Opening, event and lecture performance, 2018-2023

As a transdisciplinary artist, researcher and cultural producer, I am interested in the meanings created around events–in how the act of re-telling shapes past events as much as how the creation of events forges new ways of telling. Thus, “Opening” is an event (2018) and a lecture performance (2023)–one does not exist without the other. “Opening” is a lecture performance that returns to a one-evening event, also titled “Opening,” that I conceived and organized at the Playhouse Theater in Houston in 2018, furthering my ongoing exploration of decentralization, labour practices, and the relation of artist and society.

"Opening" is a lecture performance that returns to a project I did in Houston in 2018, furthering my ongoing exploration of decentralization, labor practices, and the relation of artist and society. On August 25, 2018, I staged a one-evening event at the Playhouse Theater in Houston, Texas. This was the first time that the theater had been used in fifteen years, even though it had once been heralded as a landmark space as the world’s first "theatre-in-the-round," that is, a round stage surrounded by the audience. It was built in 1951. "Opening" is a digressive and wide-ranging lecture performance that takes the audience on an exploration of the theater, its surroundings, and the many layers of modern life hidden within this seemingly abandoned edifice.

In a looped, poetic narrative, I begin by telling viewers that 100 more people attended my opening than expected. The question of expectations frames the story—the expectations about theater and democracy, about urban planning and revitalization, and about what the public expects from art. In each pass of the loop, our expectations are thwarted: the decentralized theater does not create community, but maps onto the Cold War plan for bombproof cities; the revitalization projects create innovation for some but leave many more behind; I, as an artist, do not create sublime objects to be admired, but rather connect, play, and reconstruct. And the people who show up are only not expected because of who most of us imagine an art audience to be, which doesn't include people from a local encampment near the theater.

I challenge us to reframe our expectations as we think about the lines between information, urbanism, entertainment, art, and propaganda. I offer a social practice in a place where the insufficiency of a single practice is overwhelming, where good deeds can never add up. I show us the history of how we came to be here, how a series of decisions about the creation of a theater for democracy (a stage, a city, a nation) is perpetually dispersed and delayed. And I bring these moments back together through small but not insignificant acts of assembly, assemblage, re-assemblage, and montage. In so doing, I carefully enact present-day constellations of conviviality, reflecting the lively ambiguities and utopias of different emancipatory projects.

Review by Francesca Fuchs here.