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SiteWorks: San Francisco performance 1969-85

Sculpture garden, University Art Museum Berkeley, 2626 Bancroft Way, Berkeley

Lowell Darling, Performance Announcing His Candidacy for Governor (14th February 1978)

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I arrived at the site early, finding a lone podium on a small mound in the sculpture garden, a mute monument to my apprehension. No marching bands, no placard-bearing youngsters, no old fools in straw hats, no giant pictures of my visage behind the speakers platform, no motions from the microphone echoing through clouds of cigar smoke billowing to the top of the convention centre. Only myself, a lone tourist on a lovely afternoon, holding a valentine in my hand hoping its receiver would accept. [….]

Slowly people began to arrive, cheerful and festive – my supporters and friends appearing as outtakes from All the King’s Men. My friends have the uncanny ability to seem like more people than they are. […]

While TV units set up and radio reporters attached their mikes to the podium making it suitable for a Kennedy, I walked through the crowd kissing lips with my palm, shaking hands without touching, accepting appropriate remarks like a well receives wishes from coins plunking into my previously unknown political future, feeling my fortunes rising to the occasion […] I felt terrific until my speech. Then I wanted to faint, because the transition from portraitist to subject matter caused a profound sense of alienation as I saw myself as others see me, an outsider inside myself. [….]

After the crowd dispersed and I had posed for a number of photographers, I sat with friends in the museum coffee shop. Everyone was terribly excited. I was aware that even my closest acquaintances responded differently to me, calling me Governor, acceding to the image rendered, playing out their parts. By changing my life I transformed everyone around me. No one interrupted, not even Willie Boy, as if by wearing a suit I was on stage even when off. (Darling 1980: 98-99)

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