Hultkrans, Andrew, Artforum International
Shades of Hunter S. Thompson ... I am cruise-controlling through the Mojave desert having been dispatched by Artforum to cover a potentially dodgy event called "Chance: Three Days in the Desert," described by its creator Chris Kraus as "a philosophical rave and summit meeting between artists and philosophers, chaosophists and croupiers, mathematicians and musicians," and archly located at a resort casino forty miles south of Vegas. Obviously chosen for its "post-modern" kitsch value, Whiskey Pete's turns out to be both too cheesy and not cheesy enough. The locals populating the casino floor are too real, too degraded to deliver the cultural leveling and free play of signifiers the creators hope for. Indeed, my first encounter with absurdity at "Chance" occurs when I sign in and receive a hospital bracelet which, I'm told, "must be worn at all times for identification purposes." Looking across the crowded casino, I spot every "Chance" attendee instantly, as if they were decked out in Vegas neon. The demographic rift between the slot jockeys and the art trash separates us like oil and water.
After a fair amount of eyeballing from the hotel staff, who seem to regard us as space aliens, we make our way into the auditorium that will serve as the locus of the conference. DJ Spooky kicks things off at three in the afternoon with a surprisingly loud "illbient" mix that would have gone over better at 3 A.M. Flattened by the noisy wash, described by Spooky as a mix of "water sounds," I could only appreciate the performance from the befuddled perspective of the hotel bartenders in the back, who are clearly stunned by "Chance's" opening salvo, a far cry from casino regulars Ronnie Milsap and Captain & Tennille. In the aftermath of Spooky's set, Hong Kong artist Shirley Tse takes the stage to deliver a lecture on plastic in her native city, drawing on the monolithic metaphor of plasticity to examine both kitschy consumer products and the mutated, polyglot identity of postcolonial Hong Kong. Dressed in a plastic miniskirt and turquoise fishnet stockings, she receives a wolf-whistle from some male attendee, an act so anachronistic in this milieu, it's almost refreshing.
After this decidedly modern blast of chauvinism, it's back to pomo territory, with a somewhat tiresome lecture on chaos theory by self-described "Venice Beach roller blader, healer, and spiritual seeker" Marcella Greening. The lecture is troubled by the hand-wringing earnestness that plagues most thinkers with one foot in the New Age and the other in a Rollerblade. I nearly doze off. That night, Beat poet Diane di Prima reads some of her work, seeming out of place among all the chaosophists and cybersleaze. Di Prima is a relic from another era, clearly on display here to lend a kind of folksy credibility to this disembodied cocktail party. Following di Prima's no-frills reading, the lights dim for transsexual professor Allucquere Rosanne Stone's way-off-Broadway performance theory, which, for all its showbiz glitz, turns out to be one of the most substantial offerings of the weekend.
The highlights of the performance are its low-ball moments - rewritings of "1 Get a Kick Out of You" and "The Lady Is a Tramp," thoroughly vamped and camped up by Stone, whose booming alto recalls Ethel Merman. Cole Porter's classic is recast as a love song to guest of honor Jean Baudrillard, becoming "I Get a Kick out of Jean B," which, while failing to scan, gets many laughs and embarrasses the pants off Jean B himself, who is trapped in his seat near the stage by a hot spotlight. Turning the spot back on herself, Stone subverts the ultra hep and undeniably het Sinatra standard by singing "That's why the Lady is a Trans" to the delight of all repressed gender-benders in the audience. This is new, I think to myself - lounge theory. Perhaps old theorists will never die, they'll just double-bill …
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Publication information: Article title: Crap Shoot. Contributors: Hultkrans, Andrew - Author. Magazine title: Artforum International. Volume: 35. Issue: 5 Publication date: January 1997. Page number: 21+. © 1999 Artforum International Magazine, Inc. COPYRIGHT 1997 Gale Group.
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