Pranks and comic relief have always been a part of the arts... well, maybe not always but at least for a while it has. Lets just say no one alive today can say there was a time, in their lives, when it wasn't. This brings me to Meg Duguid's performance last night in Wicker Park as Part of the Out of Site performance series done in conjunction with Walkabout Theater Company and Defibrillator. It is hard to really know what to say about any public performance, and this is no exception, so I will begin by just telling you what I experienced.
I approached Polonia Triangle, the fountained island created by Milwaukee, Division and Ashland, and saw four bubble machines spewing bubbles into the air, each machine placed in one of the cardinal directions around the fountain. Speaking of the fountain, Meg was pouring dish-washing liquid into it, which left it with a good layer of suds built up. All of that was going on while three people, dressing white plastic suits, walked on bubble wrap carrying a large spaghetti strainer style mustache made of plywood and what I can only describe as mop yarn.
This performance was funny, but lot laugh out loud funny. It is very possibly addressing the blue collar immigrant history and labor issues the city has dealt with, as well as the massive changes seen in that neighborhood. I heard and saw a mix of reactions from passersby, some smiled and stared as they passed through, some watched for a bit and some voice their opinions to friends they were with. There was all sorts of documentation going on, almost too much, that is unless it was supposed to be part of the performance, this is where public performance pieces can take a weird turn.
Of course it is hard to get 'the public', whoever they are, to interact with performance, but I think it is important to make people feel comfortable to interact with whatever we decide to present within the public sphere, with public space. This whole performance was centered around an old prank of putting soap in a fountain, this is a perfect chance to get people to interact and enjoy an experience within a space that is set aside for them, not don white plastic suits and avoid one on one interactions.
Be sure to check out the rest of the Out of Sit Performances every Friday around Wicker Park, next week will be Rachel Bunting & The Humans performing in the Polish Triange.