At the present moment: In anticipation of Paul Pescador’s Situating
by Melinda Guillen
It is a morning like many others and a setting that is all but too familiar. Over the last three years I’ve spent living in Los Angeles, Paul Pescador and I have met frequently over coffee for a casual exchange of graduate school stories, gossip, and discussion of our current projects. During this time, I have come to know the performance aspect of Paul’s practice (which also includes filmmaking, installation, photography, and arts organizing) as an exploration of the banal or perhaps more accurately, a recontextualization of small, social gestures, often employing methods of endurance and collaboration. On this particular morning, Pescador describes to me the conceptual and logistical elements of Situating, his upcoming Saturday, June 10th performance at the new ForYourArt space on Wilshire Boulevard. As he delves into specifics of the performance while flipping through hundreds of images on his computer screen, I become slightly distracted by a small flicker in my mind’s eye from a past conversation, a low light buried deep in my memory from a moment long since passed. Fragments come to mind. Summer. Maybe late spring? It must have been summer. I think Paul was beginning his thesis research prior to the start of his third year as an MFA candidate at the University of California, Irvine. He was throwing around some rough ideas about how to incorporate elements of his previous work and his organizing endeavors as one of the directors of the Lincoln Heights project space, Workspace, into a new series of work for his thesis show. I remember that he expressed the desire to involve, in some capacity, all of his recent collaborators and friends from a pool of emerging artists, writers and curators. “Like a sum of all my parts,” he stated. The simple poetic signified his then-near obsession with attempting to account for all the influence of his community of friends, colleagues and collaborators on his work has remained with me, despite the gradual fading of all other details from that particular exchange.
But back to the present moment. He continues describing the work explaining that the 10-hour duration of Situating is the total combined amount of time of all four previous projects that will be materially and conceptually referenced: Situating Ourselves with Them (May 2010), Crying Over Spilled Milk (October 2010), My body lies over the ocean. My lies over the sea (January 2011), and What have I done to deserve this (October 2011). But I also begin to think about the time in which this project comes along in his life. Situating is at a significant reflective moment, synchronous with Pescador’s recent completion of his MFA and just a few months after closing the doors of Workspace for an indefinite hiatus period. In this sense, the project will be both a capstone of performances from the last two years and also, an entirely new work with notable differentiations from the material and performative oeuvre that many have come to know from Pescador. Participants will experience the space filled with objects – ephemera, performance material and documentation of previous work- reconfigured periodically throughout the entire duration of the piece. Additionally, at two-hour intervals, Pescador, in an unprecedented active performative mode, will present films that reflect on his subjective recollection of performances passed. This will inevitably evoke memories for those in attendance of the referenced works while also creating new mediated experiences for those that are being exposed to them for the first time.
Conceptually, Situating will employ the use of time in relation to memory, complicated by Pescador’s attempt to create recitations of his previous projects while simultaneously drawing attention to the dynamics of the space as the performance occurs. This multifarious collapsing of time will demonstrate the fragmentation of the artist’s memory, the problematic process of retelling and the authoritative assertion of foregrounding his subjectivity in representing work. As a friend and attendee of three of the four revisited performances, I look forward to the possibility of an alignment in our recollections of past work but am intrigued by the inevitability of gaps and variation from my experience, his and from those in attendance. It appears to me that Paul Pescador no longer feels compelled to present a complete sum of all of his parts and is instead; ready to work with fragmentation and reconfigure what he can remember. The rest is up to us.
A fraction of the whole: Locating myself within Paul Pescador’s Situating
by Melinda Guillen
I make sure to arrive at Paul Pescador’s 10-hour durational performance, Situating, at For Your Art on June 9th just in time for the presentation of the third film, a reflection of his previous performance My body lies over the ocean. My lies over the sea. (January 2011). Of the four performances Situating materially and conceptually referenced, it was the only one I missed and for that reason, I was excited for a manipulated recollection to serve as my experience of the work.
With time to spare before the film, I walk around the space as the artist paces back and forth between a large, colorful pile of strewn about material. The heaps of fabric, ceramic vases, contact paper, plastic flowers and countless other items are loosely confined to a storage nook alongside one of two of the space’s longest walls. I am filled immediately with a sense of nostalgia due to the youthful color groupings. The colors are vibrant: candy apple red, royal blue, emerald green, bubblegum pink (the pink I immediately recognize from Crying Over Spilled Milk (October 2010). It looks like a cross between a messy prop area for a feature length film and a liquidated party store. Another attendee comments that the performance has a “whimsical almost comical” nature to it in the sense that Pescador, known to perform in still, passive, endurance modes, is instead consistently walking around and obsessively reconfiguring objects. Additionally, in a playful engagement with attendees, Pescador would stand across the room, look briefly through one eye at a single person in the space, the other eye closed as if to sharpen his vision from a vast distance, and then walk over to his pile of material. He would select and then begin ripping apart contact paper in the same colors of the clothing they were wearing – he was making us. Once finished, he’d walk over to the glass storefront window and tape up the paper avatars. This amusing gesture lead me to wonder who was I in the space; as the distinction among viewer, attendee and participant in addition to object and material, had been set into a consistent state of flux. Next, I notice the artist is beginning to set up chairs, each individually set apart from one another and placed among the performance material, facing the back wall. More people come in. The film must be starting soon.
I took some notes:
If I sit in this chair, will he move it?
How does my presence change or shift this performance, if at all?
Is there an order to the objects? (I notice he kicks one of the painted gray cardboard file boxes as he walks toward the window… he quickly turns around and realigns the box. Everything in its place.)
After he set up the chairs, Pescador walked to the front of the space, near the door, and shut off the lights and then walked to the back, took a seat on the ground near the projector stand and laptop, and with no formal greeting or acknowledgement of the audience (if that’s what we were at this moment) began his recitation of the previous performance. The “films” as Pescador referred to them, were actually presented in a performative lecture format. As he talked, he flipped through hundreds of still images of not actual performance documentation but rather material representations of his memories. He presented each still as if they were a shared memory, a photo of recognizable people from an equally perceptible time. He casually described the logistical rather than conceptual elements of the performance, for example, stating, “Here we are worried about the security in the art fair space” as viewers looked at abstracted photographs of folded pieces of red or black paper against white walls. However, it was not as though recognition was completely lost. It was merely shifted because rather than recognize people in the photographs, I recognize the material from the photos in the space around me. This was, perhaps, one of the most striking elements to the performance because it brought the cyclical nature, the artist’s manipulation of time and subjectivity, to the fore. We were among the objects from previous performances and as bodies and paper avatars or sculptural assemblages; we became objects in the current performance.
After the completion of the film, Pescador turned the lights on and slowly began clearing the space of objects from the referenced performance and then seamlessly moved on to filling the space back up with new objects and takeaway photos set atop the gray boxes. Toward the end of the night, the artist began assembling objects that represent the small groups of people gathered, talking to one another. He placed the objects directly in front of each group, drawing attention to the social dynamics of the space at that moment. (He would comment later that this was a purposeful gesture to elicit the understanding that, “They are invading my space and I am invading theirs simultaneously.”)
I stayed for a few more hours, left briefly to eat, returned and talked with friends. As the night came to a close, I began to think about how all of the material represent moments, people or things significant and codified to the artist, and that the space, with its unique tunnel like architectural interior, was transformed into a large, physical manifestation of his memory bank. And we were all just standing in it.