Mark Tribe’s lecture on “Performance, Mediation, and the Public Sphere” was a fascinating look into the mind of a creative genius. The lecture began with Tribe discussing how we as humans are essentially “performing animals” and that we come to know ourselves through participating in performance. Tribe discussed the silly, fun work, “Car Park” first to warm up the crowd. The idea behind this work was to change the boring space of a parking lot and make it a place that’s beautiful and interesting, where people would like to go.
Tribe spoke next about “The Port Huron Project,” which involved recreating six Vietnam War protest speeches in public places. Tribe picked speeches that are currently relevant and commented on how he can’t possibly see a speech like this being given today because young people are lackadaisical about the state of the world and no strong, young leaders exist. Tribe focused on bringing the past into the future with this work, creating what he referred to as “historical vertigo.” This project made a brutal point that needs to be heard. The young men and women of the 60’s and 70’s were involved in their world; they knew what was going on in the war, they knew the names of leaders all over the world and they fought for what they believed in. Today, it’s surprising how many young people aren’t aware of much of anything that’s happening in the world or even in the state in which they live. It seems that Tribe is attempting to draw attention to this problem, hoping that it might incite progress.
Next, Tribe presented pieces of his “Dystopia Files” project, a project that deals with the culture of security. Tribe gathered many recordings of protests where police became violent with protesters. As part of an installation, these protests were projected onto frosted glass doors in a gallery. The projection was intended to peak the curiosity of the viewer, causing them to open the doors. As soon as the viewer enters, the projection will stop and they can begin to view the many file cabinets within the space. The file cabinets are labeled with activist group names and as soon as a viewer tries to open them, they’re immediately disappointed to find them all locked. This project causes the viewer to reflect on the closed information in our society, only available to certain individuals in military and government positions. Also, the protests cause the viewer to reflect upon the fact that authority as we know it isn’t required to follow any rules, even the ones stated in the law, and the contradiction of that idea to the American ideal of freedom.
Lastly Mark Tribe presented the work “Sweet Child Solos.” Essentially, Tribe invited many people to cover the song. The covered versions play against one another with a video installation showing images of coffins returning from Iraq. He came up with the concept one night in his car while listening to a story on NPR about a mother losing a child in the war, while simultaneously a radio station kept cutting in with the song, “Sweet Child of Mine.”
Tribe’s work sends a potent message about the state of our society. He does this indirectly, as not to state any outward opinions, a safe way to spread an idea. The though-provoking, sentimentality in his work reminds one that there are many problems in our world while still managing to present a glimmer of hope for the future.
What kind of reactions have you received from the “Sweet Child Solos?”
Do people take away the right message from the concepts you’ve conceived in your work? If they don’t, do you lose inspiration to keep creating?