Artist
Linda Montano

USA
www.lindamontano.com

In performances over the past several decades, Linda Montano has steadily sought to erase the barriers between “art” and “life.” Her demonstrations of the theory that attitude, intent, and awareness are what transform “life” into “art” can be viewed as a terminal assault on the art-as-commodity establishment, redefining art as a vigilant state-of-mind. The history of Linda Montano’s performances reads almost as a scientific investigation (or transgression) of the limits of previous conceptions of “art.” Themes have been “endurance, transformation, attention states, hypnosis, eating disorders, death, as well as obliterating distinctions between “art/life.”

Linda Montano has written a number of books (including Art in Everyday Life and Before and After Art/Life Counseling), produced 20 videotapes, and created over 50 major performances. He newest book (537 pages) on performance art is Performance Artists Talking Iin the 80’s, published by U.C. Press, Berkeley. It includes a Preface by Montano, and Introduction by Angelika Festa; Introduction to sex interviews by Christine Tamblyn; Introduction to food interviews by Moira Roth; Introduction to money/fame interviews by Laura Cottingham; and Introduction to ritual/death interviews by Lucy Lippard. The Afterword is by Kristine Stiles. There are 80 interviews with performance artists compiled by Montano and 29 illustrations of performances. Martha Wilson writes: “Linda Montano, artist and founder of the Art/Life Institute, is a shaman of the postmodern age. These interviews on sex, food, money/fame, and ritual/death cut to the heart of our epistemological inklings of our purpose on the planet.”

Performance
Appreciating the Chakras by Linda Montano

FADO Performance Art Centre is pleased to kick off its 12-month durational performance art series, TIME TIME TIME, with a new work by acclaimed US artist Linda Montano, Appreciating the Chakras.

In a 3 1/2 hour public presentation created in collaboration with local artists, Montano will offer Toronto audiences a ‘happening’ environment using music, chanting, video projections, text and live performance. Audience members are invited to participate through their presence and through single-question Tarot readings with Linda. The more adventurous and dedicated are also invited to reserve a spot in the second part of the performance, during which Linda will enact a 7-hour healing meditation for participants’ chakras, followed by a morning talking circle.

In performances over the past 25 years, Linda Montano has steadily sought to erase the barriers between art and life. Her demonstrations of the theory that attitude, intent, and awareness transform ‘life’ into ‘art’ are a terminal assault on the art-as-commodity establishment. Montano’s work redefines art as a vigilant state-of-mind.

In 1984, Montano assured her place in art history along with Tehching Hsieh when the two completed an art piece in which they were tied at the waist with an 8 foot rope for a full year, never touching. That same year she began a personal experiment in attention, studying the body’s chakra system, in which she wore only one-colour clothes; listened to one note 7 hours a day; stayed in a coloured space 3 hours a day; spoke in a different accent each year; and for 7 years read palms and gave Art/Life Counselling in a 7-year installation at the New Museum. Her work in the areas of performance, writing, video and installation have had a profound effect both in their own right and in the influence they have had on artists around the world.

Writing
Eyewitness Account: Appreciating The Chakras by Linda Montano

What is time, and how do we find meaning in its passage?

In an attempt to come to terms with these questions, Linda Montano has declared her entire life to be an artwork. While this bold, perhaps revolutionary, stance cannot fail to be seen as a challenge to the common wisdom of contemporary culture, Montano frames it in personal terms. Her task is to live each moment of her life with the focused attention and intention suggested by the notion of ‘art.’ Hence, if the focus of her life becomes looking after an aging parent, she finds herself doing ‘blood relations art’ [as she referred to it at the time of her visit: the term has since evolved into ‘BLOOD FAMILY ART’, and the particular project of taking care of her 88-year old father into ‘DAD ART’]. In this way, she reminds herself that the act of caring for another is not simply a matter of practicality, but also a practice, rife with all of the possibilities and challenges of producing form and meaning.

Montano’s commitment of her life to the service of art—or perhaps it should be viewed as a commitment of art to the service of her life—is consistent with her personality: dedicated, principled, visionary, full of heart, and by our culture’s standards, a bit wacky.

In January of 1999, Montano became the first performer in the TIME TIME TIME series, presenting an original 12-hour performance in two parts called APPRECIATING THE CHAKRAS. The invitation to Linda to kick off the series stemmed not solely from the obviously performative (and durational) declaration of her whole life as art, but also on the basis of several of her recognized works. Her collaboration with Tehching Hsieh on his conceptual endurance performance ART/LIFE: ONE YEAR PERFORMANCE guaranteed her place in art history: the two spent an entire year attached by an eight foot rope, trying to follow a rule of never touching. Linda followed up this project by conducting two seven-year investigations of the chakras. 14 YEARS OF LIVING ART was an elaborate research project and practice, of which the most visible element was the wearing of a single colour of clothing each year corresponding to the colour of the chakra she was investigating. For the first year, she dressed only in red. The next year, she dressed only in orange, and so forth.

How would an artist willing to tackle time-based works of such a monumental scale respond to the parameters of TIME TIME TIME? What sort of relationships would she set up among the elements of time, space, her performing body and the audience? And what is a twelve plus hour performance in the context of an entire life that has been declared to be art?

Montano’s solution to the physical demands of a twelve hour time frame was to divide the performance into two parts with distinct sets of participants, audiences and set-ups. APPRECIATING THE CHAKRAS was, in essence, two performances in one—the first very public and the second more intimate or private—with both parts taking place in a large rectangular room with hardwood floors and two washrooms, normally used as the studio space of a local theatre company, Canadia dell’Arte.

PART ONE: A PUBLIC SOUNDSCAPE

The first part of Montano’s performance was approximately four hours long. It began at about 8:30 in the evening and was open to the general public, with individuals free to come and go as they pleased. For this section, which could be described as a soundscape, Montano enlisted the help of eight artists, all active in the local Toronto performance art scene. Assembled by FADO, none of the performers had worked with or even met Montano before: they included myself (red chakra), Bernice Kaye (orange chakra), Koren Bellman (yellow chakra), Churla Burla (green chakra), Tanya Mars (blue chakra), Johanna Householder (violet chakra), Ed Johnson (white chakra) and W. A. Davison (sound).

Montano began by introducing APPRECIATING THE CHAKRAS to the audience as a workshop—to float the idea that its improvised framework was one in which the concept of mistakes on the part of the performers had no meaning. The piece had not been extensively developed or rehearsed by the group in advance. Prior to her arrival, Montano had requested the participation of seven performers, and “sound from heaven.” Each performer was responsible for choosing a different chakra; putting together an outfit corresponding to the colour of their chosen chakra (multi-hued, with some allowance for black, if necessary); and finding medical texts relating to the corresponding organs or body parts of the chosen chakra, as well as to the participant’s personal history (e.g. about a disease they or someone close to them had experienced). The night before the performance, we met for about three hours to configure the space, set up and test the equipment, talk to Linda about what we had discovered in our research, and find out how the performance would be structured.

The set-up was straightforward and largely improvisational. Each of the seven chakra performers would appear in sequence starting with the first chakra, red, associated with the base of the spine, through to the seventh chakra, white, associated with the top of the head. Each would read texts for half an hour, generating a total running time of three and a half hours. I would also act as a timekeeper/emcee, introducing each new performer and circulating through the audience with a sign that provided a visual picture of each chakra, and also indicating its colour and the predominant emotion or feeling associated with it. W. A. Davison was responsible for creating a live mix of the various soundtracks employed in the work.

Montano’s performance involved two distinct sections or actions. For the first 15 minutes of each of the chakra readings, she played a small Casio and used her voice in various ways—chanting, muttering and even coughing. For the second 15 minutes, which I indicated by blowing a whistle, Montano would circulate among the audience offering Tarot readings. The Tarot portion of her performance was not miked. The resulting soundscape mixed the miked voices of the performers and Linda, the soundtrack of a three and a half hour videotape being projected in the space, and music and sound textures from various cassette tapes. These elements were heavily mixed and also fed through a digital delay, guaranteeing that no one person, Linda included, could claim exclusive authorship of the unfolding soundtrack.

Each of the seven local performers were dressed to represent a different chakra, according to colour. The outfits were in the realm of spectacular costume rather than everyday street clothes. We were encouraged by Linda to assume a persona or character for our readings. Pauses, variations of rhythm and intonation, and the interjection of spontaneous commentary into the reading of the texts were also encouraged. In the preliminary ‘rehearsal’ that took place the evening before the performance, Linda suggested that we consider in what way we could frame our involvement in the performance as a personal healing ritual–or, put another way, to think about what we wished to be healed through the performance.

The delineation of the different chakra sequences was further enhanced by a video projection played on the wall behind Linda and the performers. The video featured seven half-hour sequences, each tinted with a colour filter corresponding to the appropriate chakra. Montano describes the video in this way:

I made this video to represent the stages of life and death, going through the seven chakras: sex, then childbirth, then breastfeeding, etc. The images are from friends and found. My own are ‘performances for video’ of putting needles in my face and tubes in my nose. The death images are from my time in India gathering death and burial and cremation things. The last images of children waving are of two friends’ children. It is a poignant look at aging and time and death and impermanence and goodbye and hello. I use slow motion for the same reasons, to look at dream time. Slow motion and dream time seem to correspond for me. Also I did 15 minutes forward and 15 minutes backward to talk about the ridiculousness of getting attached to things going one way. This way you can see something forward and then reversed. It is a comedic element, which works well for things like diving into a pool; I used it to address issues of diving into and out of life and desire and fear.

The performance was presented in a proscenium format, with the video projection and the performers at one end of the room, and the audience gathered in darkness at the other. Installational elements and the movement of the performers, however, worked to unify the space. The authority of the video projection was undermined by a bubble machine that periodically blew soap bubbles in front of the image. Padded mats and king-size mattresses were placed on the floor for the audience to sit or lay on. At the beginning of the performance, Montano invited the audience to understand their own experience as an essential aspect of the performance, expressing her hope—or perhaps presenting as an assignment—that each audience member give and/or receive a full body massage during the course of the evening. In addition to Montano’s forays into the audience to give Tarot readings, I as emcee/timekeeper occasionally offered massages to individual audience members, danced alone and with others in various areas of the space, and encouraged friendly touch among participants. Other chakra performers also mingled with audience members throughout the evening.

Rather than remaining as isolated voyeurs, many audience members clumped into small tribes on their mattresses, engaging with each other physically and verbally as the performance washed over them. The overall effect was a trance-like atmosphere that was initially disorienting for new arrivals, but that was clearly engaging to the many participants who seemed happy to spend several hours there. The sense of entering an altered reality, where the passage of time, the focus of one’s attention, and the physical concerns of one’s body are measured in different terms than those demanded by the everyday routines of working for pay, dealing with the city, or even watching television, was palpable. The atmosphere could perhaps best be compared to that of a ‘rave’—although the time was relatively early in the evening, the room was smoke-free, the sound was far below ear-splitting in volume, and there was very little dancing or movement on the part of the audience.

At the end of the 3 1/2-hour sequence of chakra performances, Linda instructed me to abruptly turn on the fluorescent overhead lights. This immediately shattered the atmosphere that had been created, and brought howls of outrage from some audience members. The deliberate jarring of the senses, she explained, was to prepare the audience to re-enter the world of everyday reality, which requires a certain kind of physical and psychic shielding to maintain one’s safety. Before everyone left, Montano asked audience members to form a circle. She had each audience member present a sound/movement gesture. After each participant presented her or his gesture, the group repeated the gesture, travelling around the circle of almost a hundred who remained. This simple exercise was meant to bring each of us back to a rooted sense of self, while at the same time reinforcing the sense of community created by the performance. This participatory act was undertaken by everyone with varying degrees of self-consciousness and good humour. Once the task had travelled the entire circle, Linda and the audience bade each other farewell. Bodies began to disappear into the cold night while some of the equipment was struck by those who had chosen to stay for the second part of the performance.

PART TWO: PRIVATE DREAM MEDITATION

The second section of the performance—about eight hours long—was open to anyone who had attended the first, but required a commitment by the participants to stay the full length of the performance and to hold the silence of the space through a 7-hour “dream meditation” process. Montano’s role in this part of the piece could be likened to that of a facilitator, with the audience as contributing participants in the experience.

A dozen or so people remained for this dream meditation. The mattresses were dragged together into a central circle. Pillows, sheets and blankets were brought out. The flourescent lights were turned off, leaving only the dim glow of a lamp in a corner of the room. The doors were locked for safety. As our focus settled, we became aware of the vibrations of the floor (caused by the heaters used for the worm farm below us in the basement). We gathered together, each finding our own comfortable spot on the mattresses. Then Linda led us through some physical relaxation exercises to help us prepare for our night-time adventure. Linda asked each of us to choose one of the seven body chakras–one we felt was in need of healing energy–and to allow our consciousness to focus on this chakra as we fell asleep. The lights were turned out, and we lay together in the dark to drift into unconsciousness.

As we lay together in the dark, I played over the events of the evening in my head. The hypnotic sense of ‘tribe’ generated by the soundscape performance, with its subtle breakdown of some of the physical walls that separate us from communal touch, was now being extended to our more intimate group. There are few places in our culture where a group of adult strangers come together to sleep side-by-side, and I was keenly aware of the novelty of our group vulnerability. Adrenalized and fatigued by the performance, I found it difficult to fall asleep, so I lay still, listening to the sounds of the building and of the breathing, shifting bodies around me. The opposing tensions of familiar nestling and unfamiliar surroundings pulled me in and out of sleep, like waves lapping at the shoreline. Time passed, as I tried to quiet my thoughts and sink into body feeling. Occasionally I would check the clock, still playing timekeeper for the group.

Laying there, I was aware how I felt both alone and together at the same time. I could also feel the effects of time–not so much an action caused by time itself, but rather, the inevitability that things change as time passes. Nothing remains static, and time is what shows this truth to us.

After 7 hours, I signalled Linda, and she began to boil water and make cups of herbal tea, placing one beside each person to wake them up. I put on the lamplight, and also some soft music to indicate that morning had arrived. People sat up and began stretching, going to the bathroom, drinking tea. Soon we were all awake, and Linda called us together. We sat clumped together on the mattresses in a kind of circle, and Linda began to speak. She talked about communion, how a gesture as simple as sleeping beside one another could create a feeling of community. She invited each of us to share our experience of the night, if we wished. This was done in the manner of a talking circle, with a talisman held by each person as she or he spoke, the others listening in attentive silence. People spoke of how they felt, of their dreams, of the chakras they had chosen and why, of the healing they had sought or felt, of what healing was or might be, of family memories, of the day ahead, until everyone who wished to had spoken. Then we closed our circle, tidied up, said goodbye, and stepped out into the cold, sunny Sunday air.

I was left to delve deeper into the question of what community is, of what kind of community exists or is possible in the relationship between performer and audience, and to wonder about the markers we use to delineate where one thing ends and the next begins.

TIME TIME TIME presented works ranging from 12 hours to several days. Ritual, endurance, attention span, community-building, altering states of consciousness, boundaries between public and private, narrative, linearity and transformation were explored in the series by artists presenting their compelling, urgent visions of ourselves and our world at the end of the 20th Century.

Writing
TIME TIME TIME Interview with Linda Montano

FADO (Paul Couillard): Hi, Linda.

LINDA MONTANO: Hi, Paul.

FADO: Given your history in performance, I wanted to start by asking whether you see a distinction between performance or art and life?

MONTANO: Until I wrote a recipe that indicated that every minute was performance, there was a distinction. In 1984 I appropriated all time as performance time or art, meaning every minute of my life was an opportunity for that kind of higher — not higher — but that kind of consciousness, a kind of awareness or — sacredness is a word that is laden — but that kind of sacredness. Before 1984 I made attempts, but they were for a week or a month or for shorter periods of time. In ’84 I designed it so that the rest of my life will be in a work of art.

Of course, Tehching Hsieh’s concept ART/LIFE: ONE YEAR PERFORMANCE was inspiring, and when I decided to join him in his rope piece for a year and I got to work with this “genius of art”, I learned so much about time from him.

FADO: So, everything you do is art because you’ve consciously identified it as that?

MONTANO: Yes.

FADO: Are there other things wrapped up in that, like a sense of discipline or a certain kind of awareness you try to bring to things?

MONTANO: It’s almost like… There’s a massage form called Reiki, and in Reiki, there’s a little bit of study, maybe a weekend workshop and three levels. Then there’s this so-called initiation, and it’s really an initiation into nothingness. It’s so simple; it’s just a laying on of hands. It’s not as if it’s a complicated massage form. And for me it was just a matter of consciously setting up the parameters that allowed me to incorporate, appropriate, grab all time as art. It’s — what was that question?

FADO: I was wondering about discipline.

MONTANO: In the beginning it was about discipline. I had to do this, this, this and this for numbers of hours and days and weeks and months. Then I found that the overall intentionality worked to incorporate my needs, and the disciplines were really my own ego struggling, pushing. So when I lightened up and stopped pushing so much and creating boundaries and formulas, the permission to live in the state of art loosened me up. I started making more things that looked like traditional art because I was free. Before, it was always this sort of guilt of not being in the studio, not producing enough, not working — which comes out of an art school training or a western model of abundance and consumerism. How can you say you’re something if there’s no product? When I took that away, I actually started producing, which is always an interesting kind of contrast. But given my philosophy, there’s no need for production, because I am in the state of art, so to speak, at all times.

FADO: Why was it important for you to identify what you were doing as art?

MONTANO: Art gave me the same kinds of pleasures and aesthetic ecstasy as the Church used to give me. And because a woman is denied priesthood in Roman Catholicism, I knew instinctively that I would never be able to be a ritual-maker.

FADO: Within the Church–

MONTANO: Yes, in the Church. I took that aesthetic ritual-making paradigm and placed it in art. Not as second best, but as deep as — and as wonderful as — experiences I was having in the Church. [Note: Montano has since re-entered the Catholic Church as a practitioner and would probably answer this question differently today (2001).]

FADO: Do you make distinctions? For example, when I contacted you about TIME TIME TIME, I told you I was looking at durational performance and I wanted to present a series of pieces that were at least 12 hours long. You could have said, “well, I’m doing that right now” or “I’ll come to Toronto and just be Linda Montano”, but instead you organized a specific event with an audience component to it that could be published or announced. Is there a distinction to be made between performing a piece called APPRECIATING THE CHAKRAS and being in your kitchen making dinner?

MONTANO: Sometimes you eat chocolate cake with raspberries on it, and sometimes you have a rice cake. Doing a performance like APPRECIATING THE CHAKRAS is the chocolate cake with raspberry sauce. It’s a luxury, not necessary, but certainly something fun that I am still interested in. I see it as a night out.

FADO: In calling everything you do art, and thinking of what you do as being an artist, do you think an artist necessarily has an audience? Is there a relationship between artist and audience?

MONTANO: I think it’s changing with computers and websites etc. It’s becoming a virtual audience — a non-visible, non-visual, non-physical audience. Then there’s the audience of rumour, the audience of legend and gossip — “oh isn’t that the person that, you know…” — being known for one piece. There is a hunger now for community, for bodily closeness, for performance. But there’s also a plethora of taste. Things have gotten so specific to the person, that the people who will come to see a particular piece are drawn chemically by the taste of that person. The flavour of the piece coincides with the flavour of the audience members. I think there are a lot of different levels of audience, unless it’s a person or a piece that has such a following or such a need to be seen. Other than that, I think that as performance artists we draw the audience with the taste that corresponds with ours.

FADO: In an interview you did before the Toronto show, you mentioned that one of the aspects of maturing as artists — I wasn’t sure whether you meant specifically in performance art or just for yourself as an individual — was accepting or recognizing that not all audiences are going to love what you do, or have to like what you do.

MONTANO: I think that’s an important lesson to learn, not getting attached to numbers of people in the audience, not getting attached to being loved, so that you can really do the work for the right motivation. Hopefully the timing of the work is right. I really think a lot of it is about the presenter. If the presenter is coming from the right place and is well-loved in the community and does a good job of making the artist comfortable, the audience can feel that and they respond. I think it’s a real collaboration, because you can do something in the right place with the wrong kind of treatment or atmosphere, and it’s not a good time for anyone. Sometimes it’s not the artist so much that’s drawing the crowd, but the presenter.

FADO: When you do a piece, what are you hoping the audience will get? Or does that matter?

MONTANO: Community — that they’ll have a place where they can wash their subconscious of ideas or fears or taboos, and a place where they can touch a kind of magical sacredness, have a spiritual high. Moving through matter and the dirt and detritus of matter as a jumping-off place to this ecstasy.

FADO: Do you have any thoughts about the element of time in your work? I chose you for TIME TIME TIME because I was familiar with the fact that you had done pieces that had unusual durations, like being tied to Tehching Hsieh for a year. Or doing a seven-year project of exploring the chakras, where every moment of every day for quite a substantial length of time was devoted to or charged with the intent of the particular project you were working on.

MONTANO: Working with time allows for a timelessness. You almost have to grab time to go out of time. Focus and concentration and discipline and spaciousness all happen at the same time when you work with endurance and time. It inhibits scatteredness. It inhibits shallowness. It helps us to go to places that change brain waves, literally. If something’s done for a long period of time, then brain chemistry changes. All of those things interest me.

FADO: I was very intrigued by the way you chose to structure what we called the ‘piece’ APPRECIATING THE CHAKRAS. Essentially, there were two parts. The first part of 3 1/2 hours was a soundscape that people could enter or leave as they wished, just soaking in the energy of it. The second part required a different level of commitment on the part of the people who were involved. They were no longer participating spectators; they were being what they were being. You asked us, in a sense, to sleep together.

MONTANO: “I’ve slept with Linda Montano.”

FADO: (Laughing) I’ll bet you have! In the morning, when we were ending the performance, one of the things you spoke about was that there was a sense of community created in our being together, just in doing a simple action together like sleeping. But people had to commit to be there for that 7-hour period and not leave in the middle, whereas the first part was set up so that anyone could come and go.

MONTANO: A lot of that was just practical safety, in terms of doors opening and closing, people coming in, and protecting the space. Because people were sleeping, the space had to be different, so the parameters were different. But time is energy. We are energy. And energy needs a lot of attention. If we’re busy, if there’s a divorce from energy, then its like not being nurtured, not getting enough food. All of these actions are vehicles. They’re designed to produce the effect of feeling aliveness and energy — and maybe, if there is such a thing, a chemical shift in the brain where it’s touching bliss or sacredness.

FADO: Is it fair to say that what’s involved is a commitment to acknowledging and working with the particular energy of time?

MONTANO: When you translate time, the next word you get after time is death — because time is so mysterious and it’s all about the race against time, or time out, or time is over, or time is up, etc. Time is a real piece of the puzzle that nature holds and has control of. When artists play with time, they’re playing with God’s toy, nature’s toy. It wasn’t designed for us to play with, but artists never play with anything that isn’t sacred. Or, it’s the artist’s prerogative to go into that playground. Time brings up issues of dying and of death. And of impermanence and of change and of flux and of loss. “Time marches on.” “I don’t have enough time for that.” It seems to dog us and nip at our heels and run after us. We don’t have enough of it, but when the focus changes, when the artist uses time as a material — a clay to mold — the artist can use that material to reach timelessness — no-time. And no-time is bliss or ecstasy or energy, pure energy.

FADO: I see a relationship with trance as well. One of the teachings of my artistic training is that trance is how we manage to express the immortal in our mortal bodies. I think time is an important element of that. For example, people who stayed through the three-and-a-half hour soundscape in APPRECIATING THE CHAKRAS were affected. They were put into a different space, perhaps a trance. They wouldn’t reach that place if they were there only there for one minute, or if they were watching it from a distance on their television set.

MONTANO: Right. It definitely demands a presence, a participation. Otherwise it’s a sound bite.

FADO: You mentioned that up until very recently — I think it was a seven-year period — you didn’t do any interviews about your work. Can I ask why?

MONTANO: In 1991, when I finished the first set of years, I decided to do another set of years.

FADO: You’re talking about the chakra research.

MONTANO: Yes, it became 14 YEARS OF LIVING ART, and I did an interview with Jennifer Fisher from Parachute magazine in Canada. When I read it, it felt so complete that I couldn’t imagine saying anything after that. I would just be repeating myself, and maybe not learning anything. So I made a vow. And I think it was really smart, because there’s an addiction that sets in. The artist gets addicted to “Why aren’t more people interviewing me?” Or, “I don’t like talking about myself.” Or, “I have nothing to say,” or “Aren’t I brilliant?” A whole basketful of thoughts around what happens in an interview. I made the vow so I wouldn’t have those thoughts. Doing interviews is a learning process, a place for ideas to be shared and things to be learned — and I’m back again. But I like having the option to set parameters and to give myself ways in and out of situations. I thought that was quite brilliant, to do seven years of no interviews. It really worked for me. But I think more than anything it took away the addiction to fame and to the interview process. It gave me a chance not to think about that issue for seven years.

FADO: And now you’re willing to think about it again?

MONTANO: Well, the times have changed. There’s more to think about. The body is evolving toward obsolescence. Robotics and cloning — I don’t know what they mean, but these things that I hear about are going to be happening, and performance is a place where the body is still celebrated. More and more people are hanging out on computers all day and all night. They are performing in chat rooms as sexual partners, or doing transgressive S&M or persona changes. Things that performance artists do naturally, the general public is doing. But as a result, the performance artist is also in for a lot of punishment. When the more conservative element starts doing the thing that the performance artist does naturally, somebody is going to be whooped and whipped. The artist is in line for a kind of conservative backlash because of the guilt of those who are hanging out in chat rooms and performing. Virtually or invisibly, they are performing, having the experience of performing and not really having the creative joy, but maybe coming away from it with some guilt. It puts performance in a pretty interesting place, maybe more necessary than ever, or maybe not. But it’s certainly different from 1970, when it was for a group of friends who were all in it together. I guess there’s a kind of pathos about this loss of body as physical flesh and the move toward an implanted cyborg or a transsexualized complete human. So many people are going to extreme performative measures. Transsexuals especially have taken the performance metaphor and really pushed it. I think that’s an incredible performance. But it’ll be interesting to watch what happens with flesh and body and space in the next hundred years.

FADO: I don’t know what it’s like other places, but in Toronto there’s been a resurgence of interest in performance. Artists want to perform, after a long period when they didn’t, when they wanted to make objects and be distanced physically from their work. But it’s also true of audiences, who seem to be looking for a sense of tribe or community, whatever it is.

MONTANO: Yes, I think it’s hot right now. It’s a hot item.

FADO: Do you think that’s true everywhere?

MONTANO: Yes, I think this generation has heard about it, especially younger people. I think there are more safe spaces for them to be performative, in their dress and on the streets, the whole tattoo or hair or dress codes. But also flesh next to flesh, for those who aren’t getting it any other place. Certainly they don’t get it in the schools. They don’t get a place where they can transcend — or maybe they do, I shouldn’t say that — but they’re looking for more places to transcend and performance can really do that, can give that experience.

FADO: When you say transcend, is that “from” somewhere or “to” somewhere?

MONTANO: We’re in it together and we’re breathing together. We’re experiencing it together, we’ve been moved and we need ritual. Our souls are hungry and we’ve got a little bit. Let’s hold onto that, go hang out, nourish that.

FADO: What do you mean when you say ritual?

MONTANO: I can only describe it in terms of an experience. I’ll use APPRECIATING THE CHAKRAS as an example. When I was turning with the flashlight, I felt as if in the action, although very, very simple, we were there altogether and that we were changing our brain waves and that our soul spirits were happy. At least mine. I’m talking for myself, when I feel the concept of ritual. I think it’s when something is designed to satisfy. For example, they knew that for 15 minutes this was going to happen, then 15 minutes that. They knew the landscape of the piece, so they could settle into the repetitive action of the performance. Although the actions were absurd, the tarot reading was absurd, they knew they could rely on it. The trust creates a level of openness, and the openness creates a level of body relaxation. Then the body relaxation creates a level of chemistry and the chemistry creates a level of brain wave. The brain wave is connected to harmony with nature, and nature must be in the highest balance. I think ritual is the vehicle to touch that balance.

FADO: Is that the point where your perspective shifts from “I” to “we”?

MONTANO: Yes. Did you have feeling of that at all?

FADO: Yes. One of the motivating factors for what I do is trying to assuage a sense of loneliness. Being in a position where I feel central to what’s happening does that. But I’m never sure I can gauge what the audience is feeling, except to trust cues — like, they stayed, so they obviously enjoyed being there. Or, they seem to be enjoying themselves; they seem to be connected; they seem to be relaxed. They’re not agitated; they’re not looking around waiting for something to happen, expecting something more. Then there’s moments where you just go on instinct and do something, and you have a connection with a person or with the space as a whole, or you just feel “Yes, I’m in it; that’s right”. But I’ve certainly been fooled at times. Sometimes, when I hear other people describe their perspectives, it turns out what I thought was going on was completely different from what they thought was going on.

MONTANO: Well, you need to interview some audience members, Paul.


TIME TIME TIME presented works ranging from 12 hours to several days. Ritual, endurance, attention span, community-building, altering states of consciousness, boundaries between public and private, narrative, linearity and transformation were explored in the series by artists presenting their compelling, urgent visions of ourselves and our world at the end of the 20th Century.

Writing Blue

Writing Blue is the smell of interpretation. Composed of materials that many "know", blueberry candy offers a flicker of nostalgia. Grounded in blue cypress like a hunch that comes from speculation, it is the lavender that offers overwhelming explanations.

Top Notes

blueberry candy

Middle Notes

lavender, mens shaving cream

Base Notes

hyacinth, blue cypress