posted & written by caroline picard

Press Release:

Public Performance “a bob ross song, an orsen welles trick”
At McGuane Park Tennis Court 29th and Halsted

Isabella Ng and Millie Kapp investigate the performative capabilities of the Tennis Court on 29th and Halsted, examining how this space in particular operates as highly theatrical platform with physical directives, divisions, and information embedded in the space. Using six live bodies, they will investigate the idea of the “magic show” as the ultimate performative illusion.



imagine you are down in bridgeport. you are walking with elizabeth and devin. you have just left the nfo xpo on gratton avenue, and with the hubbub behind you, you notice the sky is skulking and gloomy, with all the dramatic airs of spring-is-a-teenager caught up in one of her moods. the air is warm and moist and summery so you only wear shorts and a t-shirt. elizabeth tells a story about how she got drunk at artchicago last year and this year promises to drink only three whiskies. devin tells a story in turn about how he got drunk in boston at a bar and tried to cajole a young woman into storming the stage with him. he remarks on the wit of her logic, for though she was a small girl, he nevertheless avoided the mishap of his exuberance and laid as low as his demands for champagne would allow.

you discover you have taken the long way about the park. the ruddy weed grass that spreads through cracks in the concrete makes a scuffing noise under your feet and at a certain instance you see a disembodied hand wiping the glass of a door from the inside with a towel. it smells like windex for but a moment.

you pass another house. this one, three stories tall and crooked is riddled with peeled siding and seems to crop up out of th midwestern urban jungle, alone and solitary against the threatening thunder clouds. the only sign of regular life appears from a well-meaning trinkets in the third story window–several glass jars of varying sizes, a glass prism and an ashtray. there are also shiny plastic garbage bins, one black for trash, the other blue for recycling–these things alone mark the house as something alive and inhabited, for otherwise it looks like a scarecrow, with broken glass porches and no curtains to speak of.

“this is one of those times when we should be on mushrooms,” elizabeth says.

“we would be on mushrooms if we were three years younger,” devin replies.

you assent. it would be a good day to do mushrooms. and better, perhaps, because none of you is willing to give up the eight or ten hours necessary for such a commitment. as such, you all swoon in the drama of the day.

“have you heard of salvia? it’s still legal,” says elizabeth. “i know this gang of mopehead kids. and one of them, the youngest one, is harchore on salvia. he’s a little odd, but noone has known him long enough to know if it’s really the salvia. nevertheless, he says that he’s done it so many time, and that when you do it it’s like you experience 52 dimensions at the same time–he says that he feels now like he’s always one dimension off.” You all giggle. She continues. “This other friend of mine, he did salvia–you know it only lasts like 20 minutes, but so I guess he was started earlier than everyone else and so when he came to, he saw one of his friends listening to headphones that weren’t plugged in and dancing around with this excruciating expression on his face. and then another friend had wedged his head in between the sofa and the floor and kept trying to scoot under it. then his last freind had two pillows pressed up against either ear with both hands; he kept shaking his head back and forth saying, ‘no no no.'”

you laugh because just the night before you’d gotten into a conversation with a friend about coincidences and synchronicty and vision quests. but you keep that to yourself, because it isn’t entirely relevant.


at last.

the rain is spitting and peevish.

the video camera, used for documentary purposes, is wrapped in a plastic bag. you are sitting at the out line of the tennis court in bridgeport. the ice cream bike makes its regular but casual rounds back and forth about the park and each time it passes, its bells make a peculiar music. there is a softball game going on behind you in which parents give each other grief about their children. on the tennis court, six men in white tuxedo suits with red boy ties stretch their legs. they stand formally. they do not look at one another. another fellow, a younger lad wears a black tuxedo and carries an almost full glass of water. the glass is glistening and bright. it is particular enough that you suspect someone shopped it out for this particular purpose. the glass will be realized in the performance, you feel.

someone presses play on the stereo to your right, for you are sitting to the right of the net. as i said, you are sitting along the edge of the out line. an older woman sits behind you in a collapsable chair with an umbrella. she is one of the smart ones, even though the rain will hold off until the performance has passed.

and then the fellow in the black tuxedo begins to sing along with a recording of his voice on the stereo. he is singing the words of bob ross, though you won’t learn that until later. he sounds like a cross between a cantor and bright eyes and occasionally he takes sips from the water glass in his hand. he stands before a clock with bells and chimes. the clock is stuch at twelve and the chimes and bells blow perpendicular in the wind. as the boy sings, the men in white suits begin to move. also on the tennis court, there are four checkered boxes with yellow and white squares. these are placed in a mirror, as the performance is a mirror, and out the end of one there peek two legs, while out the end of the other, there peeks a head. as the white suits begin to move, mirroring one another on either side of the tennis court, the legs and heads move occasionally, belying life. nearby the boxes there is a saw and occasionally, throughout the course of moving suits, one or another of the suits picks up a saw to saw between the box of legs and the box of head. at intermittent points, a pair of men on either side of the net runs back and forth like a ball boy, from net to serving line, scuffing up the court, announcing something about gifts from the middle east with bows and formality.

after some thirty minutes, the boxes sawed, a pair of men picks up the box of legs on either side of the net, setting them upright. the boxes of legs each approach the net on either side. you can see cartoon eyeholes on each box. this makes you laugh. you can feel both elizabeth and devin laughing also. this makes you laugh more, for there is permission in number. and the boxes of heads, again on opposite side of the court scurry along, still parallel to the ground, they seem to glide towards the net, as though by some magic.

you hear a small child ask his father, “what is that?” pointing to the tennis courts on which you sit.

“i’ve no idea, no idea at all.” unlike the child, the father shrugs dismissivally.

along the outside of the fence there are more and more children, standing with fingers slung through the chain link, watching.

until, at last, the boy in the black suit comes to a final cresendo, the men in white suits have arrived a particular reflective formation and the box of legs and heads has rejoined, through the net.

the performance is over.

it has not yet rained.

but it will