The RoboDock, Netherlands, 24 September, 2005
i started work on my MFA at san francisco art institute, back in the day, and there was a group of art students that climbed onto the roof, where the school's cafe is, and they had a plan to do a Performance Art Piece. the idea was that they would jump from the fourth-floor roof into a very nearby tree and shimmy down while all the other students looked on with horror and awe. they imagined they would safely stepped to the ground below. i do not have now, nor had i then, an idea of why they were planning on doing this as they jumped from said roof into said tree that had grown to said four-story height, but jump they did, or at least the first one did, or at least he tried to anyway. he awkwardly threw himself (art students aren't exactly athletes) into its upper canopy and in a crash of branches and fluttering foliage he started to slide then scrape then dislodge then bounce against an branch until he landed very hard with a stomach-turning "clnk," breaking enough bones to call him Pulpy. he laid at the bottom of the wall at SFAI, everyone rushed over to his still form, and the other three students didn't do their Art Piece. a month later, i walked out of class (after a painter confessed he couldn't paint hands and used that as a justification for abstraction. quelle connerie..).
that was in 1990 or thereabouts. i forget, exactly, the year, but since then i've been convinced that public art performances are a waste of everyone's time. generally speaking.
but robot art can be fun. at least when it's done right. i'm friends with mark pauline, and kal spellitech, and some of these guys that live in the SF bay area and make machines for this purpose, and for the last 15 years i've definitely enjoyed their work and have enjoyed it, also, on various drugs that are mostly illegal, if not entirely so.
but i'd not seen anything until i went to robodock.
ROBO DOCK is the single largest gathering of robots, kinetic sculptures, flame spitters, rotomotors, mechatronic mayhem, cyborg suits, and whirlygigs this side of orion's belt.
it was an eventful and awesome night which started with my friend jan-kees and i getting on the ferry with alex. jan-kees is smarter than most humans, and like most smart humans, this causes him some pain, but he's also one of the kindest and most clear-sighted people i know. jan-kees is the kind of person you would want around if a war were to explode over your house as he's not only smart as the stars, and kind as your mother's kitchen, but he's better than the tasks of living require him to be. he looks a little like a cadaver, which i find endearing. he smokes a lot and when i spend time with him, i do, too.
jan-kees is on the left.
we went north of centraal station by about 15 minutes to NDSM, in dockland, or Nederlands Droogdok Somethingorother Maatschappiy and by the time the ferry docked (yes, in dockland) we could hear a low humping sound peppered with the occasional screams of metal on metal.
that night zorro, the son of a friend sam (a friend i went sailing with) was pretty severely burned. someone else lost an eye, i drank too much wine, smoked too many cigarettes, and after a friend i met there gave me a solid dose of amphetamines i danced so hard i was sore for four days following. but, wait; there's more. i kissed a strange girl (who's name i don't know), who is the mother of two children.
i think that was the first time i've kissed someone's mother.
in fact, i'm sure it is.
this means that (regardless of my protestations) i'm getting old.
but never mind that, here's some pictures of what happened.
despite my history with contemporary art, and despite the historic elements of this kind of work i have little to say. it's visceral. it's about hedging danger. it's about control and lack thereof and audience trust and things like that. i helped kal, of seemen hold their flame-bed as it slammed around, and that was as much fun as i've had in a while since you can't get much more front-row than holding a flaming 2-ton piece of steel that's bouncing like a wallabee on a waffleplate. i like knowing that i might get injured, but then not having it happen. it's lively, and this is why this kind of work is fun.