Wednesday, March 30, 2011

txt at the Telephone Museum

As part of ArtsFest, Brian Feldman held a performance of "txt" at the Telephone Museum in Maitland (221 West Packwood Avenue). The very first time I sketched Feldman, he was performing "txt" at the Kerouac House. Brian specifically grew his beard back for this one performance. I found my vantage point in the front row before anyone else arrived. I also set up my video camera which recorded the performance from the back of the room next to a telephone booth. Ancient phones loomed above Feldman's head and photos of switchboard operators were on the walls. There were perhaps thirty or so folding chairs set up in front of the large oak desk where he sat.

The idea of "txt" is that the audience supplies every line of dialogue that is spoken. Fifty protected Twitter accounts are set up so that each audience member can send a tweet directly to Brian's show account, all of which are redirected to his phone thus keeping every entry completely private. Before the performance space was opened, Feldman crawled under the desk to wait for his entrance. When the fifteen or so people were seated, he crawled back out and sat in the leather chair causing laughter.

The young couple across from me immediately started tapping on their phones. The girl resembled actress Julianne Moore. She kept glancing at her boyfriend's phone, not sure what she should type. She kept laughing at his entries. Brian's phone vibrated and he picked it up. He read, "Football may be America's pastime, but basketball players sweat much more." I glanced around thinking I knew where the text came from. For this performance, Feldman acted out and dramatized his readings. One text read, "The man in the front row blushes whenever he laughs." I was one of three men in a front row seat. I was certainly laughing. Was I blushing? Could people see emotion and expression just from the involuntary rush of blood through my veins?

I focused more intently on the drawing. Remarks were made about the corporate looking portrait above Feldman's head, and about a creepy mannequin dressed as a telephone repairman. An early text warned against using profane language since women and children were in the audience. Surprisingly everyone complied. I consider "txt" to be Feldman's signature performance piece and it would be great to see it performed in a larger venue. There is something interesting in clandestine, anonymous communication that indicates where we are moving as an interconnected society.

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