Last night at the Works, the Reggie Watts-hosted Occurence saw performances from Rush N Disco, Joe Van Appen, Mike Daisey, tEEth, and Watts himself, as well as short films from Watts' co-producer Tommy Smith.
Rush N Disco and Joe Van Appen were underwhelming. In both cases, I couldn't determine if the acts were parodying bad performance art, or simply were bad performance art, but that's a distinction I'm increasingly uninterested in making. Rush N Disco got some laughs with an earnest cover of Riskay's "Smell Yo Dick"; the duo performed the whole song, including the spoken bit at the beginning where the n-word is dropped, prompting one of my friends to say that it "seemed pretty racist." At least it got us talking, I guess, though I think the conversation ended with someone saying "fucking irony."
Van Appen, meanwhile, did an energetic monologue that at one point had him talking about a big box store where he could find everything he needed... except himself. A woman started heckling during this set (nothing too hostile--I think she yelled "what are we waiting for?" in response to something Van Appen said), prompting another woman to shout, "Shut up, this isn't your fucking show!" I thought for a second we were going to get to see an art fight, but alas.
The night's turning point was a scathing, hilarious monologue from Mike Daisey. "Art can't save you," he began. "If it could, it would have been commodified already." And with that, he launched into a refreshingly direct rant about artists stuck in the closed feedback loop of self-reflection ("the elaborate deception*, levels on levels, is to pretend you actually have the right to be onstage"), and audience members who uncritically embrace a performance ("it was awesome!!") simply because it's happening at this Important Art Festival and so must be Important and Meaningful. "If you don't like something, leave," he said at one point. "Do something!" Like for example, put your dick on the table, make a little cut, and see what comes out. It might be blood. It might be ghosts!
It was a really fantastic performance, with an immediacy that surpassed anything else onstage that night. Anyone who caught the show will understand why I feel a little shamefaced blogging about it: He had a lot to say about blogging, the compulsion to document an experience as you are having it--something about people liveblogging the show on rectally operated cellphones shoved up... well, you get it. (Knowing that Daisey has a blog does take some of the sting out of it).
tEEth was next, with a very intense zombie dance, all creepy facial expressions and jerky contortions and loud, grating sound. It was a really unsettling, stressful piece, not entirely "fun" to watch, but completely compelling and extremely tight. The night wrapped up with emcee Reggie Watts doing his thing, pulling some tremendous songs out of thin air. Overall it was my favorite night at the Works so far, thanks in large part to the fact that Mike Daisey... is... awesome!!!
*My notes are messy. I am 90 percent sure that word is deception.