The following was the description of The Task that I submitted to Nuit Blanche for the 2010 event. They excepted the idea and it was performed that year in the area curated by Christof Migone and well received.
The Task is a performance piece that through a simple, arduous and repetitive series of actions seeks to explore aspects of optimism, time, determination, meditation, change, work, repetition, bureaucracy, and futility. At the same time the work hopes to challenge ideas and preconceptions about artists, entertainment, performance art and the nature of labour.
The linear progress of The Task will also serve as an analogue timepiece with a series of identifiable milestones in the action representing ½ hour periods. The artist’s intention is to capture the entire piece on video in real time to be played back on a media player/screen to be used with one repeat viewing as a 24-hour clock. Looped it will work like a clock if you know how to translate the action.
In The Task the artist manually moves a large quantity of cement blocks from point A to point B and then returns them to point A. The action is performed continuously over a 12-hour period. Obscured behind the initial collection of stacked block in location A is a sign made that reads, Lunch. At approximately the 6-hour mark this sign will be completely exposed and legible for a short period while the artist sits at a table and has eats before resuming the action. The piece will look the same at hour 0:00 as it will at hour 12:00.
The majority of the set consist of approximately 6 skids of 120, 4” concrete cinder blocks that will be delivered to a predetermined location “A”. The sign that reads Lunch will be furled up and placed behind the initial skids in area A. Also on set will be 6 empty skids, a portable toilet/outhouse, and a folding table and chair. There will also be a video camera and computer set up in an area that is somehow hidden from view from any audience that points towards the action from in front of the whole scenario (between the audience and the artist).
The artist arrives and starts the video camera before he places his lunch box on the table, takes a drink of water and gets down to the “work”. He’s attired or has at his disposal; suitable construction garb including several heavy-duty work gloves, work boots, layers of stereotypical work-site clothing and a yellow construction hat. First he places an empty skid in location B and then moves concrete blocks at a rate of approximately 30 seconds a block to reconstruct a single skid worth of block. At times he’ll move 2 blocks–one in each hand–at others, single blocks using 2 hands. When approximately 120 blocks–making up one skid–are in place, a second skid will be placed and the process begins again. The goal is to move a stack every hour. App. 740 blocks are transported from point A to point B in the first 6 hours. At this point the artist will break for cigarettes and/or water and snacks from his lunch box. At the halfway point he’ll consume a lunch then commence to replace all the blocks he just moved back to their original location at point A. Throughout the performance he will attempt not to engage the audience. This portion of the plan might have to be adapted depending on how intoxicated and belligerent the crowd becomes in the final 6 hours of the piece.
As the evening progresses the artist will gauge and monitor his ability to complete The Task. If a significant amount of progress has not been made by the ½ way point contractors will be called in and the artist will then act as the foreman of a team that completes The Task.
Photos by Joe Le 2010