And He Said

And I said

“Hey, remember when our alternative universe ceased to be alternative, and thus became reality, and we are all just cockroaches now free from the Utopian Cage, looking to spread free love and peanut butter? Yeah, this cockroach may not be an individual, but she ain’t a sheep tramping along in a two foot diameter circle. And she may scurry slow, but what is pace but a part of time and relativity? Yeah, I’m scurrying along and soon my 6 will become 36 and soon 600. Meet me on the other side of the warehouse?”

And he said

“The warehouse is nothing but a gray sky captured inside of a Plexiglas square box. No, meet me on the outside where the squirrels are raped and the moths are zapped by the light, where smoke dissipates off into the distance, and where man steps down with his rubber soles. I scurry, and I scurry faster than you, but I scurry to the beat of the bed banging against the wall.“

And I said

“Have you found the door?”

And he said

“The door? There’s no such thing as the door. There are only 100 ft tall piles of nails and pennies, lying on the floor dusted with a layer of turmeric two inches thick. I found  a button once. I looked through its holes and discovered an elephant inside the 5×7 green and purple opt-art canvas hanging on the adjacent wall. Do you know what that elephant did? It turned its head so its profile was facing me, so I could see its grey wrinkly skin rippling in the wind of his setting to the tune of Don’t Stop me Now. That’s right, the music was roaring but the only one that could hear it was the old bum sitting in the corner, swaying his 3 foot long white beard in sync with the ripples of the elephant’s skin. Naw man, that was too much for me, I put that button down and haven’t picked it up since.”

And I said

“I looked through a Twizzler once. It was lying on the ground, red and juicy, just waiting for a human hand and a glass full of vodka to throw it under a purple pleather and alligator skin couch. I nuzzled my nose up into that hole and took in a deep breath of sweet strawberry corn syrup. But soon my veins were filled of fairy dust and cyanide, and I couldn’t gulp the air like I normally did. So I withdrew my nose and inserted my eye instead. And do you know what I saw? I saw all sorts of paradoxes and paradigms, and ontological analysis- but nothing I could wrap my head around or take for the truth. A little green giant appeared at the other end and started speaking to me about Jesus and the Jews but I couldn’t comprehend what he was saying because my ears were two feet away from my eyes at the time. So I left the scene and grabbed my ears and the little green giant and brought us to a straw mat to talk and mourn while we waited for the hand and the vodka to come.”

And he said

“Did the hand ever come?”

And I said

“Naw, man. But a stampede of honey bears sure did; one at a time, popping their layers of delicate skin with shards of glass from the warehouse next door. They popped and oozed, and soon I was covered in their bile. I preserved that bile in 20,000 mason jars, and put them on display in the rat feed museum.”

And he said

“That ain’t ethical. Give some of that bile to me. When I leave this warehouse I’m going to build a home out of tinker toys and dirty chopsticks and I can use that nectar for glue.”

Performance Art History: An Event, a psuedo-event, and an anti-psuedo event

Final assignment

Danielle Kramer

HistArt 344

4.21.2013

It is unfair to consider a pseudo-event, an anti pseudo-event, and an event as equal divisions of performance art. On the one hand we have a pseudo-event and an anti pseudo-event; both are defined under the same the same epistemology, which has been brought to our attention by Daniel J. Boorstin. After reading the first two chapters of The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America, I remain uncertain as to how Boorstin defines an event. However, I can make certain inferences based off of his discussion of pseudo-events: an event is an occurrence for the sake of occurring; the significance of an event is not defined by ulterior motives. For example, I live in a cooperative and five nights out of the week we have a house dinner. Once the cooks ring the dinner bell, we all gather in our dinning room to eat dinner. While we are all close friends and lively conversation typically ensues, each individual sits at the dinner table for the sole purpose of eating dinner. Often times a few members do not desire dinner so they merely participate in conversation. However, lively conversation frequents every room in the house at variable times of the day. These members did not walk into the dinning room in order to have a discussion; they walked into the room based of off an established precedence of food and conversation, triggered by the ringing of the dinner bell. The event, eating dinner, does not occur to simulate a group of friends and the cooperative spirit; rather it occurs to provide house members with a meal. Friendly banter and laughter just happens to ensue.

Contrarily, a pseudo-event occurs in order to provide its participants with a contrived message; it functions as a representation and the hyperreal (Lambert Beatty).  For example, my cooperative has an industrial kitchen and each year we have a state mandated kitchen inspection. According to the criteria put out by the Department of Occupational Safety & Environmental Health, no metal should be placed in the refrigerator and latex gloves should be worn each time someone cooks. As a house comprised of 23 college students, these criterion are seldom followed. However, the specific date of the kitchen inspection is widely known so members act accordingly: we remove metal containers from the refrigerator and we wear latex gloves while cooking.  This provides the inspector with an illusion that that our kitchen and our members function in compliance with the code.

An anti-pseudo event is a concept coined by Carrie Lambert-Beatty in her text Judson Theater in Hindsight in accordance to the epistemology of a pseudo-event put forth by Boorstin. An anti pseudo-event functions to negate the contrived nature of a pseudo-event. It operates under the vulnerability of chance, and it does not seek to present itself as anything other than what it is (Lambert-Beatty).  An anti-psuedo event then, in this sense, is more or less an event.

To complicate matters further, there exists a definition of an event that varies from that of the aforementioned event. As defined by George Brecht, an event is a single action that occurs in time and space. It is discrete and an individual unit. This definition is in accordance with the interpretation of an event by the sciences. The flicker of a light is an event, and so is the spontaneous separation between electrical wires that causes the flicker. (Kotz)

 

In order to put the terms pseudo-event, anti pseudo-event, and event in the context of performance art, I will dissect both Happenings and the Fluxus score. While it is important to keep my inference of Boorstin’s event in the back of our minds for context, from this point on, when I refer to event, it is the event as defined by Brecht. I will first discuss how Boorstin derived the pseudo-event, and then I will discuss the anti-pseudo event by likening it to a Happening. Next, I will discuss an event through the context of Fluxus while engaging an event and anti-pseudo event in dialogue with one another.

 

Characteristics of a pseudo-event include delayed temporality, photograph readiness, and the promotion of information rather than participation (Lambert-Beatty). While an individual pseudo-event is always contrived, as a whole, the pseudo-event occurs naturally in a commercialized society. According to Boorstin, a pseudo-event is the crux of “the diminishment of directly lived experience under consumer capitalism and media culture” (Boorstin).  He says, “We used to believe there were only so many ‘events’ in the world. If there were not many intriguing or startling occurrences, it was no fault of the reporter. He could not be expected to report what did not exist.”

The second half of the eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth saw an influx in technological development: dry-plate photography, the telephone, the phonograph, roll film, and the commercialization of television transformed the way the average person related to one another. With these developments came a decrease in liveness; it was no longer necessary to have direct experiences when a photograph or film could relay the same information. What once was considered trivial was now presented just as important as congressional debate. (Boorstin)

A pseudo-event is essentially propaganda. “Demanding more than the world can give us, we require that something be fabricated to make up for the world’s deficiency” (Boorstin). Both celebrity tabloids and situational comedies that portray the perfect American family are prime examples of this. Like I previously discussed, a pseudo-event exists to generate representations. (The members of my house seek to represent our kitchen as “up to code.”) As with any representation, it is important to consider who holds ultimate agency. In this case, it is the house members; they manipulate the condition of the kitchen, producing a hyperreal space: it appears to be up to code, while in reality the food waste that littered the counter tops is freshly thrown into the garbage, and the metal containers that sat in the refrigerator now sit on the pantry shelves. It is an artificial space that exists for one day only.

This artificial space- unique to the pseudo-event- was only one consequence of social upheaval of the mid-twentieth century. During the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, the country saw a paradigm shift towards counterculture and social revolution: gay, civil, and women’s rights rested at the vanguard of the public agenda along with political protest against the Vietnam War. These notions of personal empowerment, anarchy, and rebellion demonstrated by the general public, gave rise to the anti pseudo-event in the art world.   Characterized by Carrie Lambert-Beatty in Judson Dance Theater in Hindsight, an anti pseudo-event is a direct reaction to pseudo-events. They are a haptic experience that embraces audience participation, unmediated contact, spontaneity, chance, and ephemorality. (Lambert-Beatty)

Essentially, the anti pseudo-event seeks to undermine the artificiality and clear informant/informer dynamic of the pseudo-event. A prime example of this is a Happening, a peformative experience coined by Allan Kaprow in 1957.

Stated by Kaprow in Happenings in the New York Scene, “Happenings are events that, put simply, happen” (Kaprow, Happenings in the New York Scene). They do not occur in gallery settings, rather they occur in humble and ominous spaces such as old lofts, basements, and vacant stores. The form of a Happening is open ended and fluid: there is no structured beginning, middle, or end, nor a contrived goal. In terms of a Happening, for the lack of a better term, anything goes. (Kaprow, Happenings in the New York Scene).

The experience of a Happening, from the perspective of an audience member, is best described by Kaprow:

 

Everybody is crowded into a downtown loft, milling about, like at an opening. It’s hot. There are lots of big cartons sitting all over the place. One by one they start to move, sliding and careening drunkenly in every direction, lunging into one another, accompanied by loud breathing sounds over four loudspeakers…  A hundred iron barrels and gallon wine jugs hanging on ropes swing back and forth, crashing like church bells, spewing glass all over. Suddenly, mushy shapes pop up from the floor and painters slash at curtains dripping with action… You giggle because you’re afraid, suffer claustrophobia, talk to someone nonchalantly, but all the time you’re there, getting into the act … (Kaprow, Happenings in the New York Scene)

 

The most vital component of a Happening is the physical presence of both the artists and the audience. According to Kaprow, “everyone present dissolves into their habitat” (Kaprow, Happenings in the New York Scene). Like pseudo-events, Happenings exist as a consequence of their social environment; in this case, physical presence acts as a metaphor of political resistance. The strong public agenda of grassroots activists of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s greatly influenced the political agenda, which resulted in a muted power dynamic between the people and the government. For example, political resistance displayed at the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Greensboro sit-in eventually pushed congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as well as the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (American Cultural History). In addition, The Feminine Mystique by Betty Freidan, published in 1963, aided the growth of second-wave feminism that would persist throughout the following decades (American Cultural History). Therefore, as Happenings are a reaction to the social environment of the time, they too do not have a distinct power dynamic between artist and audience. Each person present equally contributes to the performance; the giggling of the audience is just as much a part of the performance as the slashing of curtains by painters.

Unlike pseudo-events, Happenings only function independently from the media. Initially Kaprow intended for Happenings to exist only in the time and space they occupied. Other than written accounts, occasional photographs, and performance scripts (though formally called scripts, they acted more like guidelines), documentation of Happenings was sparse.  According to Kaprow, the Happening was supposed to exist only through rumor. Finite details were to remain unknown in order to establish an aura of mystique. However, as the 1960’s progressed, Happenings were disseminated into popular culture through media and publicity. What was once considered inconspicuous now frequented everyday vernacular: small gatherings such as a beer with a couple friends and concerts in someone’s living room were deemed a Happening. In response to this popularization, in 1966 Kaprow wrote The Happenings are Dead: Long Live the Happenings; an essay that functions much like a eulogy. In his essay, Kaprow expands the definition of a Happening to conform to its contemporary usage. He states that, “The line between the Happening and daily life should be kept as fluid and indistinct as possible” (Kaprow). To provide an example,

 

Two cars collide on a highway. Violet liquid pours out of the broken radiator of one of them, and in the back seat of the other there is a huge load of dead chickens. The cops check into the incident, plausible answers are given, tow truck drivers remove the wrecks, costs are paid, the drivers go home to dinner…  (Kaprow, The Happenings are Dead).

 

According to this new paradigm, a Happening is merely a series of life occurrences. Had there been a dragonfly in the vicinity, the buzzing of its wings would have been included in the experience. These occurrences are what Brecht defines as events: “the smallest units of a ‘situation’” (Stiles, 685). These events are the crux of both Happenings and another performance medium of the 1960’s: the fluxus score. To differentiate the two, Happenings are comprised of simultaneous randomly and naturally occurring events. On the other hand, to perform a fluxus score, the artist must actively carryout the mandated singular action- the event. For example, Brecht’s fluxus score, Three Telephone Events reads:

 

  • When telephone rings, it is allowed to continue ringing, until it stops
  • When the telephone rings, the receiver is lifted, then replaced
  • When the telephone rings, it is answered (Kotz)

 

Each of these scenarios requires complete agency of the performer. Had this score been translated into a Happening script, each telephone event would occur simultaneously- extraneous factors, such as the voices of others in the vicinity, would additionally be part of the Happening. Additionally, Brecht, and others involved in the Fluxus movement, intended the fluxus score to be performed by trained artists and the general public alike. Influenced by Duchamp and the readymade, the goal of Fluxus was to present art as life, and life as art.

In a series of writings, Yoko Ono beautifully summarizes the function of an event:

 

People might say, that we never experience things separately, they are always in fusion, and that is why “the happening,” which is a fusion of all sensory perceptions. Yes, I agree, but if that is so, it is all the more reason and challenge to create a sensory experience isolated from other sensory experiences, which is something rare in daily life. Art is not merely a duplication of life. To assimilate art in life is different from art duplicating life. (Stiles, 738)

 

In summary, anti pseudo-events, such as the Happening, is a direct reaction to the contrived pseudo-event such as celebrity tabloids. The anti pseudo-event is comprised of individual events as expressed in fluxus score cards. Each of these are a division of performance art and do not function in isolation from one another.

 

Works Cited

“American Cultural History.” - 1960. Lone Star College, n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2013. <http://kclibrary.lonestar.edu/decade60.html&gt;.

Boorstin, Daniel J. Introduction. The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America. New York: First Vintage, 1992. N. pag. Web. 23 Apr. 2013. <http://books.google.com/books?id=_tAVkg75s0MC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false&gt;.

Kaprow, Allan, and Jeff Kelley. “The Happenings Are Dead: Long Live the Happenings.” Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life. Berkeley: University of California, 1993. 59-65. Print.

Kaprow, Allan, and Jeff Kelley. “Happenings in the New York Scene.” Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life. Berkeley: University of California, 1993. 15-26. Print.

Kotz, Liz. “Post-Cagean Aesthetics and the Event Score.” (2007): n. pag. Print.

Lambert-Beatty, Carrie. “Judson Dance Theater in Hindsight.” (2008): n. pag. Print.

Stiles, Kristine, and Peter Howard Selz. Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists’ Writings. Berkeley: University of California, 1996. Print.

Nothing

Nothing. My drawer is filled with nothing.

Nothing?

Nothing.

I see a sock in the your drawer.

Yeah, but that’s nothing.

Nothing? That’s not nothing.

What is it then?

That socks you see… you see it right?

Yeah, I see it. It’s a sock. Nothing to see.

Ok, but you can smell it, right?

No, not from here.

Go closer then.  Put your nose to it.

It smells like cheese.

Cheese, you say? Now that’s not nothing.

It’s not cheese, though. It’s just a dirty sock.

You wore that sock?

Yeah, I wore that sock.

Did you stick your foot in a shoe with that sock?

Yeah, I did.

How did your foot feel while wearing that sock?

I don’t know. I felt like nothing.

Like nothing?

Like nothing.

What did you do while wearing that sock?

I went for a run.

You went for a run?

Yeah, I went for a run.

When you got home did you take off your shoes?

Of course I took off my shoes.

How did your foot feel?

My foot felt hot.

Just hot?

My foot felt sweaty.

Did you continue to wear that sock?

Yeah, I continued to wear that sock.

What did you do?

I walked to the kitchen to grab a glass of water, and then I sat on the porch.

You sat on the porch, you say?

That’s right, I sat on the porch.

How did the surface of the porch feel under the surface of your foot?

It felt like nothing: I was wearing a sock.

It felt like nothing?

It felt like nothing.

Ok. Well what did you do after you sat on the porch?

I took a shower.

Did you take off the sock in order to shower?

Yeah, I had to step in water.

In water?

In water.

What did it feel like to step in water?

It felt wet.

It felt wet? Wet, now that’s not nothing.

Yeah it’s wet, water is wet.

What did you do after your shower?

I got dressed.

You got dressed?

Yeah, I got dressed.

What did you put on?

I put on Jeans, a t-shirt, underwear, and socks.

Dirty socks?

No, clean socks.

How did they feel?

I don’t know. Soft.

Soft? Now that’s not nothing.

Read with caution: round 1 of deviant behavior that I wrote freshman yesr

Disclaimer: Sociological concepts in the essay may be incorrectly applied.

Anyone who has been to a Michigan football game knows just how seriously the students take the game. School pride runs vein deep on these Saturdays when semi-belligerent students  (possibly from the students’ naturally overt personality, or possibly, and more likely, with some assistance from a not-so-dry beverage) take the stands decked out in official school apparel- blue and maize spandex “onezies”, striped overalls, obnoxiously tall hats, and face paint to name a few select items. The students stand the whole game- sitting, of course, is only permitted for those who feel the need to pass-out or throw-up (I’ve been yelled at on several occasions for sitting down just to complete the innocent act of tying my shoe)- all the while shouting traditional cheers that tend to incorporate the phrases “you suck!” and “bullshit!” chanted in a repetitive manner. The games last approximately 4 hours and the enthusiasm displayed by the students only grows stronger as the clock ticks away the seconds.

Now, I’ve never really been one for football. On the rare occasion that I muster the confidence to admit that I usually leave at halftime, if not earlier, I usually receive some response in the form of “You’re, crazy” or “Oh my god, what’s wrong with you?” usually accompanied by a facial contortion that expresses complete disgust. So when the offer came up to attend an away game at Penn State by one of my best friends (of course another die hard football fan), I thought why not take this opportunity to show the world that Danielle Kramer really can get into this whole football thing. The week before the game I went to the M Den and bought a Maize colored Michigan sweatshirt, a Michigan winter hat with earflaps, and blue shoelaces to go with the yellow converse shoes I was borrowing from my roommate. You may be thinking, “Danielle, why would you purposely deck yourself out in Michigan gear in order to go to a game at Penn State? That’s just suicide!” (Students tend to get fairly vicious when they spot a foreign fan amongst the crowd of natives. Inappropriate slurs are usually made to target these people along with the projectile motion of food items and beverages). Why would I, a calm and peace loving person, want to subject myself to such hatred and hostility? Well, if I was being forced to watch a football game in its entirety, I might as well make it interesting by displaying a bit of deviant behavior.

Having never been on the receiving end of said torment (not that I been on the sending side either), I was curious to know how it actually felt to be told to “go home” or even called a “fucking idiot.” I wanted to actively observe just how riled up the Penn State students would get upon seeing me don my blue and maize Michigan apparel amongst all of them in blue and white, and if they would confirm my theory that they would illicit a similar response to the students at Michigan.  So game day game came and I stood in the bleachers trying to come off as confident as possible (I had already received a few dirty glances on my way into the stadium and being a person who is not used to such treatment, I was already feeling bashful and threatened). I started off with just cheering at a moderate volume whenever Michigan stole the ball or made a run, ensuring that only those in the immediate distance could hear me. However, with every positive move Michigan made, I began to cheer louder and louder and being a Michigan fan amongst a sea of Penn State fans became easier and easier. I soon embodied a complete Michigan Wolverine. I do have to admit that the “dirty, fat hoar’s” I received and greasy French fries thrown at my head (acts done only by guys from what I could tell) slowed me down a bit. I knew not to take them seriously, however. Along with the fact that they were just displaying the typical and certainly expected behavior of an enthusiastic Penn State fan and that I was the one (fully knowingly) going against the norm, I knew I wasn’t actually a “dirty, fat hoar” (a characteristic I pride myself off of with every frat party I attend) and that the French fries probably served a more humane purpose being in contact with my head rather than the lips of the rather rotund kid throwing them at me.

Yet, I thought as Penn State took a truly appreciated timeout, what would compel someone to take such actions? Did they know that someone who may not be as sensible as I could actually conceive their words as hurtful?  And let alone that they just looked flat out silly, did they consider that the fries could take more than just a impenetrable toll on the laundry, but also a toll on the target’s emotional state? I’m sure the 3 to 5 guys targeting me could very well have been nice and civil in any other context, however, the idea of groupthink was obviously at stake here. As soon as they had banded together in agreement to make my presence as humiliating as possible, they lost all semblance of respect and did not see the risk or consequence in taking such actions; as long as they were in it together, they each alone were invincible (they did indeed have to use a reasonable amount of strength and calculated mental effort from the distance they were sitting behind me in order to get the 20 some odd fries to manage to hit somewhere on my delicate frame).

At this point the game started up again and the distasteful behavior continued as we entered the fourth quarter.  It was becoming increasingly evident that Penn State would most likely win the game, and upon taking such notice (I’m surprised their cognitive skills were still in function at this point), the guys were getting pretty daring; they almost attempted to throw their empty beverage cups at me but were dissuaded by a few good Samaritans. I heard myself being called a hoar a few more times, which I brushed off as a lack of creativity on their part, but then caught some remark as to how I was “gay.” I find this derogatory use of the word completely distasteful and inappropriate, so after throwing Denard an enthusiastic “whoop whoop” (fist pump included), I allowed my mind to wander back to the sociological concepts that explained my “deviant behavior.”

Conflict theory was certainly at play here.  As a fan of the University of Michigan, I was supporting the opposing team and was most obviously the minority seeing as I was standing in the Penn State stadium at one of their home games surrounded by no one other than Penn State fans (I think I may have spotted another Wolverine out there in the stands, but it may very well have just been a figment of my hopeful imagination). I was on their turf where they, as the dominant class and majority, ruled what team to support, what colors to wear, and what cheers to chant.  These are the determinants of their particular ideology; how, at Penn State, one is to act. If someone like me just comes waltzing into the place- actually, strutting may be a more appropriate term- defying every norm they, as a society, have set up and adhere to without any explicit form of enforcement (They do not have “monitors” that wont let you leave the dorm unless you’re sporting Penn Sate colors. Wearing the colors is just something inherently seen as “right” and anything else is deemed “wrong”), then that person will be castigated and labeled as an individual of deviance. I was in conflict with their ideology and they obviously did not take too kindly to this by shouting obscene slurs at me, along with throwing numerous French fries. This was their form of punishment and was meant to deter other daring opposing fans from displaying similar behavior to mine.

Nicotine & Cream Cheese

8/29/11

Today was my dad’s inaugural cry as a co-op parent. Apparently when preparing to move me into a student-housing cooperative for my second year of college, he did not anticipate contemplating whether or not the yellow tinge of the walls was a result of paint or mildew, calculating the hole to floorboard ratio, or worrying whether or not the vague smell of gas would ultimately put an end to my existence. Granted the room is in the basement, but I was still tempted to run upstairs and ask where the crack was hidden. After lugging my belongings into the room and asking if I was planning on keeping the bunked beds in the closet, he gave me a long hug, pleading through a cracked voice, “You don’t have to live here.” I reassured him that this would only prepare me for the rough living conditions of a liberal-arts graduate, so he shouldn’t feel too bad about it. He began to tear up.

8/30/11

While I was throwing some clothing into the washer, a guy came in and introduced himself as Jeff. He told me some of the housemates were planning on gathering in the Pleasure Parlor around 10 PM and that I was “welcomed to join them for an evening of fun.” I didn’t go; instead I organized my collection of army soldiers from the Salvation Army and contemplated the function of a Pleasure Parlor.

9/1/11

When I tell people that I live in a coop, they often respond with blank stares and meaningless nods. Rather than rambling off a made up answer, I am relieved to have finally established a thorough description of a student-housing cooperative:

Being a member of the Inter-Cooperative Council (ICC) means that I am part owner of the organization. Before I could sign a contract to live in my house, I had to put down 500 dollars in shares that will be returned to me upon leaving the ICC. The organization was created in 1932 by students looking for affordable student housing, the underlying basis of the ICC; the organization is able to keep the costs low because there is no landlord making a profit. As a member of my house, I am expected to complete four hours of work towards the house each week. While I have been assigned to Wednesday dinner cook and Thursday lunch clean, other chores include vacuuming, bathroom cleans, yard work, and maintenance of a specific room in the house. Other members of the house complete their work hours through their elected officer position. These positions include: president, board representative, work manager, treasurer, secretary, food steward, and maintenance manager. Each house is required to have house meetings at least twice a month in order to discuss house operations, policies, and improvements that can be made through out the year.

I also have the opportunity to voice my opinions on an organizational level. Every other Sunday, the board meets in order to discuss and vote on the operations of the ICC as a whole. The board consists of 18 board representatives (one from each house), the committee vice presidents (membership, education, recruitment and retention, financial, diversity, and sustainability), the president, and the general manager of the ICC. At each meeting there is an allotted amount of time for members at large to come and discuss any qualms and ideas they have for the ICC. While students started the ICC, it has greatly expanded over the years, warranting the need for a hired staff to oversee organizational operations.

While the majority of constituents in the ICC consist of University of Michigan students, the ICC is in no way affiliated with the University. In fact, the University has done its best to distance itself from the ICC for some time now, most likely due to the ICC’s “anarchist” reputation established along with its creation.

9/2/11

My roommate, Michelle, arrived yesterday. She too is terrified by the condition of the room and has successfully convinced me that we will develop mesothelioma due to the potential presence of asbestos in the pipe insulation along our ceiling. Having had no seniority points in the house and having grabbed the lowest card in the deck that assigned the order of room picks, the basement double was the last (only) room available to me. Michelle was abroad last semester and left the search for housing to the month before school started, and this was the only space left. Having known each other for only 15 hours, we have quickly bonded over our tendencies to exaggerate our problems.

9/711

Written on one of the stalls in the second floor bathroom:

“Gather out of star-dust,

Earth-dust,

Cloud-dust,

Storm-dust,

And splinters of hail,

One handful of dream-dust, not for sale.”

-Langston Hughes

9/10/11

General Unspecified Free Food, or more commonly referred to as GUFF. Such items are limited to those bought for the house, by the house, and to be used and/or consumed only by the members of the house. The definition has evolved over time to include a variety of items, not just food. (A) Fifty-pack box of Ramen on a kitchen shelf, GUFF. Toothbrush in a personal shower caddy, not GUFF. Always remember to label accordingly.

9/16/11

Walking outside on my way to class, I notice which I assume used to be a white area rug hanging over the porch railing. Obviously its function is much more optimized outside. Its light brown tinge fits well with the décor of the porch, and could serve as a nice landing pad for the squirrels and raccoons. The multitude of liquor bottles and cigarette butts strewn across the area show that cleanliness is really stressed here at the coop, so I assume it is a housemate’s hope that the rodents wipe their paws before roaming the rest of the porch. 

9/18/11

Michelle went to the ICC office a couple days ago, and they assured her the room was up to code. They have provided us with an air filter and carpeting and have patched the holes in our ceiling in order to put our minds at ease. We also painted the walls light blue, covering up the previous questionable shade of yellow. Apparently for the past few years, males, who quite obviously had no standards for aesthetics, had occupied the room. It is now livable.

9/20/11

Today I walked into the Pleasure Parlor. As I was expecting to find a coveted shrine for past housemates or possibly a camouflaged hydroponic lab, the experience was anti-climatic. The room is large with wood flooring, large windows opening to the porch, and a boarded up fireplace. Sporadically hung on its white walls are an armature oil painting, a Coke sign, a dartboard sans darts, a Vermouth Bianco poster, and a Miller Genuine Draft cardboard guitar. In the middle of the room stands a pool table on wheels with a warped ping-pong table on top. Along the perimeter of the room are about six couches, their obvious old age contributing to the integrity of the coop. The room is lit by a glass green ceiling fan and two wall lamps, one of which is outlined by a drawing of a flame in black permanent marker.

9/29/11

Today I walked into the dining room; some girl was eating cereal with a knife, and a kid in the corner was drinking juice out of a cake tin shaped like a fish. For a moment I pretended to be surprised by this, but then I grabbed the water pitcher I had used for dinner last night off the table in order to clean it. As I put it back on its shelf, I took note of the fact that out of the 50 or so glasses we have in this house, only four are on the rack. I’m living with a bunch of hoarders.

10/3/11

Number sixth passive aggressive note I have found in the kitchen this semester: “Clean your dishes. We have knives, and I know where you live.”

10/4/11

As I have finally felt comfortable to walk through the whole house, today I discovered that we have four murals painted on our walls. One of Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks,” a pop art image by Keith Haring along the front staircase, a Mario game display wrapped around the third floor, and an under the sea themed mural on the back staircase.

 

 

 

10/6/11

I’ve had many nicknames in my life thus far: Dani Girl, D, Nelly, and even Donkey Kong. While slightly obnoxious when used overzealously, I’ll admit that they all were reasonable and fairly mainstream. I am not so sure, however, how I feel about Dan’s new concoction. According to him, my new name is Daniellephant Kramecakes. Whether or not he means to insinuate anything specific by this, I am now re-evaluating my food choices.

10/15/11

I went to sit down on the old lazy boy we have in the dinning room, sitting on what I assumed was a pile of blankets. Cassie yelled at me to get up; I was sitting on Reggie’s face.  No one in our house is named Reggie, so I looked at her in bewilderment. She walked over and removed the blankets that she informed me were keeping Reggie warm due a recent loss of stuffing. Reggie was a human-sized puppet Cassie found two years ago on the streets of Detroit; she had decided that it was finally time for him to meet the rest of the house. She told me he was the most consistent man in her life thus far. I did not know how to react seeing as his tongue permanently lolls out of his mouth, and he wears a pair of overalls with a questionable stain on the left leg. And I guess there’s also the fact the he’s, well, a puppet.

10/17/11

Tonight we had a house meeting. We spent 10 minutes debating whether or not we should buy guff laundry detergent. Our priorities are in the wrong place, especially because we’ve had two “squatters” living in our house for the past two months, eating our food and using our electricity.

 10/25/11

Rules for an orgy, rule #4: Punch in the face = Back off.

11/4/11

I don’t know if it’s normal to declare one’s eternal resting place at the age of 19, but I can say with confidence that I would like to live out my days sprawled out on the red couch in our dining room. As I anticipate being accused of morbidity at the gates of my judgment day, I must explain. The couch’s woven red fabric covered foam cushions each contain an uncanny ability to suck every last drop of stress and tension out of my being, until I am officially mentally at ease with the world.  Possibly it’s the perfect level of firmness that gently supports each contour of my body, or the constant savory smells wafting from the kitchen, or even the subtle details in the mural of “Nighthawks” painted on the adjacent wall that makes laying on the couch such a magical experience. Whatever it is, I refuse to question it.

11/7/11

Tonight we voted out the two girls living illegally in our house. As everyone had their own opinion on the matter, at any given time two or more people would simultaneously be shouting, competing for the house’s attention. The main conflict was between old members and new members. The two squatters lived in our house last year, and having both just graduated, they needed somewhere to crash while figuring out their lives. Some members from last year are close friends with the two girls and felt that they should be allowed to stay provided they complete work hours. The majority of new members, myself included, wanted them gone, plain and simple. We put it to a vote. The majority of members voted against their presence. A typical 45-minute meeting lasted two hours. Some people were crying by the end, and others went to take shots in order to relieve themselves of stress from the meeting.

11/11/11

Last night our house hosted a 70’s Porn Party. At 1 AM someone shouted “SHIRTS O’ CLOCK!!” Everyone took off their shirts they were wearing.

11/17/11

Here at my house, we feel it is important to acknowledge the day that buckle wearing English Protestants and the savage indigenous peoples of America put their differences aside and had a potluck in order to celebrate the Great Harvest, a holiday otherwise known as Thanksgiving. This “first” meal serves as a model for our own at the coop. However, in order to give thanks to the unequal distribution of food that keeps our bellies full here in the United States, it is our duty to be as glutinous as possible. The Pilgrims and Native Americans had one turkey? So we have three. A pumpkin pie was served on that autumn day? We make pumpkin cheesecake with a pecan crust. Mashed potatoes? Please, we have four different kinds. Because cooperation is the main principle of the holiday, we too put aside our differences and spend a full arbitrary Sunday around our dinning room table cooking a feast that would only make our founders proud.

11/26/11 

People don’t look up enough. Everything beautiful in life seems to be lurking above eye level, and there is so much that we miss walking around in our own worlds, occupied by our trivial problems. Today I was lying on a couch in the Pleasure Parlor and happened to glance at the ceiling. An intricate trim lines the ceiling that I have never noticed before. It’s a trim that most likely remains from what was the original architecture of this house, built in the early 1900s.

12/1/11

I can no longer study in our dinning room, a space that we have deemed the “vortex”. After dinner, about half of the house stays at the table in order to “do homework.” We sit with our laptops open occasionally glancing down only when there is a lull in the lively conversation. Too many times in a row, I have sat in the dinning room, taking about five hours to complete an assignment that should only take a half hour. The excitement of schoolwork never seems to match up to the “which-Hogwarts-house-is–the-best” debates or the “reasons for anarchy at the University of Michigan” discussions.

12/3/11

Emily is one of those people that I do not deem very cooperative, as she never does her assigned vacuuming. She has recently claimed that she “has never had a formal education on how the machine works.” This has been an ongoing struggle throughout the year. When a member doesn’t complete their work hours or attend a house meeting, they are subject to a fine assessed by the president or work manager. Emily did not attend our last house meeting, so our president fined her 15 dollars according to our house policy. She did not take too kindly to this and threatened to sue him for abuse.

12/11/11

Last night at four AM, I woke up to a belligerently drunk male sitting in a chair in my room. I turned on the lamp next to my bed and asked for his name. He did not respond, rather stared at his hands with a glazed expression on his face. At this point of the semester, I’ve become undisturbed by the presence of random people in the house; each week, about two to three people whom no one can vouch for are found crashing on our couches. I entertained the idea of going back to sleep, but thought as a female in a patriarchal society, it was my duty to at least kick the man out of my room. I woke up Michelle, and sleepily told her “there is a man sitting in the corner chair”. She looked over, squinted her eyes, and repeated “Hello?” several times to no avail. After three seconds of silence, the man stood up and stumbled out of our room. Michelle got out of bed, and locked the door as I turned off the lamp. We both made exasperated noises to the air and then fell back asleep.

12/14/11

About two months ago, a housemate told me that in the past our house was known as the “fat and pervy house.” From my observations up to that point, I could understand pervy, but fat? Not so much. Last night we had a progressive, each room had a drink to offer, and we all made the rounds. One of the rooms had the theme of bestiality, displaying pictures of animals doing the deed, along with a five-pound jug of animal crackers, six bags of gummy worms, and three boxes of teddy grams all displayed in order to embrace our inner zoosexuality. I’m starting to understand what my housemate meant.

12/26/12

Emilia and I plan to create a utopian alternative society. We’ll be located in the woods, but the exact location may remain arbitrary. While the governance and rules remain purposefully unknown, we have established that there will be an extensive application process in order to become a member. And a goat, for whichever reason, it’s imperative we have a goat.

1/2/12

Today Saige installed a stripper pole on the third floor in order to practice for her new career at the Landing Strip.

1/5/12

I’ve recently moved up to the third floor. This is a considerable upgrade seeing as I now have an actual closet as opposed to a freestanding clothing rack from The Home Depot.

1/10/12

Feeling especially stressed out about the unknown that is my future, a couple hours ago I became manic and decided to “paint” my bedroom walls. I found the orange spray paint we used to label our garbage bins, two cans of old blue and green paint, and went to work. Within five seconds of spray-painting the 3×7 white wall, I knew my creation was about to be an eye sore but continued anyway. Once the wall was thoroughly covered in transparent orange, I thought I’d channel my inner Jackson Pollock, finishing it off with green and blue splatter paint. While anyone who views this wall may use it to justify my lack of artistic skill, I find it intriguing. I have quite literally stuck an interpretation of my psyche onto my bedroom wall. The adjacent panel of wall, however, is purely a testament to my own laziness. I only half painted it, before my boredom overtook my craving for creativity.

1/14/11

I have an especially bad case of coop-foot today. When I stepped into the shower, I made several black footprints on the tile floor due to the accumulated dirt on the bottom of my feet.

1/21/12

The rug is still there. I think I get it now. Allowing its synthetic materials to mingle with nature constructs a metaphor for the tension between a capitalistic society demanding a faster output at cheaper prices and the increasing demand for organic and recyclable materials. This is definitely a protest piece.

2/10/12

Last night I woke up at five AM in need of a bathroom. Having failed to meditate myself back asleep, I reluctantly got out of bed, mentally preparing myself for the journey to come. I opened my door and stepped into what looked like an abyss. The builders of the house seemed to be unaware that human beings need a thing called light in order to see and forgot to install windows in the hallways. I succumbed to using the walls as my guide across the 20 feet or so, all the while trying to telepathically communicate with Mario hoping that he could somehow “show me the way.” I feared I might wake people up, as my post-slumber walk is something a kin to a stiff-legged waddle, where I don’t so much as step on the floor as stomp. About seven feet away, I could vaguely make out the shadow along the perimeter of the door; yet the real challenge lay ahead. Saige’s stripper pole was grounded in the middle of the floor somewhere in close proximity. Zombie-footed, I bent halfway forward while waving my arms through the air, hoping my fingers would manage to reach the pole before my forehead. I already had a mark on my inner right thigh from an unsuccessful attempt at twirling around the pole, and the last thing I needed was another one on my face. I continued forward and my right palm grasped the surface of the aluminum, which I used to lazily swing myself around the pole and into the bathroom. I had made it there at last.

2/13/12

With every day I come home to a dinning room full of people, I become increasingly thankful for the friendships I have made and the support system I have developed through living in this coop.

2/27/12

While lying in bed, contemplating young adult exploitation of the hipster movement, I heard a knock on the door. Two old men faced me with an excited grin on their faces, and it dawned on me that I was not appropriately dressed. As I crossed my arms over my chest, I was relieved that their eyes were immediately averted to over my head, one of them exclaiming, “The nook still exists!” He was referring to the infrastructure of the room. The two men told me that they lived in this room during the 60s, but back then it belonged to eight men, used only for their desks and dressers. Unlike today, the members slept in one large room on the third floor that currently exists as two. They were in Ann Arbor for the ICC’s 75th anniversary and wanted to visit their old home and reminisce about fond memories. They told me of their parties on the roof and confirmed my suspicions that the third floor once existed as the maid’s quarters. Seeing as the house has two staircases, one wooden-railed in the front foyer and another walled-in at the back of the house with its own door to outside, the maids could come and go without ever being seen.

3/7/12

It has been confirmed; the Pleasure Parlor does not fall into the “fat and pervy category.” That is the actual name of the room, existing on the blue print of the house.

3/19/12

Concerning the rug, I must have been looking for meaning where none existed. I was sitting on the porch when Jeff walked over to the railing, removed the damp piece of fabric, claiming that he “forgot about this piece of shit” and that he is “finally going to throw it away.” He sloughed the rug to the curb, dropping it in a way that suggested good riddance. Its disposal now relies on the city; it should be gone by next week.

3/21/12

I’d like to commend everyone in the house for having a consistent lack of emotional sensitivity. The numerous intra-house displays of affection through out the year have never been a cause for tension or conflict. If anything, they provide comic relief at dinnertime discussions after a long day of classes.

3/28/12

Last week someone told me that I lived at “hypothetical house.” I asked what she meant. She told me that my house was the example used to describe what “hypothetically” happens when something “hypothetically” goes wrong. I had been contemplating this when I walked into the basement bathroom earlier today in order to brush my teeth. I squirted toothpaste onto my toothbrush and noticed that its bubblegum mint flavor didn’t smell so bubblegum minty, but rather like a mix of play-dough and wet worms. I decided to do some investigating. It didn’t take long, however, before I pulled back the dolphin decorated shower curtain to find that our drains had backed up into the shower. Sometime last week we ran out of toilet paper, and all 23 of us neglected to go out and buy more. Some housemates took to rationing out their own personal stash. A guest could have two sheets, but another member could only have one. Most of us had been using paper toweling which—I had the unfortunate privilege of discovering—only creates a vile mess.

4/1/12

Through constantly dealing with 22 different personalities in my house, struggling to meet the demands of college, and grappling to find my place I this large world, I feel as though life is starting to crash down on my shoulders. However, the most important concept I have come to realize this year is that if I understand who I am, then I can overcome most anything.

4/15/12

            I enjoy the sense of nostalgia I feel every time I look at the names of past members written on the walls, the postcards sent over the years from members abroad, and the multitude of books left behind to collect dust on the bookcases, some dating back to the early 1900’s. I do not understand, however, why there are three photographs of different people, framed, and sitting on the shelves in the TV room, especially when no one in the house is able to give an account of who the people are, and why we must look at their faces on a daily basis.

4/23/11

The amount of hostility in the house has become unbearable. I walked into the dinning room this morning, only to find the glass of water l I left on the table to be fully covered in green Post-It notes, my name largely written on each and every one of them. My apologies, anonymous passive aggressive housemate, I will do my best to review proper housewife code of conduct.

4/28/11

            As I was packing up to leave the house for the year, I crossed the front lawn in order to pick up the two hula-hoops I made this year. Taking advantage of the nice weather, I swung one of the hoops over my head, twirling it at a steady rhythm. As two guys walked by, looking as though they were headed to the nearest country club in order to buy an Arnold Palmer iced tea, one of them said “hippie”, poorly disguised by a cough. I grimaced in their direction. Little did they know, but hula hooping has become very popular in contemporary workout culture, and should not be used as a means to stereotype their out-dated knowledge of a co-oper. I lowered the hoop down to my waist, and pondered how much dust I would have to sweep before officially moving out of my room

About

Danielle Kramer studies art history, museum studies, and writing at the University of Michigan. Her bucket list includes: learn to whistle like Gene Kelley while whistling Singing in the Rain while strutting in the rain while holding up an umbrella, name a child Maude, road trip through the United States in order to visit art museums and old cemeteries, teach a cat to stand, and find the secret garden.

Final assignment where I had to rewrite an assignment about exhibiting deviant behavior

Event:

I had to perform a deviant activity.

Chelsie and I discussed our options: sit on the floor while eating our food in a restaurant, go to

church wearing sweatpants and baseball caps,

or smoke a cigarette under a non-smoking sign.

We chose to smoke a cigarette under a no smoking sign.

We walked to the store to buy a pack of cigarettes because we were both out.

We walked towards central campus.

The first no smoking sign we see is at the corner of South University and East University next to Ulrich’s.

The sign was elevated above the ground.

We climbed up the concrete ledge and stood next to the sign that was rooted in the grass.

We were physically higher than everyone else.

That was strange.

I don’t like asserting obvious notions of authority, even if they’re not taken as such.

We stood very close to the sign.

I opened the pack of cigarettes and handed one to Chelsie.

I handed her an orange lighter.

She took two seconds to light her cigarette.

I took a cigarette for myself.

The wind picked up so Chelsie blocked the wind for me with her hand.

I took 30 seconds to light my cigarette.

We stood and smoked and talked about school and humans.

It was a collaborative effort.

Four or five drunken dudes wanted to take a picture with us.

So we let them.

They approved of our actions.

Other people who walked buy looked at us, probably because we were standing above them.

Some of them smiled.

Some of them laughed.

Most of them just glared,

Probably because Chelsie and I were violating an accepted social norm:

Smoking on a smoke-free campus.

Ten minutes had gone by and our cigarettes were finished.

We hopped down to the ground and then walked home.

Personal Analysis:

I am a smoker. I smoke about three to five cigarettes a day, most of which, I smoke while walking on campus. While I know that the University of Michigan is a smoke free campus and I know that smoking is bad for my body, I have made an active choice not to care.  Three years ago I would have grimaced at the slightest whiff of smoke, now I become excited. But a lot has changed over three years and I have changed over three years. My mental health has changed. My anxiety and depression have only been exacerbated since arriving to the University of Michigan: I have had a hard time adapting to change, accepting this school as a business that uses education as its scapegoat, and understanding that the world is fucked up and that my voice does not always matter.  Three years ago crying was my coping mechanism. I would cry for hours a day, several days a week. Now I smoke.  Certainly the environment in which I now live significantly influences my behavior. I live with twenty-one other people and half of us are regular smokers. We have discussed the ramifications of smoking; we are not ignorant. But because the health risks aren’t immediate and because there is solidarity among us, we continue to smoke. We can’t stop because we are too stressed out. Smoking provides us with consistency in our lives. We have given into the pressure placed upon us by our education. Stepping outside to smoke a cigarette is all that is holding our minds and our souls together. If we stop, who knows what will happen? Most of us will probably make it through just fine. Several of us might break down and our grades will suffer because of it. Then there are a couple of us who might return to mental institutions, and I am skeptical that will help anyone but the State. So when Chelsie and I smoked a cigarette under a no-smoking sign, I was disturbed by the amount of people who reacted positively towards us. We received many smiles and a couple of hugs. I am sure that some people just thought it was funny, and that some people thought we were just trying to be cool. Possibly though, a couple of those people smiled at us because they too recognized smoking as a coping mechanism; they too understood that smoking next to that sign was not symbolic of our anger solely towards the University of Michigan, rather it was a sign that we have ceded to the educational system as a whole.