Performance Responses & Re-Performances

Re-performances of and new performance responses to historical talk performances offer a chance to explore the spatial, sonic, temporal, relational dimensions of a work beyond its text or its visual documentation. These performance projects are both creative practice in their own right and a kind of practice as research. Links to some documentation are below, followed by descriptions of representative re-performances:

  • Figures of Speech and Figures of Thought (Re-Visited)

    David Antin’s aborted talk piece “Figures of Speech and Figures of Thought” was originally presented in May 1978 as part of the “Talk” series poet Bob Perelman ran at the San Francisco art space 80 Langdon Street, where it was derailed by audience intervention. Approximating the spatial and temporal conditions of the original event, Ira S. Murfin, together with the audience of the Poets Theatre Festival at Sector 2337 in Chicago, re-performed transcriptions of those moments when the talk was diverted from its intended format. In general, Antin’s talk poems began as extemporaneous lectures before live audiences that were recorded, transcribed, edited and published as poetry. But in this case, key members of the audience at 80 Langdon, including poet Ron Silliman, Perelman, and Antin’s wife, the artist Eleanor Antin, intervened in Antin’s talk to debate the limits of his talk poetry practice. Though the talk poem itself was never published, accounts of the incident have appeared from Antin, Perelman, and the artist Ellen Zweig, who was in the audience. Murfin and the audience at Sector 2337 re-inhabited those parts of the performance where its monologic status was dialogically called into question. Using simple tools and a shared occasion, the performance gave Antin’s self-reflexive talk a new temporal, voiced, and embodied life in the present and off the page. (Diagram by Ellen Zweig.)
  • Absinthe & Zygote: Talking Back

    In Talking Back, Guest Curator Ira S. Murfin and Absinthe and Zygote Series Curators Alix Anne Shaw and Toby Altman took up and paid tribute to David Antin’s loquacious and improvisatory talk poem genre and its radical propositions about poetry and performance, while also responding to its monologic form and the temporal remove between performance and publication it involves. We invited 10 poet/performers to take an Antin talk poem title as the point of departure for an extemporaneous talk piece that approximates, as nearly as possible, Antin’s approach. These talk pieces occurred simultaneously, overlapping one another temporally and sonically in the same space. Many audience members intervened to respond to and interact with the performers and each other, creating an unpredictable environmental experience that riffed on, and exceeded, Antin’s talk practice. Strategically placed laptops were available in the room for participant-observers to subjectively record what they heard in real time, leaving behind textual traces that compressed Antin’s process of performance-recording-transcription-editing into a single synchronous event.

    Talking Back itself left behind textual traces in the form of "Before, During, and After Talking Back," a chapbook published by the Block Museum of Art as part of the Present Tense Pamphlet series edited by Danny Snelson and Mashinka Firunts. Unlike Antin's talk poems, though, this publication included documentation of the whole process of Talking Back, from planning stages to reflection, and included the voices of many participants, from performers to audience to curators.
  • John Cage's Indeterminacy (1958)

    "The idea behind "Indeterminacy" was, like many Cagean ideas, essentially simple, if audaciously original. In one acoustic space he would declaim any of ninety stories, taking a minute to finish each one. Thus, those with many words were necessarily read quickly; those with a few words, slowly. In another room, beyond earshot of Cage, the pianist David Tudor, by that time a veteran Cage collaborator, was playing miscellaneous sections from his parts for Cage’s "Concert for Piano and Orchestra" (1957-58), occasionally playing as well prerecorded tape from another Cage composition "Fontana Mix" (1958-59). As Cage wrote at the time, ‘David Tudor was free to make any continuity of his choice. There was no rehearsal beforehand involving both the reading and the music, for in all my recent music there are parts but no score.’” (Richard Kostelanetz, “John Cage’s "Indeterminacy" Then and Now: 1992 Introduction”)

    Ira S. Murfin performs a random selection from "Indeterminacy" according to the original constraint that they be told in exactly one minute. This performance was presented with music by Emmy Bean at the Green Lantern Gallery, Chicago on the occasion of Cage’s 100th birthday, and as part of the Rhinoceros Theatre Festival at the Prop Thtr during an evening of talk performances. In 2016 it was presented alongside "Fontana Mix" (1958), performed by Stephan Moore in a separate room as part of the Block Museum of Art’s Present Tense Symposium organized by Susy Bielak and Amanda Graham.
  • Jen & Ira & You at the MCA Meet Buckminster Fuller Meeting the Hippies in Golden Gate Park: A Re-Performance

    In 1967 Buckminster Fuller was filmed discussing the future of the world with hippies in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Inspired by the documentation of this interaction, titled "Buckminster Fuller Meets the Hippies in Golden Gate Park," which was included in the exhibition "Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe" at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, artists Jennifer Karmin and Ira S. Murfin presented a re-performance of the event. Together with a rotating group of volunteer performers drawn from visitors to the exhibition, Karmin and Murfin re-performed the transcript of the filmed documentation as an open communal process near the monitor displaying the video in the exhibition.