As 1994 began I wanted to address aproblem that had been vexing me for some time: that my creative persona suffered from dissociative identity disorder. My creative practice consistently encompassed many media & genres & styles and to me these were all intricately related, like a long conversation with a close friend over a span of years, a conversation taking place through short flippant postcards, long heartfelt letters, anguished phone conversations, decadent physical contact in grade B resort towns in Tyrol, brutally insensitive emails, flu-riddled visits to each others' homes, etc - the stuff of friendship: schizophrenic, illogical - and inseperable - all of a piece; to see just one episode or epistle - one genre or exhibition - would give, in all likelihood, a false image of what the overall relationship/practice was.
While my effort & attention & output had been fairly consistent over the past twelve years, I remained at best an experimentalist, trying on new hats & tricks & tropes & media in my attempts to see how things would bend, how ideas would play out, how close my perceptions & articulations related to others' perceptions. I wasn't one to master a gimmick or style & keep plugging away at it, which was or seemed to be how a career was made in San Francisco. Once you could be counted on to be dependable, a reasonable known quantity, legible
if you will, then reviewers could review you, curators curate you & audiences schedule you into their lives. I jumped around too much for anyone to get a handle on what I was doing, so I never got reviews and never built an audience very far beyond my circle of acquaintances & the built-in audiences of venues or publication I appeared in.
This meant that I'd never developed any even semi-sustainable "career" in the arts. I was still surviving, as I always had, by doing skilled or semi-skilled labor: housepainting, construction etc, full-time jobs that took lots of time & energy away from creative work. By 1994 I was working in a medical-records warehouse, a job that began a segue into various sorts of facilities & project management jobs.
Beyond this practical problem there was a conceptual one - or maybe it was an ego problem. I had started getting depressed because someone would come see a play of mine & have no idea or clue as to where this play had come from or how it fit into a long & varied exploration of the themes it articulated. This audient would only know what they had seen that night & would think of me only as a playwright. I wanted to be "conversing" with people in several "dialects" simultaneously: through paintings, writings, performance art, etc & I felt like there were only - maybe - a dozen people who both knew the range of my work and
were interested. And those dozen weren't necessarily the people I really wanted to be talking to.
That sounds crass I suppose. What I mean is that they were basically close friends of mine, I love them still & their support has been & is invaluable, but just because someone's your friend doesn't make them your best "reader". Only about half of that dozen were people I could talk to & learn from - we were collaborators I guess even if we never did any work together - though with some I did.
Anyway I was getting really fed up with the restrictions imposed when applying for things like residencies. There's lots of competition, so the committees that evaluate applications have to sift through lots of samples, so there's not much time, so presentations have to be concise, samples focused, and despite all the rhetoric about multi-disciplinary work, you are basically forced to apply as something specific: as a writer or as a visual artist for instance. You can't apply as both even though you work in both media simultaneously and each informs the other. I grew to hate having to present myself as 1/4 of who I felt I was.
One of the few places that made any accomodation for my predicament was Headlands Center for the Arts, though while yes I could apply as a writer and as a visual artist and as a performance artist and as an art critic, I still had to make entirely seperate applications that would be judged by essentially seperate committees. I made a habit of applying in several disciplines, never to any avail until one year I actually got called for an interview with the committee - as an art critic - which was basically absurd - and I didn't get that residency either.
Anyway, I didn't mean this to be a rant about how these institutions work but rather to be an explanation about why I started making these combination posters, like the DISCIPLINE one above. I wanted people to think of my work in a larger sense, so that they might say to themselves, well, we don't know if we'll get a sculpture or a performance or a novel but we don't care, let's give him this residency, commission or gig anyway because we know & admire the broader scope of his thinking etc etc.
Pathetic & naive yes I know but anyway for a few months in 1994 I was pretty busy in different media & wanted people to know that, hence my posters took this form. The photo of the one above is me gagging myself at a collaborative performance project in Zürich
in 1991, the one directly below is from a performance I made in Karl-Marx-Stadt
, East Germany in 1990, and the text is my version of The Three John's equally facetious "...still the youngest and best-looking band in Leeds."
In some cases I also still made single-event specific posters, such as this one for a performance called Lullabye
at The Back Room.