The Monthly (Australia) - - ARTS & LETTERS — ART -

The con­tainer was very care­fully equipped. It in­cluded three video cam­eras an­gled to con­tin­u­ally record ev­ery mo­ment of my 72 hours of oc­cu­pa­tion. One of th­ese cam­eras was an in­fra-red cam­era which was trained on the mat­tress where I slept at night. There was also a small screen linked to an ex­ter­nal CCTV cam­era that en­abled me to see from a high an­gle a por­tion of Mac­quarie Street and for long pe­ri­ods I was ab­sorbed by the traf­fic flow out­side and the way pedes­tri­ans would wan­der up to the edge of the road, stand, stare and ar­range for “self­ies” to be taken. At night and in the early hours of the morn­ing gangs of youths would rush out into the road to jump up and down on the bi­tu­men-cov­ered lid of the box. Nei­ther I nor the tech­ni­cians who had con­structed the box had an­tic­i­pated the level of noise that was to be trans­mit­ted into the in­te­rior of the steel box. The steel lid had been put in place with­out be­ing bolted down to en­able im­me­di­ate up­lift in case of emer­gency evac­u­a­tion. This in­evitably meant that the con­stant im­pact of the traf­fic, in par­tic­u­lar the weight of the semi-trail­ers, caused some rock­ing of the steel plate, which pro­duced an in­creas­ingly fear­ful din in the space be­low as wear and tear con­tin­ued, but at no point did the sur­face fully give way. Noise to­gether with con­fine­ment were the most dif­fi­cult as­pects of do­ing this per­for­mance. Only now, three weeks on, is my headache be­gin­ning to sub­side. In­side the box I at­tempted to man­age the in­creas­ing strain of in­car­cer­a­tion by a con­stant pro­gram of ac­tiv­i­ties. Ev­ery morn­ing I would walk five paces for­ward and five paces back at in­creas­ing speed to try to in­duce a walk­ing med­i­ta­tion state. I would keep this up for around one hour in the morn­ing and again for another hour in the af­ter­noon. Time keep­ing was very im­por­tant be­cause I know from ex­pe­ri­ence the men­tal con­fu­sion that can come from los­ing one’s place in the pas­sage of time. The videos of the 72 hours in the box that I am now re­view­ing are very in­ter­est­ing. The rigid rep­e­ti­tion of my ac­tiv­i­ties is dis­turb­ing to watch. I am seen crouch­ing over a small shelf-ta­ble at­tached to the wall of the box. I am writ­ing in red ink in a note­book. The writ­ing goes on and on with crab-like me­chan­i­cal ab­sorp­tion. I look up. I am lost in thought for sev­eral min­utes. I be­gin writ­ing again. Then I am draw­ing. Star­ing hard at a mir­ror, strug­gling to force my im­age into a man­age­able sta­sis. I’m read­ing. Some­times The Fa­tal Shore in­duces a kind of parox­ysm and I be­gin read­ing aloud with in­creas­ingly vi­o­lent ve­he­mence. Then I’m star­ing for long pe­ri­ods at nothing, be­cause the cam­eras can’t see the screen high in the cor­ner of the box. Greg Lehman’s sug­ges­tion that the work draws its power of ef­fect from be­ing an anti-mon­u­ment is very ap­po­site in a dou­ble sense, be­cause what is ex­traor­di­nar­ily salient I think about the video doc­u­men­ta­tion taken from in­side the box is the way task-per­for­mance breaks down the dan­ger­ous no­tion of the artist-hero. I am fully re­vealed, much to my con­ster­na­tion, as an old man strug­gling to keep his men­tal equilib­rium in a cell of in­creas­ing claus­tro­pho­bia. The obliv­ion of the road as the blank screen of moder­nity brings into ten­sion two buried sub­jec­tiv­i­ties: the men­tal tur­moil of the his­to­rian above and be­yond and the buried pres­sure of the per­former be­low strug­gling to men­tally in­tro­ject in­creas­ingly Pro­crustean lim­its. I think that it is this struc­ture of blocked trans­mis­sion that is so sen­si­tively imag­ined by your own ac­count. You’ll ex­cuse, I hope, this very de­tailed ac­count of the oc­cu­pied box which need not de­flect your text at all be­cause only small changes are needed, but I felt that I owed you a full dis­clo­sure be­fore you went to print. Fi­nally, this doc­u­men­ta­tion of the 72 hours of my habi­ta­tion of the box to­gether with the footage from a video cam­era an­gled down to look at the road [fixed an­gle and area of view] from the top of the Mer­cury build­ing will be­come a new work for pub­lic ex­hi­bi­tion. This ex­po­sure in­duced by doc­u­men­ta­tion is cru­cial for my work as a per­for­mance artist, be­cause it comes to show the deep re­al­ism of the event, a re­al­ism now that is in­creas­ingly lost to us, as vir­tu­al­ity, me­di­a­tion, the se­duc­tion of the dig­i­tal and the me­dia ev­ery­where con­sti­tute the degra­da­tion of the hy­per-real.

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