of response, it's like that cliche with Jazz, if you have to ask you're probably missing it, or some thing to that effect. I think Michael did a good job on further reflection of putting across where he was at in terms of where the play put him, a kind of melt down, strung out across observe, critique, review. So for me he would be an example of on the fence. The two extremes are: Those that consciously don't get it,( but I hold out that sub c, they do it may just take a while/years, which is all good). They just walk out, which is why between scenes i dim the lights, to encourage and support easy exits, then there is the believer, someone who has committed to making sense of what they are experiencing because they recognize the unique value of the experience. These are rare birds, and worth running the gauntlet every time for. Making sense enforces a sense of responsibility, that in the play, in the audience is the edge that is ridden, or not....

4:24 AM  

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