Sunday, September 19, 2004

Finishing the Shift 

As Mr. Eckard put it in his call to the People from park block to factory to meth lab, “Let’s roll up our sleeves and Finish This Shift!” TBA is downwinding and everyone is Tired, Tired. Luckily today I finally caught up with David Eckard on the last day of his marathon 6-day, performance of Podium.

TdR called David’s piece, “the most honest thing we saw all week.” Eckard’s work has so much Integrity, is so elegant, and is devoid of the Reaching-For-Significance that hogties so much performance art. And for all the small gesture visual artists in Portland, here’s one who makes heroic work. Eckard’s performances are so much like this and other sculptures that both facilitate and define his performances: the finely wrought podium elevates but its true handcart-meets-John Deere-tractor nature can’t help but being humble.

There is heroism in the vertically integrated conception, content, execution (details details…the orange eye hooks, white bunting, the kelly green stitching on the breast of the white overalls, the careful crafting of the spoken piece, it’s masterful delivery) of the piece. Every choice, from concept to word, gesture to content to prop, Makes Sense and is integrated into the whole. There is nothing arbitrary, nothing tossed off. This piece never smirked. It simultaneously celebrated and critiqued. And that’s why, as my 10-year-old would say, Eckard rocks.

Doing an Abel
TdR and I have a phrase called doing something “Abel,” or “doing an Abel.” So you could say, “She did an Abel on that performance.” It refers more to swinging for the fence than necessarily hitting a 3-run homer, but that’s more often than not the result. The phrase is derived from the creative work ethic of our friend, the poet David Abel. For example, if he is going to do a poem about the color red, it will be a three hour piece in which he names every hue and shade, from Crayola to J Crew. For the performance of the piece, the room in which it is conducted will be entirely papered in red. And he will wear his layered red costume even in 90-plus degree heat. Every object in the room will be red, there will be red dressed groupies and red food. Abel.

David Eckard does the Abel time and again.

The Tightening of the Giant Orange Eye Screws
A performance with a spoken element is a first for Eckard. Portland has only seen his non-speech-based physical performative interactions with his objects and site, (the meditative Scribe, the torturous Tournament Lumens). If the performance had only extended as far as the quotidian set up of the podium and a mute figure gesturing behind the giant megaphone, it still would have been a great piece, (recalling incendiary Futurist orator and Manifesto-writer extraordinaire, F.T. Marinetti).

But when he starts his oration with the hand/arm gestures* as contrived as the words are honey, the piece became brilliant. And not just for the surprise/relief that a person who doesn’t regularly employ word in practice can do it with aplomb. Turns out, Eckard’s voice is a compelling oratory instrument. And the monologue smartly veered in and out of lucid stump speech platitudes, touchstones, and gambits. The best bit is that Eckard here and there sounds disonant notes: personal story, whorehouse, pop song title, at one point fragmenting into a poem of hacked-off sentences. "I give you my word."

I want to tell you all of it. How he declared that, ""I will stay outside the gates of your village because my riddle's answer does not grant me access." That, "I speak a truth that has been raised from my daybed and dressed to kill." But I will misquote, get it all wrong, I couldn't write fast enough, etc. so as Eckard said in conclusion, "I'll leave you with this...."

He folds up the Podium and wheels it away.

*Later find out that he’s mapped the gestures on his script with the
CT for Clinton Thumb, (you know)
JS for Jesus Christ (both arms outstretched)
RA for Right Arc
LP for Left Point
BP for Both Point, etceteras

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