Impossible Performances

Speculative events that dissolve the boundary between watching and acting

January 14, 2021

In the darkness you hear the shroonk of a metal shovel cutting into dense, gritty, soil. Then a pause, then the almost-whisper of the loaded blade forced through the air, a briefer pause, and the rattling clap of the dirt collapsing onto the ground. It sounds like an attack: the sudden insertion of the blade, the suspension of shock, the fading gasp, the crumpling fall. Repeated in the darkness, it is foreboding and mysterious. From away and above, a sharp pinpoint of bright blue light suddenly appears. A narrow beam illuminates the innumerable dust motes in its path from above to where it points, impassively, on a growing pile of shoveled earth. This new light reveals, just outside its tiny focus, the silent silhouette of the blade in its arc that deposits each shovelful on the growing mound. Through the dust you can see that the tool is being wielded by a figure on the far side of this dirt mound, whose identity and labor is hidden by the height of the mound being dug and the depth of the hole. In this room—for clearly we are inside, you and I, witness to this effort—it is unclear who is digging, and for what purpose. I turn to you, and in the gloom, you catch my eye. In silent agreement, we step forward, expectant and unsure.

Pink petals and green leaves on a gray sidewalk

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Charles Campbell

Charles Campbell is an interdisciplinary artist and co-founder of Skewed Visions and Fresh Oysters Performance Research. He has made many live and virtual performance works since the 1990s, most of which were made in places not made for performance. Skewed Visions is an intentionally small, local, and experimental idea that fosters rigorous, innovative, thoughtful artistic practice to question the way things are. Fresh Oysters is a shared alternative arts research, development, and presentation …   read more