Saturday, September 19, 2015
Art in Odd Places: TONE / Orlando has taken over Downtown Orlando on Magnolia Avenue between Anderson and Washington Streets from September 17-20th. It is a public and visual performance art Festival that presents art in unexpected places. I went downtown on September 17th to see Brian Feldman, a performance artist from Washington D.C. who used to hail from Orlando. I saw him running to and from his car getting the elements for his simple set, a small table with red legs supporting a tiny potted plant, a phone message book, and an old rotary phone. The title of his performance piece was "... after the tone."
The premise of his performance is that people seldom leave voice messages anymore. Instead, they might leave a text or a message on any number of social media options. I am a case in point. I seldom notice if my phone rings and there are 44 unanswered voice messages that I need to get to. I tend to respond immediately to texts or Facebook messages, however. With so many ways to communicate, I sometimes lose track of which method was used if I need to go back and reread a message. Voice messages may indeed become extinct.
Joe Rosier was the first patron to approach Brian's table. Brian asked him to name someone who would be least likely to pick up their phone. Brian then wrote down Joe's message on a phone message book. Then Brian asked what tone of voice he should use to deliver the voice message. If the person picked up the phone, Brian would immediately hang up. Sure enough, on the first call, the person picked up and Brian hung up. Joe kind of cheated by calling back and asking the person to not pick up. On the second try, Brian delivered a voice message of endearment in a sultry voice.
A young woman approached Brian who knew nothing about his performance or even who he was. She agreed to leave a message with an ex-boyfriend. Her message was fascinating. She wanted him to know that, "You'll get your $50 and you were never a good boyfriend, what makes you think you'd be a good friend?" Brian's angered mafia voice tone sent the message with perfection. Another young woman asked Brian to deliver a voice message to congratulate a friend who just landed a new job in Chicago. Brian did his best to deliver the message in a hardy Chicago accent. He practiced, saying "Duh Bears" several times. The message ended with, "Oh, and you're hot".
Another artist, Klimchak, guy rode by on a bicycle wearing a flame patterned cape playing a theremin with strong speakers to belt out the sci-fi vibes. It rained for a few minutes and I ran for cover across the street to hide under the arched doorways of the History Cente, leaping over 6 Spanish Moss nests which had bars of Tone soap in them. Three nests were empty. Barbara Hartley later explained that the artist, Dina Mack, had purchased many bars of soap and the missing nests would be refilled each night. Michael Heidmann offered me his umbrella so that I could finish my sketch. Thankfully, the rain stopped long enough for me to finish. I'm so glad Orlando is small enough for this kind of neighborly gesture.
The Greek Orthodox Church around the corner had a food share earlier in the evening. That meant that some people walking past Brian's performance piece were more concerned with finding a place to sleep rather than art. Across the street and up the block a bit, a man lay down on his back among the landscaping outside the History Center. Later on a fire engine and an ambulance showed up with their sirens and blinking lights. The man was placed on a stretcher and whisked away on the ambulance. Brian felt terrible that he hadn't called the ambulance. With 50 or so art projects going on, I thought the man might have been a performance artist or maybe he was a homeless man taking a nap before police told him to move along. Being from NYC I'm kind of used to seeing people asleep on sidewalks. Never faint or collapse in a city setting. No one will notice.
After sketching Brian, I went to see an artist who was sealed inside a Plexiglas box. He was sketching his view from inside the box using day glow markers. Four large black lights illuminated him. Yellow plumbing elbows were all around the AT&T building and one of them had a matching elbow with a fist sticking out of it. On the corner of Washington and Magnolia, a 6 foot high board had an American flag and a gun range human silhouette with a target made with flowers. A black hand made from plywood reached up towards the cloudy sky. In the History Center Park, Halee Sommer showed me a storage pod that was set up as a darkroom where anyone could enter to learn how to develop black and white prints from negatives. My older brothers used to develop film in the basement and the smell of the chemicals brought memories flooding back. Amazingly, I only saw a fraction of the art on display. The Tone themed art continued all the way down to the new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. As I walked back to my car, I passed a man asleep in an entryway to the AT&T building and kept on walking. Be sure to get downtown and experience TONE for yourself.