Viewing page 23 of 32

This transcription has been completed. Contact us with corrections.




I believe that TOUCH SANITATION PERFORMANCE worked, created such a dense texture of resonance and response both inside Sanitation and with the public and public media, and succeeded in moving the field of public art performance to a higher level of development, because of the following reasons:

After I spent one and 1/2 years (1977 to 1978) learning about sanitaiton and talking to sanmen, I built the PERFORMANCE as a REALITY-MODEL, using as "raw four prototypical elements of the real system: (1)TIME: both horizontal and vertical. Horizontal time: they worked through all seasons of the year, including snow-removal as well as garbage collection, disposal and street cleaning; vertical time: they worked 8 hour shifts 24 hrs/day, 3 shifts round the clock. So, my performance TIME became a MODEL of theirs: I worked all 4 seasons of the year, and I always put in an 8 hour shift, alternating days and nights and sometimes midnite shifts. I "put in" the "real" not an abstraction of time, for 11 months.

(2)SPACE: They were everywhere; they work all places of the city, 59 districts; so, I went to all places of the City. I refused to "sample" a few districts (the traditional "social science" and "media" aesthetic form of abstraction-as-knowledge). The sculpture of the performance was the physical tracks of my itinerary as I circled the City 10 times in 10 "Sweeps" making a spirally arc-ing form, bodily. I also focussed on a definition of the "real" space of a service-system as that of its workers, so I faced each "real space" of each worker, face to face to face to face.

(3)EXPOSURE: both to all kinds of weather, being an outside job, like urban farming, unrelenting and often very harsh; and also exposure to the effects, schizoid truly, to being watched because you do your work in the public's eye, yet at the same time wiped out by the centuries-old association of prejudice toward waste-workers. So, I stayed "behind the hopper" through all kinds of weather, even when it made me frantically frightened, and I did something called "Follow In Your Footsteps": where I literally copied sanmen's work-motions, so that they wouldn't have to always "translate" (abstract) physical work into words in order to communicate, but could show me, and I could thus learn through my own body--in the public eye, open to negative often prejudiced media representation of them, often actually slanderous, I exposed myself as "public artist" to an often pre-determined trivializing attitude from some of the press--a new and very difficult experience, though luckily not the predominant one--at least I often had the luxury of talking back. Which I learned very fast to try to do, and here, in trying to break down a negative image, I feel and the Sanitation department has concurred, that I made a real contribution toward "burning an image in the public eye" that we are mutually inter-dependent on such service workers.

(4)ENERGY: the handshake copied the endless hand-energy necessary, at this late date in history, still, to do this work, to WORK THE WORD actively. As well, it was the nucleus of my attempt to bridge the gap that exists between "service worker" and "served," as the oldest (most cliched) sign of equality. I faced each worker, shook hands and said "Thank you for keeping NYC alive." This was the biggest construct-jump: from work to words: that statement is a word-picture both of what they do (keep the City alive, endlessly by hand) and embodying within it the accurate cultural response, I mean the correct cultural response: "Thank you" means both to affirm