Saturday, September 19, 2009


IdeaAssassins Project: Courtney Lohnes and Kimberly McLeod
No. 66--In a Pool

It was ten o'clock at night and they had turned off the lights inside the room that housed the aging Scona indoor pool. We entered the back door and took off our shoes, enjoying the warmth of the floor on the bottoms of our feet. I was itching with curiosity to see the performers setting up to do their sound check, but we were told to stay away until they were ready. I loved the quality of light coming from the back of the screen in the distance projected onto the water. The quality of light reminded me of a Peter Greenaway movie. Some of the publicity for this piece had hinted that the crowd could enter the pool during the performance, so a couple of performance artists in the festival were really keen to join in. Naufus changed into his bathing trunks and did a little happy dance. There was much talk about whether or not we could swim and the rumor was that there was room for 13 people only because there was only one lifeguard on duty.

Once we were lead in we saw one performer laying face down in the water playing dead with a transparent breathing tube, and the other performer told us that we could choose to see the performance however we wanted, as long as we didn't block the video projector facing the screen hung above the water. Naufus slipped into the water and stayed there for the entire show. We were given permission to use a hand-held light so I pointed it at the performers when I wanted to take a photo. (Still, I apologize for my documentation--it was a very challenging lighting situation.) A projection of a nude man swimming on a beautiful pastoral outdoor pool played on the screen.

There was a looseness to the structure of this piece that was playful and nonsensical. The artists performed tongue-in-cheek baptisms on one another, they played with breathing into opposite ends of the transparent tube, and played an interactive game of matching a quote with a celebrity face. The quotes were written on papers that floated in the water on flutter boards and the faces looked like they'd been taped to flutter boards. Foam noodles and other pool toys floated in the water around the performers. A chaotic mish-mash of pop culture images from television edited with original images created by the artists played on the white screen; home-made DIY pop culture was mixed with snippets of found mainstream pop culture.

Volunteers were conscripted to join in the fun: Cindy Baker put on a white sandwich board which acted as a screen for a silent video of talking head shots. Three men volunteered to read the same short narrative about a personal experience in a swimming pool in Spain. The performers headed back to the ropes at the far end of the pool and used them to jump into the water while an audience member read a review of Water World, the notorious Kevin Costner movie flop. Arcane statistics were presented on a film that's apparently not really worth recommending.

Knowing that this particular pool is doomed to be shut down for good lends a melancholy tinge to this piece. However, the performers seemed to have a lot of fun. They each have a strong presence on the screen, as you can see in their Youtube videos. The anarchy of web surfing and channel surfing entered the performance paradigm. There is a work-in-progress interactive web component to the piece that contains Youtube videos with each of the artists reciting the same pool story from Spain. In No.66-- In a Pool the IdeaAssasins have created a collage of images that the viewer is left to sort and untangle or just let float and drift through one's mind like autumn detritus on a dark and murky pool.

What effect does a life mired in the banal trivia of pop television and pop web culture have on the evolution of identity and consciousness? That old gem the "opiate of the masses" comes to a cynical mind. Every time a new form of technology emerges, it is criticized for the negative effects it will have on corrupting the youth of its age. The positive features of current web culture include the ease at which the audience can also become a generator of culture on Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Furthermore, virtual water coolers in the form of online forums make intelligent critique on the work possible among people a great geological distance apart. What could happen is a slow erosion of national identity itself, breaking down barriers between provinces and countries. What could happen is an erosion between mainstream and domestic culture. What could happen is an erosion between product--sponsored (Proctor and Gamble et al) culture and DIY "vanity" culture. The possibilities are intriguing and IdeaAssassins are part of the movement of young artists who will be exploring them.

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