In August ’91 I began to take a special interest in performance art again, renewed by watching Laurie Anderson’s Home of the Brave and listening to the Graham Lewis/B.C. Gilbert scores to the dance and performance pieces described in the Wire biography, Everybody Loves a History. I felt greatly envious of them and wanted to be a participant, too.
On August 8, I saw the book Robert Wilson’s Vision in a store and, leafing through it, I realized that it all seemed so simple in light of the lack of humor which so often pervaded performance art works. I wanted to take a Python-esque approach to the whole thing, paying tribute to the irony of Laurie Anderson’s pieces, and create the soundtrack to a conceptual piece called The Performing Man, in which the liner notes would be, in essence, the piece, and be both obtuse, and vaguely reminiscent of the stage direction on Wire’s Document and Eyewitness LP.
“The performing man” was inspired initially by a lot of reading I was doing on the history of performance art. It seemed to me that the Dadaists in the 1920s were as radical as any experimentalists in recent memory; however, the nature of this art desperately needed to be parodied in some way; to be kept tongue-in-cheek, much in the way Laurie Anderson and William Burroughs had already been doing. Performance art has always been so throwaway.
Once, I remember picking up a book on the complete staging of a Robert Wilson opera and noticed that the publishers had set an sixty dollar price tag on the book… And I thought to myself, only a dedicated fan of the avant-garde would spend money on something so ephemeral, possibly as part of that gesture to broaden or to ‘immortalize’ art. If he could make a quick sixty bucks with performance opera, then so could I. I had been devising a performance ensemble after talking to my friend Rich Hatem. The Theater of Panic involved performers engaged to play in short vignettes which were to be accompanied by unusual and lighthearted musical numbers. The idea was to take a simple gag and extend it to the length of a short sketch; sometimes taking a bewildering approach or a mysterious one… And sometimes just something obscure that would be there to provoke thought in the viewer. Sadly, this piece never received a commission, and was never performed. This is music for an imaginary ballet.