Los Angeles, Jan. 2011 - Introduction: Formative Bodies, Hearing From Dino Dinco
Reports Dino Dinco on the website luxlotus.com, “[I am] embarking on a year-long post as Performance Curator in Residence at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE)... As a teenager, LACE is where I first experienced the work of Raymond Pettibon, Tom of Finland, and Nina Hagen who performed on the patio of their former downtown location.”
Further, in a curatorial statement, Dinco writes: “In mid-‘80s Los Angeles, Ron Athey, Luis Alfaro, and Vaginal Davis were but some of the artists who schooled me in what it meant to use the body—their bodies—to investigate a matrix of race, sex, power, community, activism, sexuality, and desire through performance art. Many of the spaces where I first saw these artists are long gone: The Onyx Café, Club Fuck! (the original Silverlake location at Le Barcito, then called Bascos), Glaxa Theater, Troy Café..."
GUTTED 2011, curated by Dinco and upcoming at LACE, includes members of a generation of Los Angeles artists who are elaborately engaging rhythms and forms of performance art as a serious practice. Performers include a roster of inimitables: Mariel Carranza, Brian Getnick, Dawn Kasper, Julie Tolentino, and Dorian Wood.
Dino Dinco, GUTTED 2010: Julie Tolentino, Performance installation, Los Angeles, CA; Courtesy of the artist
Things as They Were or Are: Not A Party, A Life
But, who is Dino Dinco? I decided to get out of the way and asked Dinco to write a statement about an epic fuckin’ art party he had alluded to, New Year’s Day night, after a beer. It seemed to me like this art party had been a formative experience for Dinco. Dinco e-mailed me with a description, which he augmented a few days later in another e-mail:
I found the brochure for Platinum Oasis: La Terra Vista Dalla Luna, inspired by the work of Pasolini, at the Coral Sands Motel, 2001... It was 18 hours, put together by Hogma Soleil, Athey, and Davis. It featured Ming Ma, Rick Owens (a couture sweat shop), José Munoz, Annie Sprinkle, Bruce La Bruce, and the list unravels on and on.
My room at the motel (the gay crystal meth sex motel) was named (by Vag): “Chicos of Montebello Latin Fan Club.”
In addition to displaying some of my photographic work, I invited Hector Silva and Ray Lopez to also show their work. Hector is fairly well known for his photo-realist drawings of homeboys with a decidedly queer slant. Years before, I had seen Ray Lopez perform his character “Espie/Readymade Chola” at a space in Echo Park where he drank 40s, rolled and smoked joints, sprayed lots of Aqua-Net and played with the black rubber bands on his wrists and linked through his fingers... We staged Espie's return at his house. I shot loads of slide film of “Espie at home” and projected a carousel of images in my Platinum Oasis room. I also covered the walls of the room in butcher paper so that guests could leave feedback, their own gang tags, hate mail, and love letters...
In addition to performances and installations in all the motel rooms, there were performances by the pool. The Vice squad came in and everyone was forced to go into a room—any room—while they did a sweep... The Vice eventually left and it went back into full swing. There were a lot of drugs and people fucking... I've never experienced anything quite like it since.
Cotton T-shirt from the exhibition,TODOS SOMOS PUTOS, 2010, Mexicali, MX; Courtesy of the artist
People Worse Than They Are; Watching People As They Are; People Better Than They Are
Dinco and I met the other night at Zankou Chicken, 5065 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, we ordered a plate, a wrap, tabouleh… 9PM, sipping Pepsi waiting for our order number to be called. On a scrap of a ticket is our order number, number 41. I had a digital recorder:
Dino Dinco: That’s funny. We’re number 41. Do you know about 41? In Mexico, in 1901, this fancy party was raided by the police. 42 men, legend has it, were arrested; half of them were in drag. This was upper middle class—rich people. All these men were arrested—well, 41 were arrested. The 42nd guy is believed to have been Ignacio de la Torre, the son-in-law of Porfirio Díaz who was the President at the time. So the 41 “plebes” were all arrested and humiliated publicly. The artist Jose Guadalupe Posada, did a series of illustrations in the newspaper about Los 41. In one you see the guys in drag being publicly humiliated. The men who got arrested were then sent to the Yucatan to join the army. The men who had been arrested dressed as women were assigned kitchen and cleaning details, where the ones in men’s clothing were sent to fight on the frontline.
When I made my Todos Somos Putos T-shirt, I embedded 41 really really small in the lettering. For the exhibit itself, I went to Home Depot in Mexicali and I bought the number 41—a house address number—and I put it where you see Christian crosses, over an arch. I put a big fat 41 over the main archway into the gallery so everyone had to walk under it.
It was funny too because the younger generation doesn’t necessarily pay attention to this history. My friend Molly is Mexican-American, and her parents were born in Mexico. I sent her the T-shirt. I said: “you know about the legend of 41, right?” She said: “I don’t.” So I was explaining to her what I was explaining to you. And she said: “My God! My dad for the entire year he turned 41, he’d lie and say he was either 40 or 42!”
Marcus Civin: How old are you?
DD: I’m 40.
DD: When I watch people watching performance, the same questions come up: What are these performers doing? What are people doing when they are watching them? What is the audience doing when they are watching this? Why watch performance ever? Why aren’t they home watching TV?
I’ve worked in TV commercials for 13-14 years. This one director that I’ve worked with, whenever he gets on the phone with an ad agency, he says: "People like to see people. People like to see faces." In the bigger picture, people like to see people doing stuff. We hear all the time: "When I travel, I just like to watch people."
Sometimes I enjoy watching people engage in mundane things, but sometimes it’s fun to try to figure out why a person, Dorian Wood, a big, brown person with red make-up on his face, is sitting in a chair for 5 hours, pissing in water bottles, surrounded by 9 collaborators, all women. (http://dorianwood.blogspot.com/2010/02/xxiii-untitled.html)
What are we looking for? Is it the chance to see a naked body that’s not our own, that’s not our lover’s? Is it more rigorous work when there’s nudity involved, or just a potentially scandalous flirtation? Is there more risk perceived if we see blood, if we see a dick, if we see some kind of physical pain or emotional pain playing out?
I think, one of the things that I really love about performance, you really have to be there. You can watch documentation on video, on a tape, look at a series of photographs, but that is just documentation. It’s not the same.
I’ve noticed that since performance has seemed to have risen in popularity, say in the last half of a decade—some people say it’s the economy. I don’t agree. I suspect performance has risen in popularity because life on the Internet at this point leaves out experiences that we had pre-Internet, it flattens these experiences, and now we’re looking for ways to get those experiences back.
One of the reasons I started the fashion film festival, YOU WEAR IT WELL, was to get people away from their computers to watch short films and videos—in a proper theater… projected… with other people who like that sort of thing. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qhLhjUkM28)
With performance it's the same. People want to get away from their houses, away from their monitors. We want to see bodies again, no matter what they are doing. Even if ultimately, you think: “That was stupid, or self-indulgent, or gratuitous” (these criticisms have been often levied against performance), people still want to see it.
GUTTED 2010: Dorian Wood, Performance installation, Los Angeles, CA; Courtesy of the artist
DD: Part of the reason why a lot of performance is made by Queers: Queers often create environments that are less constrictive, less conservative, and the straight kinky ones participate in this too. There’s a zone where everyone can appreciate each other’s stuff. It’s conducive… like so much Los Angeles performance in the 70’s, 80s, and early 90s—Johanna Went, for example, performing where the punk rock and the Queer worlds overlapped. Why not do it in an illegal nightclub? In a warehouse where there’s a bar and it’s more…? The lack of perimeter and parameters are there. (See http://www.johannawent.com/)
MC: Is performance fringe?
DD: To me, child pornography is fringe. Incest is fringe. I’m trying to place: Where’s the real fringe on the cloth?
MC: I mean, it’s music. It’s not. It exists in film, video, and photography, but it’s not film, video, or photography. It is still largely perceived as not for sale.
DD: Part of the attraction for me is that, that the work is not for sale. It’s not for sale, but unfortunately, the production costs, the way I’ve seen it, are almost always on the artists.
MC: This is not the case for all performance artists.
DD: True. A percentage are funded and sell things. Laurie Anderson sells tickets.
MC: She makes objects for sale, sells albums. With a really good agent, there are lots of performance artists who could make money. It’s not impossible. The form is not completely antithetical to capital.
DD: Um, okay, I guess maybe the Blue Man Group, if that Las Vegas type of thing is considered…
MC: Stomp, the musical…
DD: Matthew Barney? He makes plenty of shit to sell.
MC: For the most part, the artists you have worked with though, who you are working with as a curator at LACE, these are artists who are working with found or donated supplies, donated time, maybe they make a little part of the door, maybe they have a little bit of grant funding, a very few have galleries, but they almost all work a part time job or a full time job.
DD: Teaching; one works in a law firm; one owns a busy hair salon--coloring, trims. Curating at LACE, I can provide a platform, a space and an audience for this kind of work. If you want to be a performance artist, that means you want to perform. Unless you want to produce all of your shows yourself, here’s an opportunity. At Gutted, a couple hundred people in one night see an array of disciplined approaches, an array of faces, and perhaps get introduced to an artist and their work for the first time.
MC: For the most part, these are not artists who were working at something else and who’ve decided to do a performance because it's hot right now. For the most part, these are artists who have been performing for some time… To change course slightly, how would you say objects are involved in this performance work?
DD: There are often props involved, hand-made props.
MC: I ask because you e-mailed me Roberta Smith’s recent article critiquing MOMA’s history of art. I noticed she seemed to be saying MOMA is promoting a certain reading of history, a reading that among other things, popularizes the idea that artists turned to performance art as the ultimate dematerialization of the art object.
DD: Well, she also seemed to be saying that they need to fill their atrium with something and occasionally they’ll fill it with performance rather than sculpture or potted ferns. I read it like she got bored halfway through writing the piece and to spice it up for herself, she invented the angle that something new was happening and took a critical point of view on it. She wrote: “The building was fussy and sterile.” Well, sure, Roberta. Most museums are fussy and sterile and their programming often reflects this sterile fussiness.
In response to your question about objects: In my mind, objects become props in performance. If they’re on a stage, if they're on a site, if they’re being interacted with, they’re props for performance. If their reason for being there is performance, I’m going to take them in as props. Does that mean that performance begs the language of theater or film? Wardrobe… Costumes... Even a basic black body suit is significant. All in white: Mariel Carranza, Nancy Popp, Dawn Kasper, you. It’s deliberate.
MC: And then Brian Getnick, these huge heads…
DD: And heads with heads. Heads with little miniature heads!
MC: Would you do an exhibit of performance props at LACE?
DD: Tim Burton? Uhh, no. So static. I wouldn’t really care to unless it’s part of a performance. I also don’t go to the Hard Rock to see Buddy Holly’s guitar in a vitrine.
MC: You’re killing people’s ability to pay the rent.
DD: I’m not saying don’t sell it. I just don’t want to put on that show.
GUTTED 2010: Mariel Carranza, Performance installation, Los Angeles, CA; Courtesy of the artist
Purpose, The Faith of The Audience
MC: What is performance for you?
DD: Performance is a very particular way of communication, of talking, or reading, I view all forms of art as the writing and reading of text. Performance for me is... it’s kind of romantic to call it storytelling... but it’s a delivery, and I am stimulated by how different people deliver information in the moment, in 3D, oftentimes without words, and I like—even if some art critics express that they’re bored of the body connection with performance art, I’m bored of their boredom because there’s always something—a different body, a way to talk about it, or say something. I like that. Jean-Luc Nancy’s essay, Corpus, is a concise, illuminating reminder of why there’s nothing before the body. I like watching what one person does with their body and what they don’t do with their body. I like to help make that happen, if it’s on a purely logistical level, or if in my experience with performance, photography, or production, I also like bringing performers together. If I feel like something can happen from their collaboration, why not?
Marcus, how do you rate a good or bad performance? What are you rating? How is that qualified? Why do you want to watch performance? Why do you want to go to performance? Why do you want to go? Continue to go? Is it entertaining?
We know that when we go to see X person perform, we’re going to be entertained. We have to invest in the performance as a whole so that we can then pick it apart when it’s done. When we’re in the shower before the performance, we’re not thinking about the performance, we’re just thinking about getting dressed to go. We’re investing in the performance as a whole ahead of time, that’s what’s going to get us in the door. And then the artists do their job. After the applause, then the timer starts where we sort of decipher what we saw, what we just smelled, the bobbing of a penis or not, the moments when they clearly fucked up a rehearsed line… What I’m describing is hope, or faith in the process, in the whole. That kind of faith is enough to support performance—that constructs an audience, and then…
MC: I want something precise in the performance.
DD: You want to feel like there’s some work behind it.
MC: I want something, a golden car part, that bit of singing, something that’s not a cliche—it is actually hard to get paint, or wax, or paper, or rope to behave that way, to stack that way. There is something in the performance, within the fact of the ordinariness of our bodies revealed, the mess, the danger, anticipation, quotidian gestures repeated—also in there, there are gems of: “I never thought of that, that particular combination of references builds and builds in my mind.” I’m not forced to watch a cliche: raindrops on a window pane.
DD: You want gold raindrops on a window pane!
In a completely other context and for other purposes, Artistotle wrote: “The user must know most about the performance of the thing they use and must report on its good or bad points to the maker. The flute-player, for example, will tell the instrument-maker how well the instrument-maker’s flutes serve the player’s purpose, and the other will submit to be instructed about how they should be made. So the person who uses any implement will speak of its merits and defects with knowledge, whereas the maker will take his word and possess no more than a correct belief, which they are obliged to obtain by listening to the person who knows…”
This bit of Aristotle, translated by Francis Cornford, resonates with me and in relation to my conversation with Dinco. It seems to me Dinco could be that person out of reach in Aristotle’s analysis: the player of the instrument and the instrument maker.
ArtSlant would like to thank Dino Dinco for his assistance in making this interview possible.
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