In darkness, a figure sitting still on a stage plays a jack in the box very slowly. After about a minute, the jack pops up. Another figure, dressed head to toe in black, including an executioner's mask, wheels me in on a wheeled chair. I have sewn my hands together, but the audience does not yet know that. Dramatic irony in reverse. A video projection and recorded sound starts.
The sound is two tracks, me humming and me whistling, a six-second clip, looped for seven and a half minutes. It fades in, plateaus for a while, then after three and a half minutes suddenly distorts and increases in volume significantly. After another minute, it distorts and crescendos again. Then it slowly dies away, as if running out of batteries.
The black and white video projection begins with three text screens, black text on a white background:
-You told me one day that I had been bad.
-You said that I was to sew my right hand to my left hand, so that I would not be bad.
-I did not know how. How to sew my hands. So I asked Jeeves.
Following this, for about three minutes the projection shows my unsewn hands playing cat's cradle, or rather, creating string figures, since I am the only one playing.
At the end of my time creating the apache door, I somehow knot or tangle the thread with which I am creating, and in my "frustration" I tear it apart.
The video shifts, and now I am sewing my hands together, through the webs between my fingers, back and forth, leaving some slack, so that the thread creates an X pattern between my hands.
While this projection is shown, the figure with the jack in the box has been playing "Pop Goes the Weasel," at first at a normal speed, then at top speed. The masked figure has lit a candle in my lap and stands still behind me. I am jerking my hands apart from one another as if trying to break the thread while repeating the two phrases "I'm awake" and "Come away" very rapidly, overlapping (try it, they sound like one another). I build in pitch and intensity, but as the sound begins to fade, I do as well.
When the sound ends, I am wheeled back whence
I came. The jack-in-the-box ceases, and its instrumentalist
is still. The video projection shows final text screens:
-For more info about this project, try one or more of the following:
-1. Study the Yoruba folk myth Oba Koso
(The King Does Not Hang
-2. Grind 500 Heavenly Blue Morning Glory
seeds to powder
. Place in 500
mL of starter fluid
. Shake well
, let stand for 20
min. Filter fluid with coffee filter
. Place in 2
or stronger is best). Let stand for 3
days. Filter powder with coffee filter. Drink the alcohol
-3. Sew your hands together
Fade to white
, fade to black
. The End
The piece was entitled "Now Look..."
The sewing took me approximately thirty minutes. I used black all-purpose thread that had been dipped in rubbing alcohol and a quilting needle sterilized with flame. I did not try to numb the pain in any way. There was no external bleeding, but some discoloration indicated that there might be a little bit of internal bleeding. I had to sleep with my hands sewn together in that way for one night, so I wrapped them in cloth and pulled it as tightly as I could with my teeth.
I did not get infected, and while it is too soon to tell whether the entry and exit points will scar, if they do it will be minimal.
This is a far cry from the kind of things I was doing before.