Hangin’ in the gallery (NSFW)

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Garrett Royce Kovaks, “WITHOUT YOU THERE WOULD ONLY BE ME”

“Could you stand over there and pretend like you’re writing?” my friend Jenna said to the nude Garrett Royce Kovaks, adjusting the focus on her camera.

“You want me to pretend to do something?” Kovaks said, laughing in disbelief. “What do I get in return?”

“I’ll bring you food or something,” said Jenna. A while later, she seemed frustrated. “You’re looking posed right now, that’s not what I want!”

“But you told me to come over here!” said Kovaks, exasperated. “Do you want the truth or something else?”

It was only about 45 minutes into his performance art exhibition at the Laverne Krause Gallery, and Kovaks was already experiencing the unique challenges of completely opening yourself up to the whole wide world.

At around 11 am on Monday, Kovaks shed his clothes and stood on the cold tile floor of the Laverne Krause Gallery. Until Friday, he’ll rely on the kindness of gallery visitors for all of his needs, from food and tinkling (he’ll be locked in at night, so someone brought him a bucket) to clothing. Kovaks says the piece is meant make us more aware of “these objects you bring with you and how they influence communication,” or maybe get us to ponder the psychology of giving to those less fortunate.

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But, at least at its outset, the message was entirely swept away by the spectacle, and Kovaks seemed to feel it. He’d already been visited by representatives from two different media outlets, and now an insistent photography student was asking him to “pose.” When you do something extreme that might make an interesting visual, flashbulbs quickly follow.

Oh, performance art, why do you constantly provoke me? I suppose that’s mostly the point- or if it’s not, artists are doing a pretty good job of it lately. Did you see that headline about the artist who gave birth in a New York gallery? Even the wonderful Marina Abramovic has run into some trouble lately. Turns out asking your subjects to put up with medieval torture and lie naked under human remains might be considered exploitative rather than avante garde.

Once I got past the shock value, though, there was something heartwarming about Kovaks’ piece. A young lady wandered into the gallery while I was there. She saw Kovaks and gave a little jolt. Then she haltingly stumbled around the other pieces on show, sending the naked man wary sidelong glances while he scribbled his experiment’s rules on the walls with a pen someone had given him.

Eventually, the girl ended up right in front of Kovaks. “Are you going to be in here all week?” she asked timidly, standing slightly sideways.

Kovaks turned and fixed her with a warm smile, a gentle, hairy giant in his birthday suit. “Yes, and I’m depending on you to help me out,” he said. What will happen to Kovaks? Will he sleep on cold tile tonight? Will he starve? Will someone eventually lend him a sock, at least? It’s all up to you and me.

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6 comments
  1. Melissa said:

    “a gentle, hairy giant in his birthday suit.” Beautiful description Jordan. This is an interesting post and very interesting art indeed. However, I feel like he needs to have a grander, more pronounced message and to do something a little more unique than just standing there doing what he’s told by an audience. Anyone can do that. I’d be a little embarrassed, especially pooping, but besides the concept of his nudity and dependency on others, what makes him unique? If I had any money or food to spare (and trust me, I don’t, I’m in grad school), I’d first be compelled to share it with someone that actually needed it.
    The again, perhaps I’m behind a bit harsh behind the veil of the internet, in person I would think this but I most assuredly would not speak it.

    • Thanks, Melissa! Yes, his message could be clearer, and more compelling. It’s that whole problem I wrote about in the post “Hello, you will paint me now.” Nowadays, all the performance artist has to do is… nothing besides stand there and expect his audience to work for him. I think Garrett redeems himself a little by adding that element of interaction and collaboration. Someone brought him a pen, so he started scribbling on all the walls. At least by the end of the week, his “bare” show will look like a real piece of art.

      • Melissa said:

        I hadn’t thought of the end product, it will indeed have a story and meaning behind it that no one will ever be able to fully understand because each person there only has one part of the story.

    • Garrett Royce Kovacs said:

      “If I had any money or food to spare (and trust me, I don’t, I’m in grad school), I’d first be compelled to share it with someone that actually needed it.”

      Congratulations, you figured it out. And all without a pronounced message.
      One of the main points of the show was to get people to question why they may or may not want to contribute to the piece. I was obviously not in any actual “need” for any of the things that were contributed. Over such a short duration, and given the circumstances, I would have been perfectly fine and healthy even if no one had contributed anything (food included). Participants contributing to the show were not donating to my needs, they were contributing to a collective work questioning the societal “need” for luxury.

  2. Garrett Royce Kovacs said:

    Hey Jordan,
    I wanted to say thinks for your interest in the show and for your company over the course of the week. Sorry if you are in any way disappointed that the body paint never ended up on a body.
    kudos on the blog; it is nice to see a site relaying Eugene’s art scene, and I’m flattered that you chose to cover my piece.
    cheers,

  3. Garrett,

    Absolutely no disappointment here! Your piece was glorious. I blogged yesterday about how it all turned out, if you want to take a look at that post: https://onestepbigshot.wordpress.com/2011/11/23/without-you/
    Would you mind writing a little reflection on how it all went for my Talkback page? What was your favorite moment? Your biggest frustration? What are your thoughts on media (over)exposure? How long did you sleep the night after it ended?
    If you have time to respond, you could send it to me at eddy-at-uoregon.edu and I’ll post it up! 🙂

    Thanks so much for the adventure,
    Jordan

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