SiteWorks: San Francisco performance 1969-85

University Art Museum Berkeley, 2626 Bancroft Way, Berkeley

Darryl Sapien with Michael Hinton, Splitting the Axis (26th August 1975)



Performance Proposal: Splitting the Axis

The performance will consist of a single action on a vertical axis at point A on the diagram. Two men will climb a wood pole using metal lineman’s spurs and beginning at the top, thirty five feet above the floor, they will begin driving wedges into the pole simultaneously from opposite sides of the axis’ diameter. The men and the pole will be monitiored for sound by six small microphones attached to different sound-producing elements such as voices, metal spurs, the pole itself, etc. The recorded sound will be transmitted to six locations around the museum. There will be three video cameras and four monitors. The cameras will be furnished with zoom lenses and focused on various visual elements of the actions. The recorded images will be transmitted to monitors directly opposite the cameras on the other side of the museum, providing the viewer a glimpse of the other side of the performance. The fourth monitor will display a live mix of the images through the SEG (Special Effects Generator). There will be six locations in all for the cameras, speakers, and monitors; all six of these stations will be on a different level of the museum. The stations will be located at an equal radius from the axis and will be placed to interfere with the normal flow of traffic through the museum. The spectators will encounter them as they wander through the upper and lower levels of the structure. The audience will have the opportunity to see the performance live as a unit or electronically transformed as a visual fragment or disembodied sound. The audio and video systems will be used to shatter the shell separating performers from audience and fling its pieces throughout the multiple elevations of the museum, to surround the spectators and envelope them within the resonance of the performers’ dance. Even as the performers are busily splitting the grain of the pole, the electronic hardware will function to simultaneously disassemble the performers. Lastly, the diagram determining the layout of the axis and stations is derived from both the radially symmetrical architecture of the museum itself and a geometric symbol delineating the basic vectors of action within the performance […] two wedges penetrate a circle. (Sapien in Loeffler and Tong 1980: 232)

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