Touching, observing, crowding around Alastair MacLennan’s actuation (MacLennan prefers this term over performance), audience members surrounded the artist as he began, fully aware of the objects that he would incorporate before their use. MacLennan decided to perform within a cul-de-sac, noises from Noble Square’s neighborhood apparent throughout his silent actuation. Birds chirped their way through the slowly settling dusk as The Jackson 5 played somewhere, a car’s speaker perhaps, nearby.
Two opposing tables sat with a chair placed upside down on each, matching props placed on the dual surfaces: opposing fish heads, opposing tin buckets. Before beginning, MacLennan casually consulted the audience about the inclusion of a white ribbon around his neck, the audience agreeing without reason that this was the appropriate choice. The audience didn’t disperse once MacLennan began his actuation, rather they stayed intimately close to his actions as he maneuvered through the crowd: no separation between act and observing. First pulling a sheet of plastic from his pocket and placing black hosiery with a metal contraption on his head, he drifted through his gazers, no one stepping back, simply accepting the touch that would come across their face, arms or torso. MacLennan let the plastic guide his movements as it drifted in the night’s subtle wind: a kite guiding his maneuvers. Following the theme of twos, MacLennan replaced the plastic in his pocket and pulled another from the opposite, again letting it guide his movements around the circular group of watchers.
MacLennan touched and turned the decapitated fish heads on each table slightly, never incorporating them into his actuation more than a slight nudge. MacLennan moved the tin bucket just as delicately, seeming to test the viscosity of the water sloshing inside. In a single movement MacLennan interrupted the previously hypnotic nature of the actuation, emptying the contents completely over his head, a surprised yelp emanating from the woman beside me as water rushed to our feet, an orange rolling perfectly between my own. Strips of paper littered MacLennan’s head and face as a pink fish lay limp below his bare feet, not making it nearly as far as the dumped orange. “CALLING…JOINING…UNDERSTANDING…LOSING…ALLOWING…WINNING…TAKING…GOING…
CREATING…LIGHTING…AVOIDING…MAINTAINING…GIVING…CATCHING…SPREADING” were typed onto the strips. Actions for the audience? Demands for himself?
MacLennan then blindfolded himself with a strip of black fabric, adding another layer of meandering to his actuation, moved completely by instinct. With the white ribbon around his neck and black around his eyes he picked up three branches, the largest of which looked like browning pine. Heaving the branches over his shoulders, he also placed a long, thin stick within his mouth with equally long ribbons dangling off of the end: green, red, white, black. Like the plastic that scanned the audience before, the ribbons batted softly against the faces of those watching, some choosing to remove themselves from the act, others getting closer to have the long strings cross their cheeks and nose. Gripped tightly in his teeth MacLennan hoisted the ribboned-stick slowly around the audience, instinctively making his way back to the first table where he removed the blindfold. Here MacLennan again poured a bucket over his head, this time the audience unflinching, and a green apple rolling from the bucket in replacement of an orange, his final act.
RP14 performance photos by Kate Sierzputowski.
Kate Sierzputowski is freelance writer based in Chicago. Fascinated by artists’ studio processes, she founded the website INSIDEWITHIN to physically explore the creative spaces of emerging and established artists.