Two sides of the same coin, GUTS and GROOVES comically explore the frustrations of an adolescent male as he attempts to make sense of his desires and urges through consumer-grade audio media.
Inspired in part by Chuck Palahniuk’s short story of the same name, GUTS begins with the performer loading a tape into a portable cassette recorder and pushing play. This tape, which employs the classic rock trope of the ‘final chord’, humorously repeats this frustrated climax 11 times over an 8 minute stretch. Guided by the recording, the performer, who adopts the character of an adolescent male, compulsively carries out a repetitive action. Using a collection of 11 flesh-colored tubular balloons, a hand-operated air pump, and a thumbtack adhered to the performer’s finger, he parodies the experience of masturbation as an exhaustive psychophysical exercise. As the performer inflates and pops these overtly phallic objects his relationship to the action evolves from rapturous sexual exploration to a state of mindless mechanical malaise. While Palahniuk’s “Guts” is a deadpan first-person account of several near-fatal injuries incurred by an adolescent male and his friends while masturbating, GUTS attempts to impose an emotional arc on male masturbation as it continues to be simulated throughout the piece. What was initially an invigorating taboo becomes rote and mindless, and the performer eventually exits, finished but not satisfied.
While GUTS takes a classic rock trope as its source material, GROOVES uses a vinyl recording of Alec Guinness reading E.E. Cummings’s “The Moon Looked Into My Window.” The poem describes a sexual discovery in which the moon is personified as the narrator’s lover. GROOVES’s apparatus is a phono cartridge attached to the performer’s finger. As the performer “reads” Cummings’s poem by placing his finger line-by-line and groove-by-groove onto the surface of the vinyl, he enacts the verses of the poem using the phono cartridge to trace corresponding physical lines on his body. The resulting sounds are quite loud, disorienting, but distinctly a blend of bodily and mechanical. The intimacy communicated by the joining of the performer’s body and an audiomechanical device evokes the sentiment raised in Rainer Maria Rilke’s 1919 essay “Primal Sound.” Rainer’s essay, written shortly after the invention of the phonograph, ponders the experience of “listening to” the cranial seam of a human skull. GROOVES, unlike GUTS, enacts the exploration of the performer’s body in a manner that is driven by sensation and experience unique to the individual rather than the abstract external expectation of male sexual performance. The “needle” is a key feature of both performances. In GUTS the needle of a tack is used to simulate the overstated achievement of orgasm, and is imbued with an aggressive performative male sexuality glorified by homemade “cock rock” tapes. Dissimilarly, the phono cartridge needle in GROOVES is used as a tool to intimately explore the performer’s own skin alongside whispered accounts of sexual discovery committed to vinyl.