03 May, 2013

TMFAD at SummerWorks.

Title of work: Tackle Me For A Dollar (“Tackle Me”).

Presented[1] by: Christopher Ryan Graham (“CRG”) and Ann Margaret Oberst (“AMO”).

Website: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eF60DVi8xZY. (This is a video of the first time we ran Tackle Me. We made $35.)

Project overview: Tackle Me is pretty much what it sounds like. CRG takes a big, homemade sign to an outdoor space, preferably a park, and gets people to pay a dollar for the chance to tackle him. The experience raises all sorts of interesting tensions, themes, issues, mores, social anxieties, and personal neuroses, some of which are easier to summarize than others. The former include:

Playfulness and violence as a continuum. Tackle Me is a clear instance of humans playing at hurting each other. Any sharp distinction between playfulness and violence—usually based on intention—is called into question[2] by, at least, the uncertainty involved in amateur tackling.[3]

Conceptual versus practical understanding. Everyone knows what a tackle is, but few people know how to do it. I’m not sure people appreciate this is a real difference; that these are different modes of understanding. Tackle Me forces people to reckon with this difference, usually at the moment they ready themselves to charge and think: Oh, shit…

Metaperception and interpersonal relations. Tackle Me is great at forcing people to think about how their actions in the world are mediated by what other people think.[4] The point’s so banal it’s actually profound: few people recognize their sense of self is radically integrated with various communities. (We always already are, type-thing.) Tackle Me brings this home in a few ways, the clearest being that we don’t give instructions about how to tackle. This forces tacklers to make (=recognize) all kinds of assumptions about how CRG’ll react to getting hit.

Length of work: Entirely dependent on the work’s content: the harder the tackles, the sooner CRG’ll get tired or sore and want to quit for the day. Although, it’s probably a good idea to set a maximum time, like two hours, with the proviso CRG may not last that long.

Interestingly, this feature of Tackle Me calls attention to the role of the audience as gatekeepers to artistic expression. This is one kind of audience participation that’s hard to see but very real; also, felt much more acutely during Tackle Me than, say, the audience having to show up at a stage production. This is all very If a tree falls in the woods... except that with Tackle Me it’s the audience that cuts down the tree.[5]

Stage of development: Ready, except that we’ll need to borrow someone’s video camera.

Artists involved: CRG and AMO. We’re debating whether AMO should offer to be tackled, whether anyone would go for that.

Intended audience: Everyone (in the park). Curiously, the last time we did this the participation rate for females was much higher than for males. (We have some theories about why this is the case.[6]) All ages and abilities are welcome. One limitation we imposed was that you have to tackle. Some people wanted to give me a hug, but we declined this as being a different sort of project altogether.

Venue: Outdoor space is best; we like parks. In addition to increasing the number of potential participants, the absence of any barriers to entry—like a theatre door, say—calls attention to the arbitrariness of distinctions between participant, audience, and passer-by. (Think of buskers and the onlookers that arc around at that ambiguous distance where spectation is both guilt- and contribution-free.)

Plans for further development: Video evidence.

[1] It’s unclear whether this matters, but we didn’t create Tackle Me. The idea came from a story that CRG heard at a storytelling show. What we’ll create is the instance of our performance, sort of like a musician performing a cover, I guess. 
Also, apologies if this kind of subtextual pedantry is redundant to the Live Art Series panel: neither CRG nor AMO has any real experience with this sort of thing—indeed, we’re keen to join what we imagine to be an interesting community of folks—so we don’t know what’s going to be obvious to you guys making the decision. (Although, we do think this kind of point is interesting as an instance of the ‘thinking about thinking’ we’re hoping that Tackle Me cultivates, as you’ll see if you keep reading beyond this FN.*)

*…which further reading AMO thinks is unlikely, while CRG—whom you’ve probably guessed is the one doing the typing—is hopeful the Live Art Series panel will see the FNs as a neat, textual representation of this very ‘thinking about thinking’, how humans actually makes sense of and in the world.

[2] The uptown term here is “problematized”, I think.

[3] A literal undercurrent here is the issue of trust: nothing prevents a person from trying to get their money’s worth, as it were—basically, tackling me really hard. The last time we ran Tackle Me there were two people with pro tackling experience (male and female rugby players), both of whom let that be known and intentionally curbed their enthusiasm. 
[4] More formally, it seems clear to us that, all else equal, what A thinks B is thinking about A in respect of X is at least as important to A’s conduct in respect of X as what A’s thinking about X directly. It’s maybe simpler to do a formula: [illegible].

[5] (er… sort of.)
[6] There are about six pages of discussion here that CRG wanted to append but AMO vetoed as, variously, sententious, prolix, otiose, lame, obvious, and “We’re not having any more fucking formulas”. This FN’s a kind of editorial compromise, then, wherein I’m allowed to say the difference in male/female participation rates suggests a kind of paradox, at least for the guys: the result of conflicting social norms of masculinity, on the one hand, and civility (as like a subset of masculinity—like chivalry), on the other: basically, that guys don’t participate for fear of, and of not, hurting me.