“Shuttle” by Mick Douglas, Beth Weinstein, and James Oliver

Thursday, 27 June  through Sunday 30 June 2013
Ongoing: Time Observed (i.e. 6 – 9 pm; noon – 12:15 pm; Wednesday-Friday, intermittently; etc.)
Toyon Courtyard/Old Union Courtyard

Blog Response by Yasmine Jahanmir

I was naïve to think a performance entitled Shuttle would be performed in a static location. It now seems like common sense that a mobile performance piece would be in motion.

I wandered into Toyon Courtyard at about 7:20am looking for the performance and found nothing. I circled the building just in case there was a second courtyard and again found nothing. I double-checked the conference itinerary and I was indeed in the advertised location, so I gave up, got coffee, and went to a panel. As I was leaving the panel, I passed the Old Union courtyard and came upon a tent and stacked wooden boxes in the grass; one of the boxes was labeled “shuttle.” Turns out they had decided to move and had left a note which I did not see. Seizing the opportunity to be mobile with my review rather than canceling it, I asked about the performance I had missed and was immediately invited into navigating the remnants of the performance.

Shuttle is a three-week mobile performance that began in Tucson, AZ on June 17th. This “mobile desert performance” wandered through Chaco Canyon, Spiral Jetty, Sun Tunnels, the Center for Land Use Interpretation, and Wendover, before it reached Palo Alto on June 26th. The van left Palo Alto on June 30 to travel to Culver City’s CLUI and the Joshua Tree area before it returns for an encounter at the Tucson Museum of Art (http://www.tucsonmuseumofart.org) on July 6th. The Shuttle crew consists of ten “international artists, designers, performance makers and researchers abroad,” including the three project creators, Mick Douglas and James Oliver of Melbourne and Beth Weinstein of Tucson, AZ as well as five remote artists “onboard in other locations” and has the stated intent of generating “new creative practices and works that shuttle between registers of knowing and unknowing by exploring performances of mobility” while informing the development of PSi 21 “Fluid States” which will disperse the conference into many satellite locations.

When I approached the unanticipated performance site with my questions, James Oliver, an Australian artist-researcher in the crew, began to explain the project by opening the large wooden boxes to show me what was inside. The first box contained Tyvek that the group used to build shade structures to protect the crew from the sometimes-sinister desert heat. The second box contained dry food goods and the third contained “gifts” from nature and from people along the way: Tucson art gallery, Exploded View, donated a poster, the shoulder of the highway donated a rusted tobacco tin lid, and I donated a packet of honey, collaboratively entitled: “something sweet/wound care?” Oliver then showed me a binder containing the archive of John Vella’s contribution, a visual artist on the remote crew. Vella had assigned the shuttle members with two projects—Vella Vehicle Accumulations and Vella Piss Takes— that asked the crew to document what they ”took” and “left” from the trip. In the Vehicle Accumulations section, I saw a moth wing and pebble that were found on the car and in the Vella Piss Takes section, I saw a drawing of the shape of one such puddle as well as a leaf collected from the scene of discharge. Each addition to the binder was accompanied by form detailing the all the relevant facts of these additions and subtractions. Oliver then introduced me to Mick Douglas, who invited me into his tent to hide from the hot Palo Alto sun, share in his walnuts, and to watch a video of a “feedback walk.” Discovering the happy accident of the feedback-inducing interference of his camera and phone, Douglas was exploring the land with a feedback methodology. The video that I saw vertically framed Douglas’ dusty hiking boots walking on top of a miniature copy of the Spiral Jetty that was constructed underwater not too far from the original, more well-known Spiral Jetty. His video showcased his approach to performing mobility: an appreciation of the places on the fringes of popular locales and an awareness of the feedback between himself and nature. Our paths diverged when Douglas was called away for a Shuttle crew meeting and I left to attend another panel.

The piece uses performance to approach pressing ecological issues. How do we track the traces we leave behind as we move through the world or how do we make demonstrate the effects of the world on our bodies? What are the privileges of movement? What are the risks? The desert is an especially poignant site for these discussions, as desert settlements require many resources in order to thrive. Without these resources, movement is mandated for survival, but also carries the potential risk of fatality, which unfortunately remains to be a serious issue for those entering Arizona on foot from the border. Similarly, Shuttle inspires important questions for performance. How does viewing movement as performance unsettle the underlying structures in our definitions? How do we archive it? With pebbles and piss? Is this mobile desert performance site-specific and durational? Or something else entirely as it changes from place to place and person to person? My encounter with Shuttle was a happy accident, and while I may not have seen the performance as it was intended, I was able to experience the ideological framework of movement in a new way. Perhaps if we don’t expect performance to remain, we can broaden our expectations and explore how mobility has the capacity to shift our perspectives from singular to multiple. Our theoretical viewpoint should enjoy the freedom of the open road, while still acknowledging the traces and fragments that accompanies mobility. For example, this mobile analysis is only a fragment of the performance as I cannot know the totality of the performance, but then again, I have a feeling that is exactly the point. Movement is a methodology or as the front of their van states: “more than just from A to B.”

To learn more about Shuttle, visit: http://performingmobilities.net

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