SiteWorks: San Francisco performance 1969-85

Museum of Conceptual Art (MOCA), 75 3rd Street, now redeveloped

John Woodall, Marking the Dilemma (20th April 1973 )



On that evening I created an “Action” called Marking the Dilemma. There is a thing that I build into all my work, a kind of difficulty. I try to disorient myself in some way so as to add a degree of surprise. The event that I did was simply to hang a light bulb with a hood to direct the light to the floor and to paint a black circle on the floor whose radius was the same as my height. I got a lens that inverted things – up was down and left was right – and made a kind of goggle system that fit over my eyes so that everything I saw was reversed. I nailed the heel of one of my shoes to the center of the black circle and built an elevator shoe for the other foot so that I was thrown off balance. I built a stick and inserted a carpenter’s chalk in the end of it. I began by taking a step out from the center of the circle, and as I did so my shadow would precede me out to the edge of the circle. Essentially, the action was to attempt to draw my shadow. But of course as I moved to draw my shadow, it in turn moved, so I was always drawing the most recent memory of what my shadow looked like. The visual result was a very large mandala within the black circle. So I created this visual thing as well, but it was the action that I was most concerned with. It took about three hours to go completely round the circle. I remember there were two children rolling steel balls back and forth through the circle while this was happening; they had invented this game off of what I was doing. I was fully aware of that. The balls were not doing for me what they were doing for them. It added a whole new dimension to the activity. There was a kind of freedom in those actions; your audience, if indeed you would call them that, could interact with you. There was not the separation that is more commonly associated with the theatre. (Woodall in Shanks 1989: 273)