You Should Come: One Night Only was a three-hour performance art show hosted at Pilsen’s Roxaboxen Exhibition space Thursday, July 28, 2011. Curated by 22-year-old Christian Cruz, artists were given concepts to explore surrounding phrases, “you deserve it” or “you have to!” among others that offer us a feeling of entitlement and obligation in our society.
After a few months of Ms. Cruz carefully selecting performance artists and performance space coinciding with the concept of entitlement, the show resulted in an organic work in progress that seemed vulnerable and lucid, yet exceptionally strong in performance content and curatorial intent. Three corners of the space transformed into interactive performance pieces by artists EJ Hill, Kristiana Colon, and artists Katy Albert and Sophia Hamilton as performance art-duo Mothergirl.
Before the performance, I had a chance to sit down and speak with Mothergirl about their background as artists and the creative process involved in preparing the piece for You Deserve It for You Should Come: One Night Only.
JN: How long have you been involved in the Chicago art scene?
KA: I moved here two years ago and started my involvement in a more theatrical way. I started doing plays and random theater happenings after I moved to Chicago.
SH: I moved to Chicago in October and Katy was a sacrificial lamb. I took a year and went to Dublin for grad school. However, I decided about a year ago Dublin was not where I needed to be and decided to come back to the states, knowing I had to be working with Katy. I knew we had to make performances together, and I wanted to know what’s it like to work with her and needed to know what the Chicago scene was all about. Katy convinced me that the Chicago scene was extremely welcoming and emerging in the field of performance art and pop-up spaces. Since February, we’ve been performing and hosting performance events in our house.
JN: What is your house space all about?
SH: It’s just our house in Logan Square. We really need to name our house. But the events we host are called Bits and Pieces: A Monthly Salon For Ideas and Experiments and that’s kind of how we got to know Christian Cruz. When we got to Chicago we decided that’s how we’d network with other theater and performance artists on a peer-to-peer basis.
JN: Do you define yourself as a theater group or performance artists?
KA: We’re grappling with it. I’d say our theater is very performance arty and our performance art is very theater-y. We love them both, we love how surprising both mediums can be. I guess we just like having a lot of drama and human interaction or human emotion portrayed in any sort of art, which both theater and performance art make this very easy to do.
SH: And actually this is a very new experience for us [participating in You Should Come: One Night Only] because this is the first time we’ve done an installation-style performance art piece. Christian approached us with the performance, as this is a two-hour long, installation-performance-art-entity. I think One Night Only is a different kind of production because instead of this typical Commedia theater-style-interaction with the audience where’s it’s like “I’m going to interact with you and-keep your attention-keep your attention-in-your-face-kind-of-thing”—that this performance is a slow progression, check in with what’s happening, feel it out, take a break from it, come back see how it’s progressed.
JN: Can you describe your piece You Deserve It! for the show?
KA: When Christian spoke with us about the show, she gave us the concept for the evening, which was Entitlement. The idea we got from the theme was You Deserve it, which became the title of the piece and Sophia came to this idea from a really great reality TV snippet she saw…
SH: Yeah! Two years ago or so, I was flipping through the television and saw a blurb of this reality television show where this guy and his girlfriend were speeding down the high way and were pulled over by the police. The police gave them a ticket and they nonchalantly take the ticket, open the glove box, which is full of tickets. So they put the ticket on top of all the other tickets. Their reaction was very I hate-getting-tickets-it’s such-a-pain-in-the-ass but I just love speeding so much. So we wanted to know how we could embody that, abandoning our usual approach of reacting to the audience’s reaction and instead we created these characters that were aloof and guiltless. Like, “your morals don’t apply to me, I’ve afforded this kind of life style like no matter what you do, and I can still do the kind of things that give me pleasure. I can afford them because I deserve them.” So it’s interesting to portray how money plays different roles in people’s lives.
JN: How did you prepare yourself for this role?
KA: I think we drew from a lot of images for the stations and emotions of glee and joy and disbelief for the six stations in the piece.
SH: For this piece, we are heavily object based and so much of the rehearsal was finding just the right objects and figuring out how that communicates with the characters for someone observing from the outside world. We have a lot of stuff for this performance. Like the Chevy hood that we beat the shit out of because, well, we deserve it.
We did a lot of image work with the characters: imagining where the characters live, where they are and how they live together in this isolated world created in my mind. We characterized the characters as both post-apocalyptic and also somehow simultaneously, people of a tiny alpine village. As long as the characters understood this is how we grow to deserve the things we deserve.
JN What was your initial reaction for a performance piece when you were propositioned for this show? How did the idea grow and become something of a performance?
KA: I think the stations and the idea for a progression in the piece came rather quickly. We portrayed the different stations as breaking them down into qualities of earning. There are six stations in the piece: there’s three earning and three spending. The stations are exploring topics of luck, physical prowess, pleasure, gambling, and intellect.
JN: And finally, which station do you relate to the most?
SH: I really enjoy the physical prowess station—and I am very happy we explore this concept first. I feel like it’s really easy to overanalyze a performance art piece as a performer and an audience member. With this station, it’s such an excellent warm up to get out of your head because you just have to jump and push a button over and over again. I can think of so many scenarios in my daily life where I feel like all I’m doing is hitting a button over and over again.
KA: My favorite would have to be hitting the Chevy hood. If I am guilty of any entitlement it’s the “because I bought it I can break it” scenario.
As the title states, the performance was one night only. You should have come. For more on the latest Roxaboxen exhibitions, visit them online at http://www.roxaboxenminicastle.com/.