SiteWorks: San Francisco performance 1969-85

University Art Museum Berkeley, 2626 Bancroft Way, Berkeley

Tom Marioni, lecture/demonstration (1st July 1973)



In 1973 at the University Art Museum Berkeley I made a demonstration about intention. I called it “lecture/demonstration” because I meant it to be instructional. I outlined a square area with masking tape on the floor of the museum’s central open space. People watched from above. I had my band at that time, the MOCA Ensemble, and for the first part of the piece they played bebop jazz. While they played, the janitor of the museum, the real janitor, swept the floor with sweeping compound. He did the job of getting the floor clean.

Next, a dancer swept the floor with the same broom while the band played a jazz waltz. She put feathers on the floor first, and children ran through them while she was sweeping. She was interested in the grace of the body moving through the space.

After she finished, an actor swept the floor, using the same broom. The band played movie soundtrack music. He swept the floor with a flourish, playing to the audience, always facing the audience, like he would on a stage. He was concerned with convincing the audience that he was a janitor. It didn’t matter to him whether he got the floor clean. He was less concerned about the grace of his body than about playing the role and being convincing.

I was the last one to sweep the floor. The music was free jazz. I used sand, a sculptural material, and gave the floor an even coating. As I swept, I made patterns, manipulating the material. That was my concern, moving the material.

When the janitor swept the floor, it was real life. When the dancer swept the floor, it was dance. When the actor swept the floor, it was theatre. And when I swept the floor, it was sculpture, a sculpture action. The same activity was different, depending on the intent of the person doing it. (Marioni 2003: 138)