Friday, January 23, 2009

finally, an update, and foi in berlin/kansas city

hello to all of the people who have followed this blog.
it's been a while since i updated. after the action on the 31st i had a few days of rest in ny before i went off to san diego where i had a (great) job making a piece on students at ucsd. i got quite consumed by that process and felt immobile when it came to updating the blog. in the meantime, responses from the participating artists in foi 2008 started to pour in, each one fascinating and incredible. it was, in some ways, almost overwhelming for me to know what to do with all of this information, how to process other people's responses while still trying to process my own experience of the event, which was very different than the 2001 version. 

but now i'm committed to updating the blog with the various artists' responses. it will trickle in over the next few days because....

foi is happening again tomorrow! i was approached several months ago by my friend Jeremy Wade about doing the action in berlin at a festival he is co-curating (with Eike Wittrock) called Politics of Ecstasy: Altered states of presence. at the time of the invitation, i was wary about the idea of doing foi in the context of an art festival. how does that really work? and the invitation also came way before all of the incredible dialogue that started to emerge between the participating artists of the 2008 version. 

to that end, i was lucky to be approached by Katherine Ferrier, who was slated to participate in the 2008 action but at the last minute had to pull out. she wrote me saying that she really wanted to do foi and would i be interested in her doing it in kansas, city, missouri, while i did in berlin? my answer was an emphatic yes! especially because, since doing it on the 31st, it seems vital to me that another person do it simultaneously, as that aspect of the event was such an anchor for me to get through the 24 hours. in berlin, there is an additional change, in that my old friend visual artist/musician fritz welch will be playing live music during the last two hours of the event. originally i wasn't sure about how this would play out, but i think that now it's a really good way to help distinguish this particular incarnation of the action. also, the event is going from 7pm tomorrow saturday (berlin time) to 7pm sunday. lots of differences. we'll see how this works out. 

in the meantime, though, i am going to include here the statement that i am giving to the spectators for the event tomorrow. katherine and i are ustreaming again. the link is in the following statement but i'll be sure to leave it as the last post tomorrow night before we get going...

xo m

this is what will be distributed tomorrow:

Story of an action: freedom of information 2009 for Politics of Ecstasy Festival

Welcome to freedom of information 2009, being performed simultaneously in Berlin and Kansas City, Missouri, by myself and by Katherine Ferrier respectively. Visual artist and musician Fritz Welch will play live music during the last two hours of the event here.

Seven years ago, on December 31, 2001, in response to the frustration that I felt about the United States' invasion of Afghanistan, I decided to do a 24-hour improvisation titled freedom of information in my home studio in Brooklyn, NY. The rules for this improvisation were simple. I was blindfolded and wore earplugs. I stayed in my empty studio, I didn't eat anything for the entire day and I attempted to move continuously throughout the space for 24 hours. Moving continuously meant walking, dancing, rolling, running, sliding, crawling, etc. I allowed myself to drink water and tea, and, because I had stipulated that I wouldn't leave the room, I urinated into empty milk jugs on the periphery of the space.

My interests were threefold. First, by continuously moving, I wanted to create solidarity with the people who are displaced by armed conflict, who do not have the basic right of rest after an active day, and who instead have to remain ever-vigilant for violence, ready to flee from their homes at any hour, and in worst case scenarios, become refugees. Second, by depriving myself of seeing and hearing, I wanted to highlight and enforce both the disorientation that constant movement creates as well as the self-examination that happens when those basic senses are taken away. And third, by depriving myself the freedom of leaving the room, I wanted to show how my ability to roam where I want when I want is actually a privilege, while for others, having to constantly move and find new shelter is a form of imprisonment.

The title freedom of information alludes to the American legislation, originally signed into law on July 4, 1964, that "allows for the full or partial disclosure of previously unreleased information and documents controlled by the United States Government." In choosing this title, I was also thinking about the constant stream of thoughts, images and feelings that emerge out of a practice of sensory deprivation and continuous movement.

Last year, considering the fact that the U.S. is still engaged in the war in Afghanistan as well as the war in Iraq, and infuriated by the sports game-like promises of “victory” and “success” being made by the presidential candidates when discussing these wars, it struck me that it was an appropriate time to reprise freedom of information. This time, however, it seemed important to expand the action somehow. So I invited artists across the US and Washington D.C. to do it in their respective states.

On December 31st 2008, I did the action again in New York, and 30 artists in 30 states participated ranging from Vermont to Alaska, Montana to Texas. freedom of information 2008 was a nationwide action of contemplation. Several of the participating artists created “channels” on, a live streaming website so that we could be seen doing the action by anyone with internet access. I liked the symbolic power of the artists engaged in a common struggle, while remote from one another. It seemed to me an apt metaphor for how resistance movements reach out to each other across time and distance.

Obviously, this endurance based action, while certainly a physical, emotional and psychological challenge for whoever participates in it, is not and cannot be a direct reprieve for many people in the world who do not have the ability at the moment to alter their current conditions. We, the artists participating in the action, can ultimately take off the blindfold and earplugs when we want. We can leave the room. We can return to the creature comforts of our daily lives. On December 31st 2008, confronted with a variety of insurmountable obstacles, some of participating artists did just that. I believe that freedom of information is a symbolic gesture, one of many, of solidarity with the many bodies that the action is meant to acknowledge, as well as solidarity with the other artists who have performed or, in this case, are performing the action (more on that in a second), and solidarity with the people who come to watch.

For this reason, the action straddles multiple definitions of performance, protest and meditation, touching upon each of these concepts while not landing squarely in any one of them. Something I do know is that freedom of information is a practice of consciousness, an exercise in paying attention and engaging the unknown, an opportunity to propose an alternative contemplation of the word “freedom,” and an attempt to connect empathically with a host of real and imagined bodies.

A few months ago Jeremy invited me to do freedom of information for this festival. This is the first, and possibly last, time I am doing it in a festival context. I am intrigued by the way that the action fits into the subtitle of the festival: altered states of presence. However, stripped of the significance of performing the action from midnight to midnight on December 31st, and re-located out of the context of performing it in the United States, the country responsible for instigating the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, I am curious about how this action will feel for me and how you will perceive it. Coupled with these new parameters is also the historical context of the new, hopeful “Obama era,” one in which the decisions about how to address these wars have only begun to unfold. Obama has promised to withdraw the troops from Iraq (although he is committed to maintaining some military presence there to continue to train Iraqi troops), but he has also vowed to increase the military presence in Afghanistan.

Originally I was to do freedom of information here alone. However, Katherine Ferrier, a dance artist who wanted but was not able to do the action in 2008, approached me about performing the action simultaneously in Kansas City, Missouri. I am excited and relieved to have her do it, because the idea of sharing the difficulty of the action with someone else is now, to me, an inextricable part of the action. And joining me for the last two hours of the action will be visual artist/musician Fritz Welch, whose music will assist me in making it to the end of the event. Fritz is an old friend and collaborator, who was present at the first incarnation of the event in 2001.

I invite you to share your thoughts about anything you’d like regarding this action in the guestbook.

Live video streams are being fed onto the internet so that you can watch Katherine and me throughout the 24 hours.

Katherine’s channel is:
(note the three dashes between 2009 and kansas)
My channel is:

And for more information about the 2008 event, please go to

Thank you for coming.

No comments: