Energetic Strategies (For Right Now) was a series of tutorials for strategizing a survival in the condition of atmosphere which existed in the United States in 2018. It might have been titled “The Abyss Part 2: How to deal.” The tutorials offered strategies for managing the shock of omnipresent violence in the air, which was of course not a new violence and to many it was no shock at all, in this place which was founded and built piece by piece with little units of violence from the very start (with the labor of enslaved people on stolen land). To many, however, it was a revelation, a new crack in the door leading to a potential deprogramming from the fiction that we had been living in a good place to begin with. The strategies were energetic in nature, methods of acknowledging or not acknowledging what is present in the psychic and historical environment: acknowledgement is a strategy towards accepting and fixing what is fucked, tapping into the magnetic core of the center of the planet and allowing gravity to inform a reinstatement of reality, but it’s neither necessary nor inevitable. Energetic Strategies (For Right Now) was toured throughout the United States and Canada.
The Brand New Abyss was a response to the political and cultural atmosphere present in the United States in the year after the election of 2016. The statement we wrote about it then still feels like an accurate description of the time: “Does the air hurt your brain, and sting your sensibilities? Does it come in like a shock and keep seeping in, never leaving you, never leaving you alone, disrespecting your boundaries and confusing you until you sort of more or less forget that it’s happening (you never forget that it’s happening, it’s just too hard to talk about very often).” The performance debuted at The Kitchen in New York City and toured throughout music and performance venues in the United States and Canada (and seemed to make less sense in Canada, where the veneer of status quo was more firmly being held in place).
We put it together so we could take it apart was the live iteration of our first album as a duo, “THE BLOW: THE BLOW.” We performed from opposite sides of the venue, I was on the main stage and Melissa was on a stage in the middle of the space. Sandwiching the audience between us, we treated the performance as an intimate conversation, to which onlookers could be privy. We put it together so we could take it apart was performed at Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, The Kitchen, Music Hall of Williamsburg, Artscape Toronto, and other venues across the United States. (photo by Matt McDonald).
Songs for Other People was a performance made in collaboration with conceptual and installation artist Melissa Dyne. It centered around a body of songs that I wrote for the album of a tabloid starlet and singer whose lesbian romance drew celebratory headlines in 2008. I performed as myself, the singer from The Blow, and delivered a narrative about my experience working with the celebrity that seemed true but wasn’t. The songs and the performance traced the vicissitudes of the very public love story as translated through my own projections and distortions, and meditated on the range of sensations related to the experience of feeling exposed. Under the excuse of songwriting research, I took the liberty of trying on elements of the starlet’s identity, adopting foreign postures and mannerisms, exploring the delicate and sometimes blurry line surrounding the sense of self. The visual and aural effects were designed and performed by Melissa Dyne.
Songs For Other People was performed at The Warhol Museum, The Wexner Center, Great American Music Hall, Joe’s Pub, among other venues. The songs from Songs For Other People were released on the album The Blow, by Kanine Records in 2013.
Between 2006 – 2008 I performed a series of morphing narratives based on the songs from the Blow albums Poor Aim: Love Songs and Paper Television. The performances took the form of songs interspersed with narrative. The songs from both albums center thematically on the juxtapositions that occur between people who are attempting to love each other; they were written as attempts to illustrate the abstract shapes formed by relationships and to make words for elusive feelings. The narration of the Paper Television performances was designed to reanimate the invisible dynamics that gave form to the songs. The monologues changed and grew slowly over the course of this period. From my sole vantage point as the only person who was present at every single one I perceived the series of physically narrated explications as a sort of three dimensional time-lapse image, overlapping and blurring, creating a shape in the air that trailed behind me as I toured from place to place.
Paper Television was performed at On The Boards, Great American Music Hall, The Wexner Center, Irving Plaza, The Gramercy Theater, Emo’s, The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and other venues across the U.S, Canada, Europe and Australia. The albums Paper Television and Poor Aim: Love Songs were made in collaboration with Jona Bechtolt.
In The Touch Me Feeling, I presented a corporate sales pitch for a fictional mental health company called Remosch. The Remosch Corporation was designed to provide a mental health maintainence system, the daily use of which is intended to keep the user psychologically regimented and less likely to stray off the pathway of sanity. A client is assesed on the basis of their identity, and prescribed a video corresponding to their cultural demographic: the videos provide visual, sonic, melodic and verbal cues for reminding a person how to behave and what to care about, according to what particular sort of person one is. The client sings along to the words on the screen and imitates the movements of a model who resembles him or herself, following a theory that the movements and gestures common to persons identifying with a certain demographic are a nerve based set of codes through which a particular identity’s sense of meaning is maintained and transmitted. Remosch offers as example that a person conforming to the hippy identity is most likely to dance with wavy gestures, wear wavy clothing, and speak in wavy affectations, whereas someone who follows a highly stylized punk framwork will be likely to wear clothing with jagged spikes, perform music with jagged sounds, speak in short jagged bursts.
The presentation included simulated live video chat with employees in the Remosch offices who explained the process by which the company groups individuals according to demographics as well as the growing catalog of identity systems that Remosch could prescribe. A promotional documentary following a young woman being prescribed the “Goth” system was screened, and I, acting as a representative of Remosch named Kesley, offered demonstrations of a number of the identity based systems and fielded questions about my character’s own relationship to staying on or straying from the sanity path.
Commissioned by Portland Institute of Contemporary Art and performed as part of the TBA Festival. Created during a residency at Wieden+Kennedy advertising agency. Video shot and edited by K. Maricich. Music production by Jona Bechtolt and Jenn Kliese.
Blue Sky vs. Night Sky was my first monologue based performance piece. Functioning loosely as a pop opera, the show consisted of a series of songs woven into a narrative recounted by a character who resembled myself but narrated from within a realm of fiction. The character played by myself, Amy, initiated the perfomance by timidly playing a song on the guitar and dedicating it to her boyfriend, which inevitably spurred the audience to encourage her to continue playing and to share more of herself. Amy proceeded to unravel a long and layered story about being able to hear the noise that the sky makes, meeting another girl who could hear it too, and the mystery behind why her mother refuses to talk about it. Blue Sky vs. Night Sky was performed frequently in settings such as music venues and house parties, and working in these informal contexts, where audiences did not anticipate a work of fiction and had no familiarity with me as a musician or performer, the piece was able to explore the delicate membrane between believability and fiction.
Blue Sky vs. Night Sky was performed at Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, Art In General, Anthology Film Archive, The Smell, Bard College, Bottom of The Hill, The Fez, and house parties and dive bars across the U.S. The accompanying soundtrack to the performance was released by The Blow on K Records as The Concussive Caress, Or Casey Caught Her Mom Singing Along With the Vacuum.