Lecture? Book It Here


WhatIsWhat 1.0 2003

touch the pavement



ABOVE: Street performer permit as a hedge to my street performance art. Chicago 1994

I scrawled "THE WORLD WILL NEVER KNOW" on my skateboard with a paint marker while living in Chicago in 1994. I put down these letters on my board as I realized, after being in the middle of a wind storm downtown on my board and being pushed around like a piece of scrap paper, that the most hauntingly beautiful or perfectly balanced moments of my street performances were simply impossible to share or recreate. I wrote these words on a day where I had become a human tumbleweed witnessed by 100's of train passengers marching to their morning destinations. I was up late, two days late, and they were up early in the morning. These moments of...

"transcendent channeling" for lack of a more specific term, had little to do with my actions and everything to do with the intersection of time, space and light of the city at that moment as I observed it and lived it from within my performative presence. I did nothing more than remain patient in a fatigued dreamlike state and allow the moment to unfold. If I told you stories they would sound nearly impossible and in any case, words would not suffice. The ID's pictured above and below were foils for security guards and police that I would inevitably come up against. If I was stopped from engaging strangers and questioned i at least had this card. With the card I would just be waved along by th epolice. A "not here" response. Without the ID the reaction was more along the lines of "I dont want to see you again."  In spite of all my ongoing strategies to commit my street performances to video, or present them to a live audience the fact is, when i go out untethered by the trappings of these strategies i am at my truest form. I share this today because I feel that my identity as an artist to the public is in the stage work, the music video, advertisements and circus work. These directions in my work all followed my original forum. The Street as in the pavement and people and traffic and nothing more. Not the streets of the CrutchMaster but the streets of a no-name nobody.  As I grow older and look back over my work i realize that it is the undocumented quiet moments witnessed once and once only that shine. When it comes to urban art as a genre, urban performance art remains the most precious and fleeting. Even taking a snapshot of it can kill it. i still have these moments now though due to the increased responsibility in my life they are farther and fewer between. Part of that past was spending two or three days in a state of half madness and completely subject to the wind. I did this type of performance for years and years. Now I call it an "art bender" and try and get away from the demands of my world for 48 hours to touch the pavement and drop in on a deeper state of awareness.


Below: Street performer permit as a hedge to my street performance art. Chicago 1998


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This Work, touch the pavement, by Bill Shannon is licensed under a CC BY-NC-SA license.