The Uncomfortable Zones Of Fun - February 2010

Frank Moore’s
The Uncomfortable Zones Of Fun
experiments in experience/participation performance

at Temescal Arts Center, Oakland, California
Saturday, October 22, 2011

Well, this one was like driving a bus!  Especially when we just did a performance last week and I really had not recovered.  I don’t mind driving a bus if we go to deep places, if the people are willing to risk themselves so we can go to unexplored territories.  At first it looked quite questionable.  There was a crip who wrote me a couple days before  wanting to study with me to learn how          to enjoy his life.  I told him that coming to the performance would be a great start.  But he wouldn’t come into the lights with the people even when I said that was where what he wanted was.  He finally left to avoid being a part of the rest of us in the lights! 

The first part didn’t look good.  A lot of no’s!  Then magic started happening!  Rigid fragile shells started to crack, letting new questions and possibilities into the hearts of the people which clearly will change lives radically.  The people did this incomprehensible miracle, not me the bus driver.  They did not hold on to the fragile shells.  They took personal responsibility for following the new possibilities although that threatened their usual frames of reality outside of the performance.  Of course I did tricks to make it possible for them to go from rigid perpendicular individuals to a tribal body of nude dancing kids enjoying moving together flowing realizing their beauty.  But they did it, were responsible for it!  Thank heaven…  I was so tired I didn’t get nude! 

Da Boyz and Erika

Linda said as we were setting up for this performance that it was like being home … especially after being away at the Center for Sex & Culture last week, which is a wonderful space.  Yes!  We have been at the Temescal Art Center for more than 2 years! 

People started arriving as we were putting the finishing touches on the space, putting up the light gels, etc.  Frank invited a man who had come early to sit down on the mats, but he declined … was it going to be that kind of performance?  A young man with a backpack was the first to come onto the mats, and Frank started talking to him, asking him about his t-shirt.  It was a t-shirt for two Burmese comedians who are jailed and suppressed for their act, which made comment on the Burmese government.  He went into some detail about it.  Frank asked him what kind of comedy they did, and he said that it was kind of a variety show, where they would sing, dance, tell jokes …   Frank said, “Funny, they [the East Bay Express] list this as variety …”   The guy seemed to get why, as if he had a feeling for the performance already … he said something like, “because you don’t know what’s going to happen next!” 

Frank asked him how he had heard about the performance.  He had seen a flier at University & Sacramento, just an hour and a half before.  He had not been planning to come to this, but decided on the spot.  As to what attracted him to it, he said that he liked that he didn’t know what to expect, what was going to happen, unlike TV, where you know the good guy is going to beat the bad guy, etc..  Frank said, “I am not TV.”  He said, “I can see that!”  And then added, “So, we will make our own stories, then …”   Frank replied, “We will see …”

Now Frank turned to the guy who had earlier declined to come onto the mat, but was now there with a woman with short blonde hair.  He had a ponytail and glasses.  Frank asked him how he had heard about it, and he had seen the listing in the East Bay Express, but had actually been to two of Frank’s performances, maybe 10-20 years ago.  As he remembered, one of them involved a kind of tent, and he was inside the tent, but he thinks his eyes were closed, and it was a very tactile experience … “The Cave”   The other memory was of an experience at the end of a performance that involved being wrapped up with everyone else in plastic and tin foil, and how everything moved when people moved beneath it, everyone connected … 

Frank turned to his companion, and asked if he had told her all about that?  She shook her head no … Frank said, “Now that you have heard that, what do you think?”   She said that it sounded interesting, but also scary.  Frank asked her, “Why scary?”   She replied that it was scary to think about interacting with people she didn’t know, and also not knowing what was going to happen …

Frank said that it is called “The Uncomfortable Zones of Fun”, and Linda and he went on to explain how the performance series had been called “Reality Playings”, but so many people would talk about their “comfort zones”, and not wanting to go outside of them, that Frank finally changed the name of the performance to screen out people who did not want to venture outside their “comfort zones”.  Hence, “The Uncomfortable Zones of Fun”!  

Frank said that the “tent” that the guy had described was a victim of old age … it was too hard and physically uncomfortable now for Frank to get down on a mat, which is where he was during the “tent” performance. 

He asked her, “What do you do?”  She said that for a living she manages an art supply store, and for fun she paints, and goes to challenging events like this … she said that she considers herself an explorer. 

Frank told her that he paints, and Linda pointed out the vinyls of his computer paintings of Toni, Falling In Love, and Let’s Twist Again, and “Shy”, which Frank was wearing on his t-shirt, and the oil painting of Frankenstein which Alexi was wearing …  Frank said that after he almost died last year, in the ICU for 6 weeks …  Linda described how he started painting on the computer as part of his rehab, unable to really do much else, unable to type at that point.  He had cranked out at least 10 paintings, but it slowed down when he was able to type again. 

Frank asked her what kind of challenging events she goes to, and she described a recent performance that she would put in the category of “kink”, which involved a photo tour of this artist having a piece of her flesh surgically removed, cooked and eaten by others.  And then live, she was suspended upside down, legs spread, with a tube going into her vagina.  They were serving “virgin marys” at this event, tomato juice & celery … and at some point they poured a real Bloody Mary drink through the tube into her vagina.  She said that the performance had to do with her going through this experience … 

Then she added, like tonight, she had just come from a sketch class where the model was dressed to the theme of “post-apocalyptic” … with leather, etc. …

Referring back to the first performance she described, Frank said, “And I get shit!”  He turned back to her friend, the guy with the ponytail, and asked him what he does.  He said that he is retired … Frank screamed!  “You are too young to be retired!”  He appeared very young.

He replied, “I have been very lucky…”   And then went on to describe that he does aerial dancing with trapeze, and comes to events like this …   Frank asked him what he wears when he does this dancing.  He said that he wears pretty much the kind of outfit he was wearing that night … he had on a button-down shirt and khaki slacks …

Frank asked him if it was like a circus trapeze, and he said that most of the time the trapeze is down very low, and he is mostly on the ground, using the trapeze from that height … but that he has done trapeze work up higher, with a safety net. 

Meanwhile, a couple of women had come in, and sat down on the mat.  Frank turned to them and asked how they had heard about the performance.  One of them had seen a flier at Ashby and San Pablo, and brought it home to show her partner.  When Frank asked what had attracted them to this, the first gal said that she likes theater … Frank asked her what kind of theater, and she said any kind, whatever she runs into …

Frank asked, “Do you act?”  She said no …   He asked her, “Would you act?”  She said she would possibly …  Her partner said that the performance had looked interesting, and they were wanting to get out of the house and do something together out of the house, that they don’t go out much … she said something like they wanted to go to an event, to meet other people and open their hearts and minds …

Frank asked her, “Would you undress the camera-man?”  She did a kind of double-take!  Then she asked, looking to Corey … “Does the camera man want to be undressed?”  Corey said, “Yes!”  She turned back to Frank again, asking, “Do you want me to undress the camera-man?”  Frank said yes!  So she went up to Corey to undress him …  While she was taking off his shirt, she asked him, “How far do you want to be undressed …?”  Corey said, “All the way!” 

Meanwhile, a young couple had arrived, and Frank started talking to them.  They had heard about the performance in some newsletter about events in the east bay. 

Frank asked the guy what he does, and he said that he is an artist, and works in a variety of mediums, sculpture, painting … in all styles from realism to abstract … he mentioned at some point that he was trying to find his voice …  Frank asked her if she models for him.  She said not really … she said that she had modeled for his sketches sometimes … he’ll sketch her sometimes when she is at her desk … 

Frank asked him if he would be her model.  She said, “What, and I would draw him?”

Frank said, “Who said anything about drawing?”  Frank went on to describe that she would undress him and dress him in the costumes and jewelry we had laid out, as her model. 

She said ok … but … gesturing to the artist as if to say it was up to him....  He looked extremely uncomfortable …   He said he wasn’t really comfortable doing that … Frank screamed!  And spelled out, “But this is the Uncomfortable Zones of Fun!” 

You could see that he was going through a lot of changes over it … and at some point, she announced that he would do it.  He said something along the lines of, “if this is what this is about …” he guessed he would do it … But he looked very tense!

Now, Frank turned to the guy he had first talked to, with the t-shirt.  Frank asked him what he does.  He said that he is a journalism student.  Frank said, “I started in journalism.”  “Oh yeah, like for a newspaper?” the guy asked. 

Frank replied that he started at the college paper, and underground papers. 

But not a minute had passed before the journalist then got up with his backpack and made a hasty exit!  Frank said to the crowd, “Not enough of a story …”

Meanwhile, the couple had not stood up to come over to the costumes to dress the artist up as her model … When Frank turned to them, she explained that he was really wavering over whether he wanted to do it or not …  

Frank suggested that she could get another model, and asked if the dancer/retired guy would be her model.  He said sure … But she said that her boyfriend, the artist, might not be comfortable with that!  Frank pointed out again that this was the “uncomfortable” zones of fun! 

But at this point, the artist said he would do it.  Frank said, “Great!”  They got up, and came over to the costume area, and she took off his clothes, and dressed him in different costume pieces and jewelry.  She was having a very good time, and laughing a lot!  He, however, looked very tense still, but he had made the jump!  While they were undressing and dressing, Frank talked to an older man who had come in and sat down at the back edge of the mat … we think he had seen a flier, and was attracted to it because he lived right in the neighborhood, and it sounded interesting … Frank asked him what he does, and he said that he is in software … Frank pressed him for more detail!  He said he does apps for Facebook, etc. 

Frank also asked if Erika could undress the retired guy, and dress him in the costumes and jewelry.  This might have been when Frank told everyone about Betty, and how she donated this jewelry knowing how it was used, that often a piece of jewelry might be the only thing someone was wearing at the performance!  

When they sat back down, Frank immediately noticed that the artist still had his underwear on, and asked about that.  The artist again said something about not feeling comfortable taking them off … Frank asked, “Why?”  The artist, obviously really going through it, said that he wasn’t sure .…  Frank asked him if he would take them off now.  He hesitated, but then said, “Well, I guess, if it is part of the experiment, I will …” Frank asked if she would take them off.  So his girlfriend took his underwear off, and then he sat back down, letting it all hang out!  Frank pointed out that it was his miniskirt that she had dressed the artist in! 

Frank asked the woman who had come with the dancer how she was finding this so far.  She said that she was “intrigued” and “proud” of the artist.  Frank asked her why she was proud, and she said because she knows that he must have struggled with letting himself be undressed and dressed in the costumes, and he went ahead and did it! 

Frank asked the artist, “How does it feel now?”  He said that he feels even more exposed with his underwear off than he already did, and that he had not expected to do this when he came to the performance, but that it was kind of liberating, and that he was ok with it, actually …  He said that he actually feels comfortable now.  Frank said, “Exactly.”

Frank said that what is called “comfort zone” is really “a fragile shell of fake control”.  Now, Frank said, the artist was in “flexible comfort”.  “Do you feel that?” Frank asked.

The artist said that he did, and he could relate to what Frank was saying in his own life right now …  He said he was going to art school right now …  Frank said, “Poor guy!”  Everyone laughed.  He said, “Thanks …”  He said that it was something he was pursuing, but it was the last thing that was helping him create his art, and he was battling a lot inside himself about it. 

Frank asked him about it, and he described how the classes are very rigid, and there are all these rules about creating art pieces, limitations, and the grading is really hard. 

Frank said that art does not have rules, unless it is traditional art …  

The artist went on to describe how they limit and define the kinds of materials and the way that the lines can be drawn and shaded, etc. … and the reasoning was that this was what would be acceptable in a professional context, that this was what they needed to know to get a job.  Frank said, “Ah … commercial art.” 

Frank then told the Mikee story, and also about being a guest lecturer at the University of the Art Institute of Chicago. 

Mikee thought he couldn't draw. His teachers in college had told him that he couldn't draw. His boss at his first graphic design job used to tell him he couldn't draw...and he bought into it. Frank, on the other hand, hearing that Mikee was a graphic designer, set him to work on various projects without even thinking about whether he could draw or not. He just assumed because Mikee was a graphic designer, he must be able to draw!  Sitting around the living room one day, admiring all of Mikee’s art on the walls, Frank asked him, "When did you realize you could draw?" Mikee looked around the room for a little while and pointed at one of the large, complex drawings and said, "I think it was after I finished that third big project for you." Frank was shocked!

So, when Frank lectured as a visiting artist at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, he plastered one side wall of the auditorium with Mikee’s drawings and posters and told the story of how Mikee thought he couldn't draw to the packed house of first-year students. At the end of it, he told them, "So quit art school and follow your own vision!".

Someone asked if Frank had ever been asked back?  No, he hadn’t … but there had been the threat of him being asked back regularly!  He had been invited out of the blue … offered $1,000 with all expenses paid to come out and lecture to the incoming art students.  It turned out that students had been requesting him for years, but the school bureaucrats had not wanted to bring Frank out.  But when teachers started requesting Frank, they had to agree … They told Frank that he had the space for three hours, but no one would have the attention span to stay for over an hour and a half.  When he started, Frank told the packed hall that the best stuff would happen after everybody left!  And no one left, and everyone stayed for three hours!  Then a bunch of teachers wanted to bring their classes to experience a Frank Moore ritual that was planned for just one teacher’s class!  And after that, they were so inspired, they wanted Frank to come back regularly, which made him a little uncomfortable!  But it wasn’t to be because later one of the teachers that participated in the performance freaked out that it had been taped by a woman who had hosted a number of Frank’s events across the country, even though she had gotten permission to record it ahead of time!

Now Frank wanted Linda to read “Masterpiece Life”, but it turned out that we did not have that writing in the binder … “Next time, we’ll have it!” Linda said.  So Frank asked Linda to describe the piece, and she did a great job!  Basically, it talks about different ways of approaching art, and how you can try to match perfectly the image you have in your head, seeing anything that doesn’t match your image as a mistake or a failure, and starting over or giving up … but the masterpiece art and life is one that frees itself of pictures and limits, and rather than see those things as mistakes, instead follows them, embraces them, lets them transform …

Somewhere in here, a guy that Frank had been corresponding with, Ben, arrived with a helper.  Ben has Parkinson’s, and had emailed Frank, wanting to meet with him and learn to live life more fully!  Frank asked him if he could come to this performance, because it would be a good start.  Now Ben was there, but sitting off to the side, on the risers … Frank asked him to come sit down on the mat, but his helper explained that he wanted to stay there, that he needed something with a back … Frank suggested a chair, and the helper said that Ben was tired, feeling unwell, so he would rather stay back there.  And it wasn’t much later that the two of them got up and left.  Frank told the audience about him, and said, “Poor Ben,” explaining why he had been there, but that he did not jump in. 

Frank also asked the two women if they would undress each other, and dress each other in the costumes/jewelry.  They both said no … Frank asked why …  One said she didn’t know …  The other, who had said she was into theater, said that she had not expected to do that, and she would rather be a “watcher”, referring back to Linda’s description of Frank’s ritual performance at the Art Institute of Chicago.  Linda said later she wished she hadn’t given her that word to use! 

So Frank asked if they would play music.  They said ok … but didn’t really ever get into it.  They picked out a few instruments and returned to their spot on the mat … Soon Frank asked the retired guy/ trapeze dancer if he would do a dance nude.  He said sure, and the two women tinkled around a bit on their instruments while he did a really great dance.  But we all said later that they had basically ended the dance by stopping the music, and he had just followed that, or else he probably would have gone on … And it wasn’t long after the nude dance that the two women got up and left also …

Now Frank asked if the artist would read Frank’s poem, “Art is a Bitch”.  He said sure, and Linda set him up next to Frank with Frank’s “Chapped Lap” poetry chapbook and the mic.  After he had finished the poem, there were tears in his eyes.  Frank asked him what he thought, and he said, “It speaks right to my soul … its encouraging … it makes me feel like somebody can relate to all the things I have been feeling for a long time …  It’s a great help to me.  Thank you.”

Frank said, “See what happened when you got out of your comfort zones?” 

The artist said, “I started feeling a lot better about myself, started feeling free, started feeling the possibilities again, instead of the limitations.”

Frank then told the story of how he took a painting class in college, but the teacher told him that he could not critique Frank’s work because he did not paint with his hands, but his head.  Frank said, “Think about that …”   Frank asked what did it matter how it was painted, why could he not critique what was on the canvas?  Pointing out the limiting nature of art school …

At some point Frank asked the woman who came with the dancer, the explorer, if she would undress Linda … She said ok, and did a very slow sensual undressing of Linda.  Linda said later that at one point she whispered sexily in Linda’s ear, “I love the shirt!”  Linda whispered back, “Goodwill!”

Frank asked the artist’s girlfriend if the artist could now undress her and dress her up in the costumes & jewelry.  She laughed a lot, and said something like, “Could we do something else?”  She expressed that she didn’t want to do it …  Frank asked why …  She said she didn’t feel like she could undress in front of all these people …  Frank asked her, “What if we don’t look?”  She laughed!  Finally, she said, “Ok…”  Frank told Corey not to shoot her with the video … and everyone turned the other way while the artist undressed/dressed her.  Meanwhile, Frank asked the explorer if she would read, “Wrapping/Rocking”, and she did, very expressively and softly.  When the artist was done dressing the girl, they sat down again, and the video etc. resumed.  Frank asked her how she felt, and she said she felt good, very elegant!  She liked her outfit!  Frank asked her to model it for everyone, and she stood up and did a quick little modeling session. 

Now, Frank asked if Erika and the explorer would undress each other and put on costumes, jewelry, etc.  She hesitated … the explorer asked Frank, “Are you sure you want to see that …?”  Frank said yes!  She thought about it more, and then softly said ok.  It felt like she risked a lot to do it, that there were age and body images etc. that she let go of, and that she really jumped.  She and Erika had a lot of fun undressing each other and dressing each other in the costumes and jewelry. 

Meanwhile, Frank and Linda told the story of going to the SF Art Institute, and how he had gone there to connect with other artists, but found that most of the other students mainly sat around depressed and drinking beer, and did not really even talk to Frank, teachers ignored him, etc.!  He got his “revenge” when a prestigious performance journal editor, Linda Burnham came there and recognized what Frank was doing as great performance art!  He had not even known the term performance art until he went to the Art Institute.  Frank said they did not ask questions there like, “Why do you do art?”  But more like, “What are the art trends?  How do you get grants?” 

Frank asked the artist what he loves about doing art …  The artist said he wants to “show people his inner self, and show other people their inner selves”, wants to show situations he sees in the world that move him toward making a difference and a change in people’s lives, and making a change in his own life.

“How does this fit into that?”  Frank asked.

The artist said that he was learning something about himself, and about his girlfriend, and everyone in here was going through an experience that could be expressed visually … if he could paint people’s emotions … He said that the things he did that were most successful were the things that he could not explain the inspiration for, that just come out of him.  Frank asked who the fuck could explain what inspires art?!

When Erika and the explorer sat back down again, Frank said to her, “What a sexy babe!”  And asked her how she felt …

She said that she had been fearful that Frank would come to her and ask her to undress, but that on the other hand there really wasn’t anything to fear, and that she was thrilled with the way Erika dressed her, loved the pearls! 

Now Frank asked the software guy if Erika and the explorer could undress him, and he said yes.  While they undressed him and dressed him up in net pants, jewelry and a net cape, Frank told the artist and his girlfriend that he has a “twin band”, an elastic double waistband that connects two people at the hip!  He asked them if they would dance together in it.  They said yes.  Frank asked Alexi to play music for their dance, and added, “Now this is my ‘uncomfortable zone’ …!”  Alexi playing music!  Mikee joined Alexi, and the couple danced around in the double waist-band, having fun … she laughing a lot!  The music was great! 

After a while, Frank asked if the two would switch their costumes, and it was up to them if they wanted to leave the waistband on while they did it!  They exchanged costumes, and she had a hard time getting this red velvet jacket off … “That damn jacket!” Frank said. 

Once they had switched costumes, and perhaps danced more, Frank asked everyone to sit back down on the mat, and come closer … He asked the explorer about the night, “Dangerous enough?”  She said yes.

Frank asked the artist if he could talk about the night.  He said yes, that he did not know what to expect, but that he was really glad to see that this was a place for an artist.  He said something like, since he met Frank, he found a great respect.  He was really happy to have come, and had a good time. 

Frank said that he jumped.  He said yes he did … “I went from a different spot when I came here, and I was transformed.”  Frank said the artist was transformed because he was willing to trust. 

Now Frank asked the artist’s girlfriend if she could talk about the night, and she said she had fun, and that they had done everything!  It was not what she had expected … she actually had been expecting an improv show, but did not realize that she was going to be participating in it!  And she said something like that it wasn’t just them either, that everyone did something, so they were all in this whole thing together.  Frank said, “And you changed [again], and we looked, and nothing happened!” 

Now Frank asked the software guy what he thought … he said he had never heard of Frank Moore before tonight, and had not known what to expect, but that Frank “is an amazing artist”.  He said that he was made extremely uncomfortable this evening, very very uncomfortable!  He said that the breakthroughs that he saw happen with other people there were miraculous.  He also said he tried to get his wife to come, but in the end she declined, not wanting to come to something that was billed as “uncomfortable” … next time he will bring her.  Frank asked him if she will “jump”.  At first he said they would have to see …  But when Frank asked him how long they have been married, and it was a long time, he thought again about it, and said that he thought that she would “jump”.  So Frank said that it was up to him to get her there!

The retired dancer said that there were three points that he was really moved by.  First, the artist’s “amazing courage” … Second, how beautiful his partner, “the explorer”, was dressed the way she was!  And third, the rocking poem … it had felt very familiar to him.  Frank and Linda told him that this was the poem that was being read during the performance he had mentioned attending, “Wrapping/Rocking” with the tin foil, paper and plastic wrapping everyone up together.  He said that when he heard the poem again, he started rocking, and “felt amazingly at home”.  And he thanked Frank. 

Now Frank asked Erika to talk about the night.  Erika said that it was fun dressing “the explorer” in the pearls, and that she had really enjoyed the moments when people said “yes”, and undressed and put on the costumes …

Now, Frank asked if everyone would model nude together.  Everyone agreed, and they took of their costumes and all stood together nude!  Then Frank asked if the would dance together, and everyone danced as the music played on … softly rubbing bodies together, dancing around each other nude … it was really amazing to see! 

And after a while, Frank said that was great … and then, “The End.”

People started getting dressed, getting ready to go … the artist and his girlfriend stayed sitting on the mat for a while …   Frank said to him at one point, “Don’t let them limit you.”  He went on to explain that even on the “money” level, the limits/rules do not work.  Those did not make you successful even on that level, in fact the opposite.  They talked about how Mikee, as a graphic designer, has certain skills, but that is not what draws clients to him, not what they like about working with him.  They told the story of how when Mikee started working with Frank, Frank told him to wear colorful comfortable clothes to work, which no one did.  But when Mikee started doing it, soon everybody was doing it, and it really changed the feeling there.  Then Mikee let his boss know that he needed to take an afternoon each week off for his session with Frank.  Again, no one there took time off like this.  But after Mikee did that, everyone else started doing that too, making time for things they needed to do.  In the end, his boss ended up giving all of her clients to Mikee, and going off to work with a shaman! 

Linda talked about how we don’t have a lot of money, but we always have enough, and don’t focus on money.  We have two houses, but have never focused on money, always been happy to have enough and to be comfortable, which means a lot. 

Frank gave the artist a copy of “Chapped Lap”, which you could see meant a lot to the artist!  He was very moved by it, and the whole night, and after a little bit, they also left. 

We were blown away, and Frank was tired!  Two performances in two weeks.  We talked a lot about how amazing it was that Frank got what he did out of the people who came … where at first it looked like what ended up happening could never happen!  Corey said he made gold out of charcoal!  Frank said that he felt like a bus driver!  We were amazed at the artist’s experience, and Frank said that it was possible that his girlfriend would expand also from the experience.  We were amazed how Frank so masterfully finally got her to take her clothes off!  A true master!

And we said later that what at first appeared like it might be a performance just about the journey of the artist, which would have been amazing in and of itself, turned out to be a transformative experience for everyone who stayed!  Corey said that people pay hundreds of dollars for “transformational” experiences with so-called “shamans”, and don’t get a fraction of what happens in these performances.

We packed up the set, ate popcorn, talking about the night.  Frank, Linda and Mikee made an early exit to get Frank home and resting, and we finished up, and were soon on the road too, ready for pizza!!

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Last modified November 3, 2011