The Long Goodbye
“The Home Project,“ and as Mad King Thomas writes on their blog, ”Wipe that from your mind, it is a stupid title and not long for this world,” I read as a trilogy, and an announcement of sorts, a hidden game of “Hint Hint” lasting but for a few very skilled months, a Postmodern performance hand well played.
Thinking back, this was a game in play for a little over a year, maybe. Of course, I am not privy as to when the conscious coupling of “home” and MKT’s “break up” came about. I remember thinking while they were off doing their residencies, and no doubt visiting each others’ families, “Where have they gone?” There was the chatter of them being away at a residency in Florida. This was my first clue that maybe something much bigger than the status quo was up. Then came the showing at Bryant Lake Bowl. It was under the — I am sure — very real pretense of preparing in front of a live audience before returning to Florida to perform in a gallery. They revealed that they had been visiting each others’ homes to research “Home.” What was home, what was each of their home histories, their biographies? During this BLB presentation at 9×22 (1) there was a moment were each MKT member, simultaneously with the others, ventured into the audience and gathered their own little chunk of audience and proceeded to quietly and personally tell that little chunk of audience a story. Teresa had gathered my little chunk of audience and told us a story of her and a cousin skipping school to see a baseball game. But there were incongruincies about this story, time and era slips, and moments where I was unsure what age Teresa as a narrator was, young or very old, and whether she was herself or a character. Was she playing a trick on me as an audience member, or was there something I missed, and everyone was in the know except me because I wasn’t paying close enough attention? This moment performatively was so warm and personal in the gathering of the audience together, by whom I assumed to be Teresa, and then she pulls a fast one by slipping into a character. I wasn’t the only one confused. After Teresa spoke, a friend of mine spoke to her and said something like, “Did that really happen to you?” I wasn’t the only one confused by that moment, but I managed to play it cool, sniffing out something amiss with Teresa’s performance slight of hand.
Never the less, I found the work sincere, solid, and complex in strategy and in audience reaction. They were going beyond postmodern cuteness and gag — though theoretically, I am all for “cuteness and gag” (would a winking emoticon be inappropriate here?) — and there was a solid, serious base to this performance, but I was still missing the initial impulse, the inciting ground this complexity was planted in. I am not sure, but I believe it was after this performance I learned that Monica was heading off to graduate school, but they were going to keep working as MKT in some form. I also remember being very suspicious about this potential a la distance MKT and thought it a good strategy, sprouted in denial, to break-up while dodging the sting of reality. As if they were all screaming “Lie to me!” I remember reaching out to touch Monica’s arm after the show and saying, like a cruel mother not wanting to see anyone fool themselves, “But if you do break up, that will be okay too, right?” Sensing I had just metaphorically punched dear Monica in the stomach, I let the subject drift to another. This was also the performance where MKT announced they were looking for hosts for their upcoming house performance; a new work called The Narrator is Suspect.
I was dead-set on hosting this. I wanted MKT in my home. I wanted to share this odd tenderness, coming from this new initiation, with my friends and neighbors. I was acting on a hunch, but I felt there was something about this time in their performance history.
The house (2) performance was intimate and cozy, I had way more than the suggested guest numbers, but this crowded house was perfect. Was the show perfect? I don’t think so, but I thought the response to the event was perfect. People found it refreshing, sweet, a real escape from their normal lives, a voyage to an unknown space via performance. It was bonding, in that permanent slash temporary way. What happened that night? Our toast to the memory of Teresa, Tara and Monica shortly after they died in my bed, the three of them sweetly drifting off side by side, sometime in the “who knows” future, in some “who knows” place, was sincere, celebratory, and chaotic, as we struggled to find enough glasses for twenty four of us to toast the unifying power of performance, and death with a choir.
So, at the beginning of this I called this work a trilogy; well, this triptych has a secret fourth panel. Wedged quietly between the numerous house performances and the soon to follow final act of The King Is Dead, is the seemingly and the unlikely performative Thank You Dinner (3) performed for the folks that hosted The Narrator Is Suspect home performances. Never mind half of the folks that hosted weren’t able to make the event; it was full of the tonality of the previous performances. It was hosted at the long time home of Teresa and Monica, a space packed with artifacts of their history, nestled in its long developing context, and with it friends from their days at Macalester, along with the unspoken references of a radical but privileged liberal education. The caring in preparing food for the guests (including a special meal made for the likes of me, a woman who can eat nothing anyone else can) all referenced “home,” or at the very least, one of the many options presented as home during The Narrator is Suspect: family, friends, where you grew up, were you live, and how you live it. The dinner was presented in the middle of the makeshift family dining room, a family style semi-formal dinner party by MKT for their friends, long-time and short-time. Teresa’s old, old but still “hanging-in-there,” cat — one of the artifacts that hints to a Teresa long before I met her, a younger and perhaps more naive Teresa. (Though as I say this, I recall an image from a previous performance of her getting fucked by a person-less cigarette from behind and all naivete vanishes.) I suppose the image of naive has always been Teresa’s ploy, her postmodern-trickster cloak before revealing the cum like melted ice cream cone lodged in her pants (solo performance).
Okay, I’m drifting here. The final act, The King is Dead at Pleasure Rebel, BLB. (4) The following is a direct copy of my run-on i-Notes from The King is Dead, with addition notation:
We hear the sound of stomping feet on the stairs from the basement. Then, one at a time, (each) talk about what they are doing. It is the story of the birth of the King. The King is dead, and (instructions on) how to fake your death. Then on stage, death poses. Teresa lip-syncs to “All By Myself”, by Celine Dion. She starts to sing out loudly over Celine fully and unabashedly. Monica rises from the cover of a garbage bag that morphs into her very long and tall skirt. She stands, raising up on some unseen platform, like one of those doll birthday cakes from the 50’s, her skirt and her invisible legs out of proportion. She sways and throws glitter to “Feeling Good”, by Nina Simone, and bends and flows between hysterical sobs and laughter. She wail-laugh-sways to the freedom and joy. Tara kings talks about faking your death. She is telling (hinting), to us, the conceptual leaving process, the thoughtful preparation for the death as away of presenting yourself to the world. Hello through good-bye. Getting to know you in death in preparation for life anew, for life in a new form.
The show was slippery. Which elements were the firm and tangible performances of grief? Which were the verifiable definings of home; MKT’s humble beginnings? We witnessed them talking themselves down from a high ledge, a ledge they built themselves. Entirely. Through the conceptual (MKT) birth, the conflictual (MKT) life and the faked (?), death of a king born to three mothers.
I appreciated the long good-bye and getting to know MKT better. Thanks for letting us live and die with you, to watch as time passed between the “what is” and the “what wasn’t” and the “what was never to be”.
(1) Informal Showing, Mad King Thomas, 9×22, Bryant Lake Bowl, Minneapolis, MN, January 22nd 2014, performance
(2) The Narrator is Suspect, Mad King Thomas, Jennifer Arave and Patrick Riley’s Home, Minneapolis, MN, April 4th 2014, performance
(3) The Narrator is Suspect Thank You Dinner, Mad King Thomas, The Crawler Art Center, May, 28th 2014, (Monica and Teresa’s Home), performative happening
(4) The King is Dead, Mad King Thomas, Pleasure Rebel, Bryant Lake Bowl, Minneapolis, MN, May 7th 2014, performance