I Spent the Last Twelve H R S with Blood in My Mouth
Today is day one AD (After Dayquil). We’ll see how it goes.
Went to Tugboat last night to see the MMMM (Mid-Month Multi-Media) Show, which was Jadon Ulrich’s “Text.” His write up about the event claimed that he would explore “the ideas of textual communication in an installation where your text message will be written, typed, printed, inputed, and converted into looping audio.” The show consisted Ulrich and two secretaries in the back room of Tugboat, which had been set up with office furniture, including two desks, shelves, a coffee station and a sad looking office plant. On one desk Ulrich received text messages and transferred them into his computer. As his computer looped a cycle of reading the phone number, date and message from each text one secretary handwrote the messages on a form and passed them to the other secretary who typed them on her electric typewriter (this secretary also had a Dictaphone on her desk, though she didn’t use it). All the while an image hovered behind the three of an old black telephone being constantly dialed while the receiver was picked up and placed down repeatedly.
On one level the show was surprisingly entertaining. The repetition of the messages continued for the hour or so that I was there, intoning in that portentous Mac voice, gaining a hypnotizing rhythm. Some of the messages were obviously Ulrich’s friends, some the audience, some people who had texted in from far away. Each time the cycle repeated we knew there would be new messages at the end, and it gave a kind of expectation. At the same time the early messages took on different meanings. The silly ones grew less interesting, while the ones from friends began to twist their meanings in odd ways. The second message in the loop was "I spent the last twelve h r s with blood in my mouth" and each time it came up I had a different reaction to it, from laughing at the notion to laughing at the program's way of reading the abbreviation of hours to thinking about how the program's relationship to the human entering the message to just listening to the message as sound.
This repeating cycle of messages alone might have been interesting, but what set the show apart for me was the performanceof the artists involved. All through the show the three bustled, hard at work. Ulrich claims that he’s interrogating the simple technology that is supposed to be a time-saving device. For this he set up a flurry of pointless industriousness. He applied the technology to nonsense and made it a pure form of production. It became a satire of both the banality of the use of this complicated technology and a satire of office settings that may desire a paperless utopia but continue to waste energy in double-speak-like activities.
I wasn’t expecting too much out of the night and I’m pleased to say I was wrong.
Tonight Z.Z. Packer reads at Wesleyan. Should be good.
Also, I read all the texts for my Postcolonial Poetics class for NEXT week. So I gotta get my Fanon on.