This is the monologue and score for the performance of FUCKMEGUNTERBRUSGUNTERBRUSMEFUCK
performed in Vienna July 31, August 4, 5, 6 co-presented by Mumok and ImPulsTanz during the Regarding Actionism show at Mumok. The text in all caps and italics are stage directions. To watch the video click here.
Ich liege weiss in weiss in einem weissen Schlafzimmer.
Ich liege weiss in weiss in einem weissen Klosett.
Ich sitze weiss in weiss in einer weissen Polizeistube unter weissen Polizisten.
Ich halte weiss in weiss in weissen Sitzungssaal im Parlament unter weissen Abgeordneten eine weisse Rede.
Ich predige in einer weissen Kirche weiss in weiss.
Ich trenne meine linke Hand ab. Irgendwo liegt ein Fuss.
Eine Naht auf dem Handwuzelknochen.
Ich drücke einen Reissnagel ins Rückenmark.
Ich nagle die grosse Zehe auf den Zeigefinger.
Auf einem weissen Teller liegen Scham-, Achsel- und Kopfhaare.
Ich ritze die Hauptschlagader mit einer Rasierklinge (Smart) der Länge nach auf.
Ich schlage einen Drahstift ins Ohr.
Ich spalte meinen Kopf der Länge nach in zwei Hälften.
Ich führe in meine Harnröhre Stacheldraht ein und versuch durch leichtes Drehen den Nerv zu reissen (Autosystoskopie).
Ich beisse meine Pickel auf und sauge sie aus.
Ich lasse alles photographieren und besichtigen.*
Please repeat after me.
I am Miguel Gutierrez.
PAUSE. SPEAK SLOWLY
This is what happened.
For the past three years I’ve been making a series of pieces called “Age & Beauty.” I really wanted to show the first part at ImPulsTanz last year because it’s a duet with me and Mickey Mahar, who was here doing DanceWEB and I thought oh that would be perfect. But by the time we premiered it in New York, the programming of this festival was complete so it didn’t happen.
So then we – my manager and I – wrote the folks here and said, “Hey do you want to present the piece next year?” And we wrote and we wrote and we never heard back. This is kind of how it goes in this business so it wasn’t especially new or strange or anything.
Then they finally wrote us and said “Sorry it won’t work to show your piece - we lost a lot of funding this year so we are focusing on Austrian artists.”
I was disappointed but I understood. I understand about money and funding and all of that. Actually, Age & Beauty Part 2 is all about that.
So this video that is playing is Age & Beauty Part 1 – the piece I wanted to show here. It looks like it will probably never come here so I’m showing you the video because it’s the piece I wish I were actually showing you instead of the one that I’m doing here tonight.
Then they wrote me again to say “We would like to invite you for this collaboration with Mumok where we are asking artists to create a performance response to the Actionist exhibit they have here. We can pay you a thousand euro.”
Now I have to explain something.
I am making this series of pieces called “Age & Beauty.” It’s about queerness and sustainability and about being middle aged. It’s about wondering how to keep going and if I can keep going and it’s about the future and about how this fucked up career works and doesn’t work and it’s about death. All of it was inspired by the fact that a few years ago a dear friend of mine committed suicide by shooting himself in the woods outside Portland, Oregon. This happened just a few weeks after I had seen him and he had told me that he was doing fine. He’d had a lot of mental health problems. His death made me wonder what the fuck the point of all this was – life, living, artmaking. It made me cynical and it also made me fearless.
Like, if it’s all going to end who fucking cares about making the “right” art, or pleasing the festival, or saying yes to an invitation to make a crappy new thing for the Actionist exhibit when you already have a piece that you made that you know is good that you wanted to show. Like who cares about all of that. You should say yes when you want to and no when you want to and not worry about any of it.
I knew that a thousand euro wasn’t enough money to make a new piece. I knew that I hate being distracted from what I am already working on – in this case, Age & Beauty Part 3, which is about to premiere in a month. I knew that it would stress me out to say yes and that I would hate myself for it. I also knew that I would hate not having a performance presence here because mostly I’m teaching technique classes in dance and voice, which is fine and nice but also kind of ridiculous because I’m more of an idea person than a technique person but whatever.
But also, as an American artist, I am always broke and I’m always looking for more money because I never have enough and my fucking manager said “Well the extra thousand euro won’t hurt” and I asked my current collaborators- the ones I’m making Age & Beauty Part 3 with – we were on a ferry boat on our way to rehearsal one day and I asked them “Hey do you think I should do this performance at ImPulsTanz? Like, I don’t know what the fuck I’m going to do but they’ll pay me a thousand euro for it” and they all said “Oh yeah of course, just do whatever and take the money.”
But I knew that I didn’t want to and I thought it was especially poignant because the last time I performed my work here, it was a piece called HEAVENS WHAT HAVE I DONE, which starts out with a long monologue where I talk about how I was invited by a festival in France that couldn’t afford to bring one of my “official” pieces but please would I come and do something anyway and I said of course of course, I will go ahead and make a new piece just for you, and the stress of all of that made my back go out and I wasn’t even able to perform the fucking piece. But I did make a new show regardless and at the time I told myself if this ever happens to you again don’t make a new piece, just adapt something you’ve already made. And this what I am sort of trying to do here but I’m sort of a workaholic and once I’m asked to do something I start to get obsessed with ideas and I end up doing new shit when I should just do old shit so this is a mix of both but anyway it struck me as fucking hilarious that here I was basically doing the same exact thing with ImPulsTanz as I did with that French festival even though I told myself I would never ever do that again but my manager said “That extra thousand euro won’t hurt” – I mean, it’s not his fault, it’s just that it kept echoing in my brain - and then there was this fucking thing about Actionism.
PAUSE. RETROSPECTIVE EXHIBITIONIST EXCERPT
See in 2004 I came to Vienna during ImPulsTanz to check out what the fuck this whole thing was about. I came for a week. I thought that this place was a big deal and I thought it was super important that I perform my work here. The previous year, when I found out that Ann Liv Young had gotten a show here, I was so so jealous about that that I sat in bed and ate ice cream for a whole day. I was like “Why didn’t I get a show at ImPulsTanz?” Anyway I came to Vienna and I sat with my new computer at Cafe Möbel writing emails or whatever the fuck we did before there was Facebook. I had a meeting with Rio Rutzinger in the festival office trying to explain what my classes were like and why they were so fucking great and why I should be invited here to teach and perform.
I remember seeing Simone Aughterlony’s show that had all these videos in it and I was super impressed that she had the same exact haircut on stage as she had in the videos.
I saw Palle Dyrval and Caroline Hainaut’s show, which was beautiful and, to be honest, the best thing I saw while I was here, but I never see their names at festivals anymore so maybe they’re not popular or maybe they’re no longer making work?
I saw Wim Vandekuybus’s show, which was sexist, like they always are, but also kind of exciting like they always are.
I went to Kaiserbündl, the gay sauna, and had sex with strangers like I’ve done all over the world whenever I travel, and I called my boyfriend from a payphone and cried about something cuz I was always crying about something in that relationship, and I went impulse shopping for clothes somewhere near Mariahilferstrasse and I looked at my body in the mirror in between trying on shirts and decided that I looked too fat so I thought I should go jogging as if it’s something that I do all the time but in fact I don’t ever jog because I have bad knees so after about half a kilometer I was in so much pain I had to limp around the Rathaus park and think about how I was going to get back to the hotel.
And then later in the week I came to Mumok to see the Mike Kelley Uncanny show upstairs – and after that I walked into the basement and came across a show about Actionism. Maybe this is something that happens here every ten years or so. I guess Actionism is to Vienna as the Judson Church Movement is to New York. Like, curators and performance studies people just don’t stop talking about it and somehow art/dance history ends there and the rest of us who make art now are just fucked because we’ll never be as radical.
I didn’t know what Actionism was. I don’t have any formal training or education in art history. Most of what I know about art I learned in libraries and museums. I had just started making a piece that would become a solo called Retrospective Exhibitionist. I had decided to think of performance art as a tangent of dance history. This felt like a radical concept to me at the time although in retrospect it strikes me as naïve and obvious. Anyway I walked around the exhibit going from one artist to the next utterly entranced. I was there by accident really and then suddenly I’m seeing something and realizing that in some way I am just seeing myself? I walked by the Hermann Nitsch stuff and was grossed out. Otto Mühl kind of just annoyed me. Both had an irreconcilable cruelty. They felt oppressively straight. I had a hard time getting past that.
But then I turned the corner and was confronted with Günter Brus’ work.
Which first makes me want to go back and tell you what I was explaining before, which is that I agreed to do something for the festival when I was asked, even though what I really wanted to show was Age & Beauty Part 1 and what I wanted to be spending my time thinking about was Part 3. I avoided thinking about the fact that I had agreed to do a piece but then I kept getting emails from the curator saying - hey we need a title and a description and a photo. I avoided responding to this email for several days. I avoid things sometimes. I think I get it from my father.
Finally I got one of those – Dear Miguel we really really need the information now – emails and I had just come out of the shower and I was so annoyed so I sat down on my bed and without thinking about it wrote this:
In this never before rehearsed performance, Miguel Gutierrez explores his longstanding crush on Günter Brus, who seemed the queerest of the Actionists, and who, more importantly, is a Libra. Part love song, part self-hating reflection, part opportunism, part retrospective, part critique, and all parts unknown, FUCKMEGÜNTERBRUSBRUSGÜNTERMEFUCK, promises nothing, gives you everything.
See I am good at writing these things. After working in this field for many many years I have become good at writing bullshit. Like I think I could be really good at it and work at an advertising or marketing agency but I hate capitalism so much or to be totally honest, I just don’t care enough about selling other people’s things as much as I care about selling myself. I’m reminded of how once I got a fortune cookie that said, “Cleverness is suitable for everything and sufficient for nothing.”
I sent it off to the curator. Then I went into the bathroom with my hot pink makeup and took a bunch of selfies playing off the Günter Brus image of when he painted the black line down his painted white body. I sent the pictures to the marketing person. The whole affair, the writing and the photos, took about fifteen minutes of my life.
Right away I got an email back from the curator telling me that everyone loved the description. And Karl, the festival director, was very happy. The curator added that it was particularly poignant to talk about Günter Brus because he is seen as a kind of deity here. I was happy to know that I had inadvertently tapped into the pulse of something meaningful, but nevertheless, as someone who struggles with people-pleasing, I both welcomed this news and was disturbed by it. Who the fuck was this piece for? This piece that I didn’t want to make, that I didn’t have the time to make, that was a distraction from the piece that I’m making right now called Age & Beauty Part 3: Dancer or You can make whatever the fuck you want but you’ll only tour solos or The Powerful People or We are strong/We are powerful/We are beautiful/We are divine or &:’///.
I was confused. I had made this other good piece. I knew it was fucking good. I worked on it for over a year. And then suddenly I was being rewarded for something that didn’t even exist. Something that was only marketing and anxiety. Something I would have, maximum, a few days to work on. Nothing existed yet but the curator was happy and Karl was happy and the marketing person was happy. But I wasn’t happy. Who was this piece for?
PAUSE. NOTHING/NO THING EXCERPT
After a few weeks, during which I didn’t think too much about the piece because I was busy on a residency where I was working on the music for the piece I’m ACTUALLY making, I got another email from the curator saying, hey so would you be able to do the piece twice. We can pay you 2000 euro. And I thought um, ok, well, if I’m torturing myself to do it for 1000 euro maybe it will feel less like torture if I do it for 2000 euro, so I said sure. Then I traveled to Berlin to perform and I ran into the curator outside a Jerome Bel show and we had a nice talk about my show, this one, the one that didn’t exist yet. She said she had spoken to Günter Brus about my show, reading him the description but not mentioning the queer part. I sort of found that strange, sort of like censorship, but I kept those feelings to myself. Like, what is so terrible about telling someone that they seem queer? Especially in a group of artists like Hermann Nitsch, Otto Muhl, and Rudolf Schwarzkogler? Actually it strikes me as a fucking compliment given the weird macho sexism of the group. I mean this is a man who performed a piece in a bra and panties and called it Transvestite Action. These guys were totally playing with this kind of repressed queer visuality.
Anyway, she said she hadn’t mentioned the queer part of the description and, like a good little faggot, I didn’t say anything about that. I asked her if I could maybe get in touch with Günter Brus myself to ask him a few questions, but I never got around to it because I was too busy with making the piece I’m actually making and I’ve left everything about this piece to the last minute and it’s not even finished anyway.
I should also mention that this whole conversation happened on the steps of the HAU in Berlin and I was with my friend Jeremy Wade who has tried to get a show here, or teach here, for years and years but he has never been invited. He feels really strongly that he should have his work shown here, that this is a club he wants to be part of. And I agree, I think his work should definitely be seen here. Like, he is really an incredible presence and he has this incredibly brilliant mind and he is just this like fucking monster of electricity as a dancer. Anyway I sympathize with him and I try to tell him that it’s not that important but isn’t that the very definition of access and privilege, the ability to say, oh I’ve done this thing several times and it’s not a big deal. How the fuck can you hear that when you are on the outside of something that you want to be on the inside of? This is a challenging part of our friendship to navigate.
A few weeks later the curator writes me to ask if I would do the performance four times and that they would pay me 3500 euro. She said everyone is so excited about the performance and it’s selling out and so we want to add more shows. I just laughed. One show, two shows, four shows. Sure. Who the fuck cares at this point. NO SHOW EXISTED. I started wondering to myself, how is it that they can afford to pay me 3500 euro for 4 shows plus afford to bring me here to teach, but they can’t afford to bring the show I wanted to do here? I mean, I sort of know the answer to that – it costs a lot of money to pay a crew and all of that, but you understand why I’m asking the question, right?
But then when you do something more than once there is the danger AND seduction of reproduction. Re-producing. So fuck you really have to make something. Or rather, you can’t count on the magical alchemy of a one off improvisation, which I do all the time and yes, actually, that would have been the smarter choice.
MYENDLESSLOVE BJ DUET WITH ALEX RODABAUGH
And I know what it’s like to sit in the audience here and be like, what the fuck is going on? Like what the fuck is that person doing up there and I could do it better or why did I pay to see this or why does that person get paid to do that and I understand that the set up here is often about hostility – certainly it’s that way for the students who see show after show night after night where they cultivate the same kinds of eyes and spirits of producers who have to look at pieces with a juridical sensibility and decide YES or NO when they see performances. YES I will support this NO I will not support this. You you hear this from the students. No I couldn’t stand that performance. Yes it was fantastic. No I walked out. Yes I think blahblahblah is so amazing. No I don’t believe in that kind of work. And so on.
Hostility is part of the set up. I remember seeing a three hour show of Trajal Harrell’s on a Monday night here and it started at 11pm – like who the fuck was THAT show for? I remember all of these sort of older looking Viennese gently tiptoeing out at 1am, probably because they wanted to have enough sleep to get up in time for their jobs in the morning. Like how could a three hour show that starts at 11pm on a Monday night not be a big fuck you to the audience right from the get go?
Ich bin weder geistes-noch gemütskrank. Als Kind hatte ich Masern und Schafblattern. Sonst keine Krankheiten. Zu nennen wäre noch eine erfolgreich verlaufene Penistransplantation, die es mir ermöglichte, mein Kind im Kopfstand zu zeugen. Mit vierzehn lernte ich Künstler. Also socher fühlte ich mich verpflichtet, den Museen, Konzerthäusern und anderen Schliessfächern zeitgenössischer Kunst in den Magen zu schauen. Da lagerte der Brei der Kunstoff/abspritzer und Eisenscheisser, und der serielle Schluckauf erinnerten Krawattenpflicht und Musik. Ich bemerkte, dass hier der Kunst neue Dimensionen erschlossen wurden. Da beschloss ich als Künstler abzudanken.*
And the curator was so kind and thoughtful. Really, every step of the way. She had sent me the museum catalogue about Actionism. I went to my local post office to pick it up and I stood in line next to the Afro-Caribbeans who live in Flatbush, the white hipsters who are gentrifying the neighborhood, the latinos who never see me as latino, and I got the book and it just sat there in my house, wrapped in plastic. I had gotten this beautiful enormous book and I couldn’t open it. Wouldn’t open it. I brought it with me, still wrapped, to an artist residency I had on a beach, and I still couldn’t open it. I had this other book on Actionism, one I had bought eleven years ago at the last Actionism show here, and I sat on the beach and that one I could open, yes, that one was less scary, and I read a little bit about Brus’ biography again and I didn’t get very far because halfway through reading, the residency director sat down with one of his friends and the friend started to talk to me about her wedding. She said she was trying to decide between getting married at a house on the island or getting married right on the beach. I said I think it’s better to get married in the house because on the beach it could be too windy or the ocean could be too loud, and anyway, you can get married in the house and then just run to the beach after. I told her all of this as if I am some kind of expert on weddings. With this gay equality thing everyone’s talking about getting married now. Honestly I didn’t really fucking care I was just relieved not to work on this piece.
However, one of the notes I did manage to write down before they showed up was: I will not hurt myself anymore for art.
And Günter, dearest Günter, you should know that I fell in love with you here. Right here in this building. Somewhere in between the face painting and the sewing yourself to yourself and the pissing and definitely at the moment that you slowly sank naked with your beautiful ass to the audience and your legs spread apart, just this beautiful invitation to fuck my way into your sturm und drang, I fell in love with you here and like some fan fiction writer, I love to imagine that you and Rudolf were in love with each other and that it was weird that you both got married and that all of this body mutilation and his suicide was just an expression of your repressed desire to fuck each other and maybe you did.
I fantasize about this I put myself into your history this is what queer people do we always have to shove our way in. You are like a queer person when you walked through the city when you marked yourself to be seen and you became dangerous the way the other is always dangerous. Where I live the danger kills people – black people, trans people, immigrants, women. People who are all of the above. Actually this happens everywhere all the time. The other walks dangerously down the street and you were clever weren’t you, all in white with a black stripe going up your right leg, up and over your torso and head and then down your back and making a kind of panty hose seam down the back of your left leg. This play of black and white that you also used in Ana that right now is impossible for me to read in any other way than race. I can’t play with these colors, Günter, I can’t find a way to do it in a way that is just about painting, but I guess that was the advantage of being a white guy living here in the 60s.
You are like a queer person when you brush your long hair out of your face in Fountain, this flip of it, the cute dimples in your lower back above your naked ass, the way you stick that ass out when you dance with your wife. The way you always tie or bind your toes or feet or legs to spread them apart making your ass crack that halving device that the black line was meant to be.
And then Zerreisprobe oh god Zerreisprobe. You did it on June 19, 1970 and I like to think that something about this action had a butterfly effect and that from your splayed ass and seizure-like rolls, a kind of energy wave started oscillating outward, a pebble in a pool, and it expanded to all directions, westward across the Alps across the Iberian peninsula, bolstered by the waves, undulating across the wide Atlantic throughout the month of July and landing on the shore of the Rockaways, New York, in the early days of August, where the rhythmic rocking energy advanced steadily past John F. Kennedy airport, ever northward until it reached the eastern most neighborhood of Queens called Flushing, washing past Queen of Peace Church on 77th road to the building across the street to the second floor where in the first days of the waning days of summer the energetic waves engulfed Miguel and Elena Gutierrez, five and half years into their destined-to-be-long marriage, who eyed each other with lust as they disrobed and crawled under the thin top sheet while the sound of the cheap fan rattled in the doorway and Miguel mounted Elena and caught the timing of Günter’s wave, which had started out pitched at such a high frequency, able to shock and stun the Münich audience into immobility but by the time it reached Queens, New York, had ebbed into a slow, powerful, steady rhythm as Miguel entered and fucked Elena, his lean pockmarked back curving and arcing, curving and arcing, his shapely legs, my mother’s favorite part of his body, anchored in between my mother’s open ones, both of them moaning quietly so as not to wake their four year old girl sleeping in a room across the hall, their bodies feverishly hot with their efforts, till Miguel came inside Elena, the cum that never made its way directly into your performances, Günter, and Elena accepted his cum happily, dutifully, her whole body swollen and untethered, still surprised at the beauty and specificity of pleasure that fucking brought into her nights. Nine months later I was born. “My body is the intention. My body is the event. My body is the result.”*
And I wish I could just ask you these things although I don’t fucking know what I would do with the answers and anyway, I should answer them for myself I already know the answers.
How did you know it was your last piece?
Did you have to negotiate money stuff with people?
What was that like? Could you pay your rent? Did you eat ok?
Where did you go when you stopped performing? How did your body feel? Do you miss performing? How could you be certain you had made the right decision?
If you were trying to destroy the past doesn’t that also have to mean destroying the institutions that make the past and present possible to make way for the future?
But most importantly, Günter, how do I stop performing? I want to stop performing. I want to stop making performances. But I don’t know how to draw, there’s nothing else I can sell. I make songs but nobody pays for that anymore. Is there some kind of blessing you can offer, some kind of Actionist ritual I should know about? I just want out. I just want out somehow. Art and artmaking are basically, slowly, ruining my life. I know that that sounds kind of crazy but it’s not so far off from the truth. It consumes me, it takes all of my time, it makes me work on weekends, it makes me miss parties, birthdays, weddings, deaths, and all of the banal day to day activities where magical bonds grow between people, lovers, partners because “I’m sorry! I can’t go! I have rehearsal! I have to make a show! Sorry! Can’t come!”
And we’re these ambassadors of lunacy because who lives like this? Who gets on planes all of the time and travels to festivals and meets mostly young and attractive and conventionally “healthy” groups of people and makes art and then performs it for them as if to say “this is what the world is like” or “this is what the world should be like” when actually we are living these very rarefied, exceptional and bizarrely entitled lives and the person who came to the three hour show on a Monday night is just like, when can I get to sleep because I have to wake up in time for my job that starts at 9am?
And I was starting to wake up in the mornings with so much stress about this fucking show that the whole right side of my torso around my shoulder was seized in so much pain that it didn’t matter which way I positioned myself on the bed because I was still in pain no matter what. And then last week, the Friday before I left to come here I went to go see a DANCENOISE show. DANCENOISE is this amazing performance art duo, two women - Annie Iobst and Lucy Sexton. They were working in New York mostly in the 80’s and early 90’s and two weeks ago they presented a re-constructed version of a show of theirs from 1993, one that they had done at the old Whitney Museum, and now they performed it at the new Whitney Museum and it was so beautiful and smart and political and funny and like they did not give a fuck about anything other than what they were making and making it with each other and their good friends and just having a great fucking time and it was free of any interests in the “market” or “festival culture” or “touring” or “I wonder if these people in the audience will want to take my workshop after I’m done” or any of that shit. It was so fucking liberating and it was so so sad because it was this kind of time capsule of a world we don’t live in and that is never ever ever coming back. And I left the theater and walked around in the meatpacking district, which is just the fucking grossest part of New York now - I think of it as the Sex and the City Shopping Mall - it’s a perfect symbol of everything terrible that has happened to New York except it’s not a symbol it’s real, it’s all these designer stores and bar/restaurants that cater to the young and wealthy and well I know about that because my friends work in those fucking restaurants. I was with my friend I said let’s get out of this neighborhood as fast as possible I just wanted to hold on to the feeling of that show. Like, could I hold on to the feeling of it?? Would it be enough to hold on to the feeling of it, Günter, or do we never stop and Can’t you close the window?
TURN OFF SLOWDIVE
SING THE FEVER RAY SONG I’M NOT DONE FIRST PART BEFORE LOOPING THE VERSE
And somewhere, not too far, along the way, I realized I fucking liked it. I was enjoying myself my process this ridiculous writing. I rehearsed with myself and I enjoyed the momentum of the words the feeling of the emotions taking over my body. I enjoyed it and I sat at my breakfast table in Brooklyn writing as I looked out over the Q train and the houses of Ditmas Park that I’ll never afford. I sat by myself in a studio in Manhattan facing a wall and practiced by myself and then I sat again at 7 am at this cafe in the Düsseldorf airport on the way here writing and writing and looking at the Actionism book and pulling out quotes by Günter Brus that I liked and I had sex with this guy the other night and after he left I pulled out the computer and wrote some more and I couldn’t stop thinking about it and then a few days ago I closed all of the blinds in the apartment where I’m staying and I wrote and I wrote some more and then just today I sat in the hallway of the Arsenale and went over the script yet again and made more changes and I was so fucking pissed that this art making was getting in the way of my laziness. Well first exposing it and then occluding it entirely, so that what took its place was invention, production. Fuck I was so mad.
This wasn’t a piece by the way. There was no show.
PLAY JEREMY WADE VIDEO
*text by Gunter Brus