In Review of Situating by Paul Pescador
A fraction of the whole: Locating myself within Paul Pescador’s Situating
by Melinda Guillen
I make sure to arrive at Paul Pescador’s 10-hour durational performance, Situating, at ForYourArt on June 9th just in time for the presentation of the third film, a reflection of his previous performance My body lies over the ocean. My lies over the sea. (January 2011). Of the four performances Situating materially and conceptually referenced, it was the only one I missed and for that reason, I was excited for a manipulated recollection to serve as my experience of the work.
With time to spare before the film, I walk around the space as the artist paces back and forth between a large, colorful pile of strewn about material. The heaps of fabric, ceramic vases, contact paper, plastic flowers and countless other items are loosely confined to a storage nook alongside one of two of the space’s longest walls. I am filled immediately with a sense of nostalgia due to the youthful color groupings. The colors are vibrant: candy apple red, royal blue, emerald green, bubblegum pink (the pink I immediately recognize from Crying Over Spilled Milk (October 2010). It looks like a cross between a messy prop area for a feature length film and a liquidated party store. Another attendee comments that the performance has a “whimsical almost comical” nature to it in the sense that Pescador, known to perform in still, passive, endurance modes, is instead consistently walking around and obsessively reconfiguring objects. Additionally, in a playful engagement with attendees, Pescador would stand across the room, look briefly through one eye at a single person in the space, the other eye closed as if to sharpen his vision from a vast distance, and then walk over to his pile of material. He would select and then begin ripping apart contact paper in the same colors of the clothing they were wearing – he was making us. Once finished, he’d walk over to the glass storefront window and tape up the paper avatars. This amusing gesture lead me to wonder who was I in the space; as the distinction among viewer, attendee and participant in addition to object and material, had been set into a consistent state of flux. Next, I notice the artist is beginning to set up chairs, each individually set apart from one another and placed among the performance material, facing the back wall. More people come in. The film must be starting soon.
I took some notes:
If I sit in this chair, will he move it?
How does my presence change or shift this performance, if at all?
Is there an order to the objects? (I notice he kicks one of the painted gray cardboard file boxes as he walks toward the window… he quickly turns around and realigns the box. Everything in its place.)
After he set up the chairs, Pescador walked to the front of the space, near the door, and shut off the lights and then walked to the back, took a seat on the ground near the projector stand and laptop, and with no formal greeting or acknowledgement of the audience (if that’s what we were at this moment) began his recitation of the previous performance. The “films” as Pescador referred to them, were actually presented in a performative lecture format. As he talked, he flipped through hundreds of still images of not actual performance documentation but rather material representations of his memories. He presented each still as if they were a shared memory, a photo of recognizable people from an equally perceptible time. He casually described the logistical rather than conceptual elements of the performance, for example, stating, “Here we are worried about the security in the art fair space” as viewers looked at abstracted photographs of folded pieces of red or black paper against white walls. However, it was not as though recognition was completely lost. It was merely shifted because rather than recognize people in the photographs, I recognize the material from the photos in the space around me. This was, perhaps, one of the most striking elements to the performance because it brought the cyclical nature, the artist’s manipulation of time and subjectivity, to the fore. We were among the objects from previous performances and as bodies and paper avatars or sculptural assemblages; we became objects in the current performance.
After the completion of the film, Pescador turned the lights on and slowly began clearing the space of objects from the referenced performance and then seamlessly moved on to filling the space back up with new objects and takeaway photos set atop the gray boxes. Toward the end of the night, the artist began assembling objects that represent the small groups of people gathered, talking to one another. He placed the objects directly in front of each group, drawing attention to the social dynamics of the space at that moment. (He would comment later that this was a purposeful gesture to elicit the understanding that, “They are invading my space and I am invading theirs simultaneously.”)
I stayed for a few more hours, left briefly to eat, returned and talked with friends. As the night came to a close, I began to think about how all of the material represent moments, people or things significant and codified to the artist, and that the space, with its unique tunnel like architectural interior, was transformed into a large, physical manifestation of his memory bank. And we were all just standing in it.
Be sure to check out Pescador’s forthcoming book 3,4,5 and 8. This two-part hard cover 11″ x 17″ book is a re-staging of Pescador’s previous project 1, 1 ½, 2. It contains over one hundred new photographs produced within the past year as well as writing, exploring issues of real and imagined personal trauma during the period of June 2011 through April 2012. The book will be for sale for $300 and will come in a edition of 100. To preorder, contact contact Paul here here.
View images of Paul Pescador’s Situating below or here.
Stills from Situating by Paul Pescador at ForYourArt at 6020 Wilshire Blvd.