What Comes To Mind Is Performance Art
A Proposed Installation At MassMoCa — January 2017
In the center of the space is a straight-backed wooden chair, a guitar stand, a knock-off Gibson SG electric guitar, a faulty effects board and a faux but effective Marshall stack amplifier and speaker cabinet.
In front of this set up, on a low shelving unit, is a vintage, 1970s stereo turntable of no particular make, although an Emerson would be nice, and large, medium (no pun intended) quality speakers.
On the floor surrounding the set up are about one hundred albums, mostly in sleeves but some just tossed on the floor haphazardly. All are from 1972.
There is a single size mattress on the floor, with a blue blanket on it. The mattress is pristine.
Everything reeks of whatever the reek was that kids used to use in their rooms in the 1970s to cover up the reek.
In all, the scene covers about 143.3 square feet or the size of a North American child’s average bedroom. The MassMoca space this set-up is in, is about 40,000 square feet (100' x 400')
The guitar and amps will be set to play at ear-splitting volume, with feedback aforethought.
Each morning a different 13–15 year old is invited to the space to learn how to play rock guitar for the day.
The instructor is only the LP record.
The young person chooses one of the LPs and attempts to learn, say, Stairway to Heaven, by playing it over and over again on the turntable and attempting to find the notes on the guitar in real time.
The actual song choice is up to the youngster.
Payment for the gig will be based on the number of notes she or he actually learns (the “per note learned performance fee” or PNLPF).
The performer will also be paid from donations of the gallery visitors who will be asked pay for the volume to be turned down during their time in the in the space. That is, if they feel the need.
Once each hour, a gallery attendant will retune the guitar out of deference to convention.
The advertisements seeking performers for each day’s gig will specify that only absolute beginners apply.
It is anticipated that some “ringers” will in fact seek the opportunity to perform and, that, in such cases, the producing artists reserve the right not to pay the performer the above-mentioned per note learned performance fee (PNLPF).
And “ringer” will be defined in the sole discretion of the producing artists but, in general, will be characterized by a performer who learns more than “about ten notes over the course of eight hours.”
Or, “anything more than I* would have learned when I first picked up my brother’s guitar at age 13.”
*I, being me.