one to one performance: 8 hours
"9th International Art Action Festival: Interakcje"; Galeria OFF; Piotrkow Trybunalski, Poland. 2007
A(t)tribute was a performance for a single participant at a time, made for a context in which most of the participants would be strangers or acquaintances I did not know well. I waited for visitors in a small room which was empty save for two chairs, two blank notebooks, and pens for writing. Entering the room, the visitor was invited to sit and was given the directions for participating in the piece:
"Please write a description of who / what you think I am. What do you imagine my likes, dislikes, life, work, temperament, temper, concerns, friends, family, desires, interests, etc, are? And I will write a description of who / what I think you are. Please feel free to use your own language; you may begin and end when you like."
Scrutinizing one another, the visitor and I formulated a candid description of who / what we imagined the other person to be, based on what we saw and sensed. The descriptions written by the participants and by myself were put up on the walls of the room, and could be read in their entirety at the end of the performance.
A(t)tribute is an observation of the way strangers sum each other up in social encounters, by interpreting external signs such as attire, hairstyle, body language, etc. Although we engage in this mutual and spontaneous reading of each other in any sort of personal engagement in our daily lives, this usually occurs quite unconsciously and our appraisals seldom find articulation in so many words.
While we rely on our ability to read some signs to a certain degree of accuracy in order to function within society, what we observe about a stranger is colored by the projections of our own experiences. In some ways, each person‘s reading and description of the other person reveals more about the “reader” than the “readee”.
And, paradoxically, even descriptions that seem fairly specific and unique could fit almost anyone. When the performance ended, one participant – having read all the descriptions I had written – asked, "Are they all about me?" He had recognized himself in every one.
photos by: Lynn Lu