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Friday, April 11, 2008


posted by on April 11 at 10:02 AM

On the last Monday of every month, in the narrow, reddish, antique-looking theater of the Rendezvous, a performance happens that you aren’t supposed to see. On those Mondays, host Korby Sears, wearing a navy blue suit with a shimmery white scarf, invites that month’s performer into an enormous box on the small stage, leaves the theater, and hopes nobody shows up.

Strikethrough reverse-advertises itself each month with posters and print ads listing the date and location, who will perform, and a notice in bold: “NO ONE ADMITTED. No public. No press. No family. No friends.”

But last Monday at the Rendezvous, I followed Sears up a ladder to the light booth and asked if my friend and I could go inside the theater. “Um,” he paused. “Yes.” (“Nobody had asked to go in before,” Sears said the next day, sounding exasperated that somebody had pierced the veil. “When you asked, I gave you the wrong answer.”)

My friend and I were the only people there. The theater was dark, with one red light shining directly above the enormous box. Three electronic tones—one short like a piano note, the other two droning, like sitars—played over and over and over again. Inside the box, allegedly, was dk pan, a performance artist affiliated with Degenerate Art Ensemble, Infernal Noise Brigade, and the Motel Project, doing… something. Strikethrough demands secrecy: Performers are not allowed to talk about their performances, not even with Sears. (A week before his Strikethrough debut, pan confessed he felt nervous about performing for an audience of none, more nervous than he’d felt in a long time. “I don’t have to impress an audience,” he said. “I have to impress myself.”)

And that was it, for an hour and a half—the box, the red light, the electronic tones. “It’s Schrödinger’s Cat: the Musical,” my friend whispered. Four more people arrived about halfway through, then left, then returned with fresh drinks. Inside the box, dk (or whomever) jumped (it sounded like jumping) for a few seconds. Then more nothing.

Life’s too short for this kind of nonsense, I thought and then stayed for the whole thing. Watching the box, with the electronic tones playing, in a dark theater, was oddly relaxing. “It’s sad,” someone whispered, “but this is better than most theater I’ve seen lately.” There’s something admirably—and grotesquely—decadent about a performance that doesn’t want your attention, love, or money. (Sears pays $75 to rent the theater; the artists don’t get paid.) People won’t clamor (or pay) to watch Strikethrough, but people would clamor (or pay) to do it. Sears may have invented a new kind of therapy.

“This whole series is about the artists, not the audience,” Sears said the next day. “It’s for their own goddamned selves.” He insists there’s no irony to Strikethrough, no punch line. “It’s hard to talk about it without sounding cryptic, like I’m trying to play you. But I’m not. Really, I should just keep quiet.”

RSS icon Comments


wtf is this shit?

Posted by nothankye | April 11, 2008 10:16 AM

The only thing I don't get is: why advertise at all, reverse or otherwise? Or if you're going to "reverse advertise" why list the time, date and location when people aren't supposed to come? Seems like kind of a reverse psychology sort of thing to get you to want to go.

Also, what's with blog posts that are word for word reprints of articles in the paper?

Posted by Levislade | April 11, 2008 10:17 AM

It’s the advertising that ruins this for me. It’s selling the exclusivity of the event, rather than the nothingness of it. It’s saying this is happening but you are not important, cool, intelligent or some other exclusive term enough to see it . . . unless you work at The Stranger.

Posted by Mario Garcia Torres | April 11, 2008 10:29 AM

@ 2 and 3: I asked Sears about that—he said the point was to go through all the protocol of performance (including modest advertising and press releases), which is what makes Strikethrough different from just dinking around in your basement.

Also, Levi: Because not everybody reads both (but I'm flattered that you do). And it was a good excuse to post an image of this Kasimir Malevich.

Posted by Brendan Kiley | April 11, 2008 10:30 AM

Still, they could "enact the ritual" without telling people where and when not to be. You could have the where or the when, but having both just seems like they actually want you to be there. That's what I thought when I saw the ads. I would wager that the main reason no one tends to show up is not because they know they're not supposed to, but because it's a Monday at the Rendezvous.

Posted by Levislade | April 11, 2008 10:37 AM

Malevich's paintings are not about emptiness or voic or nothing. They are about facture about paint. This painting does not illustrate your point.

Posted by Mario Garcia Torres | April 11, 2008 11:03 AM

Dinking around in their basement:
Most artists who have done performances like this in the past have in fact been making the point that all Art or Performance is really just dinking around in a basement. Just with an audience.

Posted by Mario Garcia Torres | April 11, 2008 11:08 AM

Usually when people want to be isolated in a box, bag, or cell by someone else it is called a fetish and if someone is paid to do it they are called a sex worker.

Posted by inkweary | April 11, 2008 11:26 AM

Oh my god, I cannot believe people go to art school to be enabled to write multiple paragraphs about a freaking black square.

Posted by The CHZA | April 11, 2008 12:54 PM

This is why I avoid modern dance a lot.

It's all about the nothingness of existence.

(imagines performers giggling behind stage at how stupid we are to be watching it)

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 11, 2008 2:16 PM

Artistic masturbation. We're too self absorbed as it is to glorify this sort of wank.

Posted by Gomez | April 12, 2008 1:32 AM

@11: Absolutely, 100% agree.

How can Sears claim that his "reverse-advertising" (which is the lamest term ever concocted and, if taken literally, is not what Sears is doing) is meant to fulfill all the protocols of performance, when the entire point of Strikethrough seems to be abandoning those protocols to begin with?

I can almost buy that this is a unique exploration for some of the artists, but for Sears this is nothing more than a constant pat on the back for how gosh-durn clever he thinks he is.

Posted by Matty Worth | April 12, 2008 11:48 AM

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