Performance Documentation: July 2005  

Sunday, July 31 I have neglected the phone performances for Karen Christopher. It's not the scheduling, it's the content I am resisting. I'm not sure why.

But I have such a clear memory of her, filling cups on her lunch hour in a brilliant blue dress. So today when her phone played Beethoven's Fur Elise, I read her (without permission from the author) sevenhudredthirtynine ways to stay present by Indi McCasey.

water filling
empty cups—
the skeletons—
tagged with the words you’ve collected
that say,
in their own way,
I am here.

We are all here.

  Saturday, July 30 8:00pm. I have a friend who encourages me to leave things for people to find. So after removing identifying information, Lisa's e-mail was packaged in cardboard business card holder and buried in the sand at Pratt beach.
      Friday, July 29 Lisa Hutler's email had made me want to sleep on the beach, but I didn't want to do it alone, and it never occurred to me that I could get anyone to do it with me. But when I showed Lisa's e-mail to Ariella Lake, she said, "I think we should sleep on the beach." It was amazing out there! The breeze, the waves crashing. So we slept, until the park police rousted us at 2:30 am.
Hi Nicole,
You have probably already tackled this site, but during the heatwave we lived on Buena Park; near Irving and the lake. None of us had electricity and we kept taking cold showers (which were always warm), going to the lake or museums that had generators to run air-conditioning.
The biggest part was that we were all ordered to sleep on the nearest beach. It wasn't really"fun", but you met your neighbors. It was all police patrolled, I even remember police escorting big blobs of us to the beach at sundown. I also remember the rapes that would be reported in the morning. I switched to sleeping back at the apartment with my feet hanging over the edge of my couch/bed in a bucket if icewater (got to know the liquor store neighbor real well).
        Thursday, July 28 10:00 pm. The light-colored clothing and flashing lights that make up the uniform for nighttime bike riders is not the greatest for graffiti writing. Inspired by Lisa's e-mail (left) I attempted to write her story in 3 colors of chalk on the dark shale of the Clocktower at Irving Park & the Lake. It looked so pretty! But alas it was interrupted by park police before it could be documented.
            Wednesday, July 27 6:30 pm. On such a beautiful evening, who could be inside at an open mike? I arrived home from work with no clue what to make, and then opened a letter from Chris Gramm, who was briefly a horticulturist in residence at the Pratt-Ashland Co-op. She wrote: "I finally got to the beach the morning of my departure and IT IS TOTALLY INCREDIBLE! What a resource for the soul and the neighborhood!" So I took that as my sign to go to the beach, where I scrawled "739" in the sand and watched it wash away 19 times.

Tuesday, July 26 6:30pm, Pratt beach. This morning the pastor described Melissa's generous good nature, but made sure we knew she came with a "shot of Tabasco." As a fellow Aries, I know what that is. I have a friend who calls it "piss & vinegar" when she's trying to have a sense of humor while it's directed at her. But I like Tabasco. Perfect for a fire sign.

Tonight I sent 34 shots of Tabasco into Lake Michigan, one for each year of Melissa's sweet and spicy and too-short life. And I'm stealing that expression while I can still feel the burn on my lips.

Monday, July 25 Cups of Rain for Yesterday's Heat Deaths. 9:30pm, 6400 N. Ashland. The headline in the Chicago Tribune reads: "The Hottest Day in a Decade, but the City was Ready." In spite of the city's readiness, three people (that we know of) died yesterday as a result of the 104 degree heat. I wrote their locations on the bottoms of three cups: 4300 N. Hazel, 200 E. 121st, and 9700 S. Yates, and filled them from the puddle that formed during our brief rainstorm tonight. They were installed on three columns along Ashland Avenue. Thank you to Sarah Jackson for the news update.
    Sunday, July 24 6:00pm, Ludington, Michigan. I performed a piece I call Love Gone Bad, Love Gone Good. The Women Without Financial Futures decided they wanted the bad news first: a reading of This is for those of us who have Loved Badly followed by Star: What Their Love is Like.     Saturday, July 23 7:00 pm, Ludington, Michigan. Group performance assignment from Cate Plys: each of the Women Without Financial Futures had to tell a story about The Dumbest Thing We Ever Did. My sadistic spin: then anyone in the group gets to tell you what they think is the dumbest thing you ever did.
          Friday, July 22 9:30 am, Urban Missions meeting at Street-Level Youth Media. 739 Cups of Water. I washed the fountain residue off twenty of the 739 cups and shared a drink of water with my colleagues at the table. Left to right: Ron Bieganski, Paul Teruel, & Tabitha Matthews.

Thursday, July 21 Insight Arts, 7pm. Performance assignment from karen g. williams: present new work based on the combination of previous material and one thing from each of the two new texts we read toward further development of a blueprint of the bluegoose. I wanted to explore the existing elements of slide projections on/of the body; a failure to whistle; and some of Judith Butler's ideas in "After Loss, What Then?"

Like the lining of a dress at the hem or the lapel--mourning is thus likened to the material of clothing, the material that is mostly hidden, that is suddenly, even unexpectedly, felt against the flesh, the leg or the neck, and so mourning is staged here as a certain encounter between a commodified material and the limb that knows it only on occasion. Mourning is likened to an "interior" region of clothing that is suddenly, and perhaps with some embarrassment, exposed, not to the public eye, but to the flesh itself. And mourning is, ineluctably, an encounter with sensuousness, but not a "natural" one, one that is conditioned by the proximity of the artifact to flesh.

Wednesday, July 20 739 Cups of Water, a performance installation in Millenium Park, at Crown Fountain (south end) 12noon-1:00 pm. It was appropriately again in the 90s today, threatening rain that came later in the afternoon. Jane Haldiman, Katherine Klein, Sarah Jackson, Slava Babenchuk, Ariella Lake, Lisa, and about 10 kids crafted a beautiful starburst shape. No security guards hassled us.

I sat with the feeling that this was the end of something, and had a good long wash in the fountain.


Tuesday, July 19 739 Cups of Water, a performance installation in Millenium Park, at Crown Fountain (south end) 12noon-1:00 pm. Make no mistake: no one at Millenium Park is that excited about us making this memorial every day. And although you'd think by now we would be encountering some of the same security guards on the 12noon shift, every day is a new negotiation. Today a security guard told me we flat out could not put cups out, especiallly because the park supervisor was riding around on his golf cart. Thankfully the piece was already completed, so I talked him into letting us leave it up and promised it would be gone by 1:00 (which was when we intended to leave anyway.) It's been interesting for me to experience the anxiety of dealing with cops and other authority figures because essentially I am a person who follows the rules. But I think it's good practice to break them, face the consequences, and find ways to deal compassionately and pedagically with the people someone in power has sent to yell at me.

Major props to volunteers Jane Haldiman, Katherine Klein, Slava Babenchuk, Sarah Jackson, K. Bradford, Rachel Damon, and Brad, in addition to an awesome crew of kids.

Today's shapes were long single rows of cups, some forming a square, some violating the geometry by making an organic wave, some lined up in a long row that seemed to lead right out to the street.

Monday, July 18 739 Cups of Water, a performance installation in Millenium Park, at Crown Fountain (south end) 12noon-1:00 pm. The water drop shape was Slava's idea (left). Some of the children helping called it a teardrop. Today I suspected that the children of Chicago might be spreading the word that there is art to be made in the fountain, because as soon as we pulled out our cups an entire summer camp worth of kids signed up. Even their counselor got on board, supervising the fair distrubution of cups. There was an amazing crew of volunteers: thank you to Slava Babenchuk, Jane Haldiman, Ariella Lake, Sadira Muhammad, Monica Boyd, Leslie Wallin, Lisa Samra, JT Newman, Squawker, and Truffles.

Sunday, July 17 739 Cups of Water, a performance installation in Millenium Park, at Crown Fountain (south end) 12noon-1:00 pm. Today's 739 Cups formed a rectangular shape, and therefore a more sober memorial. Collaborating artists Anne Statton, Liz Wuerffel and I were joined by a huge crew of children and adults for installation and take-down. It was a blazing hot day in the upper 90s: appropriate and withering.

For me the most rewarding part of doing this piece remains the opportunity to talk to all different kinds of people about the Chicago heat wave, about heat waves in general, about the way our city works, about how we are aging. People tell us their stories of the summer of 1995. Little boys try to understand that this happened the year they were born. The pavement is so hot that the water starts to boil in the bottoms of the cups. People take pictures. They ask pointed questions, which we try to answer clearly, avoiding "artspeak." We gently discourage the toddlers from drinking from the cups--they'll suck up their fill of fountain water eventually, but not on our watch.

Saturday, July 16 739 Cups of Water, a performance installation in Millenium Park at Crown Fountain (near Monroe) 12noon-1:00 pm. Credit for this gorgeous double spiral design and execution goes to Katherine Klein, who collaborated on the piece today along with Jane Haldiman and a bunch of children. Once we relaxed enough to realize that we weren't going to be busted by the Millenium Park Segway Security Team (right), we felt freer to exercise some creativity in the form of the piece. I think the shape contributed a lot to the curiosity and engagement of people with whom we conversed about the heat wave and the meaning of the cups. A remarkable number of people had heard about the piece on the news.
Friday, July 15 739 Cups of Water, (photos below) a performance installation in Millenium Park, near the Crown Fountain. 12noon-1:00 pm. After being booted out of Daley Plaza yesterday (with much fanfare), we decided to try installing the piece in Millenium park at the Crown Fountain. My experience from the day before contributed to a kind of frantic urgency to make the piece quickly, expecting to be kicked out. So participating artists Jane Haldiman, Karen Christopher, Leah Mayers, Linda Horwitz, Kristen Cox, Brook Fowler, Ariella Lake and I had all 739 cups filled within 15 minutes. There were a number of children and adults at the fountain who also helped. Today we also passed out little cards briefly explaining the piece, and had conversations with everyone who stopped by.

Thursday, July 14 739 Cups of Water, (photos below) a performance installation in Daley Plaza. 12noon-1:00 pm. This was the sequence of events: for weeks prior, I had actually tried to get a permit to do this piece in Daley Plaza, arguably one of the most significant public spaces in downtown Chicago. At 11:00 am today, I received word that not only would I need to prove that I had general liability insurance for half a million dollars, but I would need to come up with $500 to get a permit. Honestly, I felt defeated. I had a crying jag. I didn't know what to do. Should we go to Daley Plaza? Could I change the location at this late hour? My biggest concern was that I didn't want to disappoint my friends who I knew were assembling to help me.

As I was walking toward the plaza I started getting calls from media people..."hi, this is Channel 7 News, we have a crew on Daley Plaza... where are you?" This was my first inkling that any media were interested. When I arrived on the plaza I saw about 4 TV crews and multiple photographers, as well as my friends. So at that moment I realized the piece was happening on the plaza. I told the media people where we were going to assemble. Then I said to my friends: "here's the deal. We do not have permission to do this piece here. So we are going to fill as many cups as we can and set them on the plaza until someone stops us. If any cops or security guards approach you, send them to me." And off we went. We worked furiously. But honestly media people wanted to talk to us, which was iimportant to do, even though it slowed us down. So we kept working until there were 2 security guards and 2 cops in my face screaming, "you break down these cups or we will break them down for you!"

The beauty is, part of the piece is the breakng down. I always envisioned a scene of spilling water onto the hot granite of the plaza, leaving no trace of the action save a puddle evaporating in the noontime heat. And that's what we did. Daley Plaza security then rushed in a cleanup crew to mop. I kept thinking, what do they do when it rains?

The other thing that made this performance amazing was the participation of three brilliant people who are all veteran practitioners of risky art; public performance; and street activism. The fact that I could trust so fully in Erica Mott, Liz Wuerffel, and Linda Horwitz helped me feel like this work and I were safe & supported.


Wednesday, July 13 9:15 pm, Pratt Beach Pier. Performance assignment from karen g. williams: run in place for 5 minutes on 3 separate occasions before July 22. Document each time you do it. I did my running and went home to write text in 739 cups for tomorrow.


Tuesday, July 12 739 Seconds in the Cooling Center, 4740 N. Sheridan, 4:00 pm.

As part of its heat emergency plans, the City of Chicago provides cooling centers located in different parts of the city. The one I visited is located in the Department of Human Services North Area branch.

To use the services of the cooling center you must sign in and fill out a form with your name, address, phone, and reason for being there. They offer cardboard fans that advertise the New Jersey Electric Company.


Monday, July 11 Performance assignment from filmmaker Judith Helfand: do something with 50 names from heat wave death certificates and cups at the office of the Cook County Medical Examiner. I didn't realize that the main audience for this piece would be employees of the Medical Examiner. I talked to six or seven of them, including someone who stepped outside to make sure it was not gasoline in my cups. Some of the people I talked to about the piece had worked for the Medical Examiner in 1995 and assured me they remembered it well. They seemed uncomfortable.

Several pedestrians asked me about it as they walked by. One woman helped me out with my explanation: "kind of like a memorial." Yes. One family stopped by and the father asked for water, which he and his daughter drank and then talked to me about what I was doing. It felt good to be able to offer them some relief on a 90 degree afternoon; for the memorial to actually work to sustain life.

Each cup had at the bottom the name of a heat wave victim. The cups were filled with water and arranged in a circle. After a while I took each cup in hand, poured their contents onto the pavement, refilled the cups, and waited for the water to evaporate. After it had evaporated I poured out the cups twice more.

          Sunday, July 10 Will is Key, 6:00 pm at the office of the Cook County Medical Examiner, where the bodies of heat wave victims were examined and classified.
            Saturday, July 9 762 Lights, a collaboration with Liz Wuerffel, who also did the photos at left. The party was in Linda & Sally's back yard, an extension of the commitment/anniversary celebration. 762 lights encircled two people who fell in love during the 1995 Chicago heat wave.
    Friday, July 8 9:00 pm, Sassbox performance for Linda & Sally's commitment ceremony at the Chicago Botanical Gardens.
    Thursday, July 7 6:00 pm, Public Square event about the Heat Wave, Thorne Auditorium, 375 E. Chicago Ave. The program featured Eric Klinenberg, author of Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago, the book that inspired the HEAT:05 project. I handed out cups of water with text in the bottoms to people attending, and then offered some words at the start of the program.

Wednesday, July 6 10:00 pm. I missed the kickball game, but hooked up with the cuties at InnJoy, where I read Cox Mary Oliver's "The Roses" for her birthday.

...there is no end,

believe me! to the inventions of summer,

to the happiness your body

is willing to bear.

Tuesday, July 5 8:30 pm, Pratt Beach. My neighbor Stephaun rode to the beach with me. We talked about how hot it had been in Chicago recently, and then wrote about it in the sand. Stephaun wrote "96 Degrees" and then told me I should write "weather is hot." We also filled a water balloon at the drinking fountain.

Monday, July 4 It seemed only right, if I was spending 5 days alone with my father in the north woods, that at least one performance would be for him. He requested La Traviata, but settled for an encore performance of the piece I wrote for Jill & EJ's 10th anniversary party.

For the record, he was not actually on a ladder operating a cordless nail gun during the performance.


Sunday, July 3 9:00 pm, Presque Isle, Wisconsin. The Bethel Lutheran Chapel had an irresistable swath of pavement in their front yard, and when I stepped out of the car I saw a deer watching me from the edge of the trees. That same deer would later charge through the middle of a dance. The letter I slipped under the front door of the chapel read as follows:

Dear Bethel Lutheran Chapel,

On Sunday, July 3, I made a dance in your honor in your parking lot. You don't know me, but I am a performing artist.

Sincerely, Nicole Garneau

p.s. A deer joined me in the dance.


Saturday, July 2 7:00 pm, Upper Penninsula of Michigan. Performance assignment from karen g. williams: run in place for 5 minutes on 3 separate occasions before July 22. Document each time you do it.

My father watched me run and timed the 5 minutes precisely. He also documented the performance.


Friday, July 1 on the road to the Upper Penninsula of Michigan. Our destination was remote; off the electric grid; unreachable by cellular signals. So I asked my dad to pull over next to a rural route mailbox by the side of the road, read the name on the mailbox, and started writing a note. Coincidentally, at that moment a man pulled up in his pickup truck to collect the mail, and then drove up his driveway. The letter I left in the mailbox read as follows:

Dear Thomas Family,

On Friday, July 1, I will make a dance in your honor at a lake nearby. You don't know me, but I am a performing artist and I chose your mailbox at random.

Sincerely, Nicole Garneau

On the boat dock at Ormes Lake, I made a dance inspired by the particular curve of the spine of the man I saw collect his mail.