Supralingual/Sublingual: The Tongue is the Terrain is a series of new interdisciplinary performance works. Integrating video, live music, and performance art, I metaphorically parallel the division between air and land with the division between language and its meaning. The surface of the landscape is the literal seam between the atmosphere and geosphere; as such, it becomes host to a range of metaphoric activity revealing both the poetry and gracelessness of straddling the language/meaning divide. I posit myself here, merging electro nu-wave music and process-oriented performance art to deliver a nerdy audiovisual spectacle that recalls Bruce Nauman and Joseph Beuys as much as it does Devo.
I perform musically in front of a rear projection video screen that also features me but garbed in orange coveralls and typically situated in a ritual activity at the surface of the landscape. Some interactions include: crawling through trenches dug into the earth, using my tongue to push a ball across a grass field, levitating, drawing a chalk circle around a stationary airplane, and making casts of my mouth cavity with Play-Doh. At points the orange activity suit reads like the costume of a convict. Other sequences promote reading the coveralls as the garb of a construction worker. This ambiguous character purposefully falls between these connotations with regard to his various roles as a user of language.
Apart from the ritual control of gesture in the projected space, my movement is less reserved in the foreground. I am interested in the sterile and calculated movement as well as the punctual attitude present in the on-stage body as popularized by seventies and eighties musicians such as Kraftwerk and Talking Heads. This self-conscious posturing ultimately becomes a stylization of presence. It depicts an imperfect attempt at a remove from bodily politics allowing the body to be reduced to a sweating diagram—letting the audience know that something greater is being communicated. Here the body is allowed to pretend to join the theoretical realm. Performance artist Guillermo Gomez-Pena indicates that, “It is simply impossible to ‘replace’ the ineffable magic of a pulsating, sweaty body immersed in a live ritual in front of our eyes.”
In the seventies, Laurie Anderson initiated a performative model that hybridized popular music with performance art, bringing her stardom in the early eighties. While her works are broadly known, it is a model that has since been shallowly explored. It is no secret that in the U.S., performance art is historically problematic. It is often dismissed as pretentious or even viewed with distrust. I parallel art and music, both time-based fields of study, “piggy backing” performance art on top of music because of music’s readily accessible nature. While my enthusiasm for both fields runs deep, I recognize the very real accessibility problems with performance art. This stems from my contrasting experiences performing process-oriented works in galleries and performing music in clubs. I have always been bewildered at how involved (and even sweaty) an audience is willing to get while watching me perform music. Yet I am disappointed at how more often than not, process-oriented performance art renders the audience impatient—likely scratching their heads or rolling their eyes. By hybridizing the two approaches, I hope to inject a more palatable tempo into the repetitive action of performance—alleviating the “boredom” of performance and providing interest incentive to devotees from both circles. This crossover appeal is at the base of why Anderson is one of the most well-received and accessible names in performance. This work contributes to that rich lineage—expanding upon it and reinvestigating it through the lens of the now. Supralingual/Sublingual: The Tongue is the Terrain seeks to sustain the critical conceptual depth of process-oriented work while simultaneously appealing to the open mind and bodily instinct people have for rhythm.