HIGH LINE PERFORMANCE: JAMAL CYRUS & BENJAMIN PATTERSON
Clouds of sage smoke and loud trills welcomed visitors to Jamal Cyrus’s performance, Texas Fried Tenor, on the High Line last Saturday as part of Performa 13. Clad in a white jumpsuit, the artist lit a hand-rolled cigar filled with sage leaves to begin the performance. He then dropped to the ground. Crawling on his hands and knees, Cyrus blew smoke from a sage cigar in an attempt to permeate every nook and cranny of the stage. Once this task seemed complete, Cyrus lit incense sticks and stuck them between the sandbags at the front of the stage. The pervasive and calming smells of herbs and incense produced a spiritual atmosphere, transforming the 14th Street Passage into a cathedral of performance.
Deeply concentrated, Cyrus began executing vocal exercises. His loud lip trills, oohs and aahs, though typical of musical training, bordered on the absurd in the decontextualized park setting. The artist then headed to a black box on stage right and pulled out a saxophone covered in batter, leaving a trail of flour on his way to the fryer on center stage. He carefully lowered the instrument into the boiling peanut oil, which sizzled and splattered. Microphones surrounding the fryer amplified the sounds. Like a DJ, he then mixed the sounds on a studio mixing board to create an otherworldly soundscape. Satisfied with the golden brown crisp on the frying woodwind instrument, Cyrus finally liberated the saxophone from the heated peanut oil and blew a few final puffs of smoke over it before his performance was complete.
Visitors inclined to share what they thought of Cyrus’s performance, or anything else for that matter, were given the opportunity to speak in Benjamin Patterson’s adjacent performance A Penny for Your Thoughts. Visitors waited in line for counsel with artist. For the price of a penny, one could either sell their own thought or buy the thought of someone else. Seeing as nothing costs only a penny these days, the performance was a pretty economical deal. Every participant received a newspaper hat created bespoke by Patterson. The hats consisted of long rectangular shreds of various newspapers and magazines stapled to a ribbon and then tied around the participant’s head. The hats, tangible objects, reflected the transfer of intangible ideas from one person to another. In the hands of Patterson, this banal, commonplace act of transferring information transmuted into a ritual of communication that united the community of the High Line.
- Kat Widing
Photos by Liz Ligon, Courtesy of Friends of the High Line.