Without you…

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Garrett Royce Kovaks, “Without You, There Would Only Be Me”

I keep forgetting to tell you how Garrett Royce Kovaks’ live-in gallery experiment ended up (you know, the one where he started out butt naked). I walked through the doorway of the Laverne Krause Gallery on Friday and discovered the Great Wall of Cardboard rising before me.

The forbidding construction was a stark reversal from Kovaks’ nude kick-off on Monday morning, when he was enthusiastically asking passersby to come back with much-needed supplies. On the other side of the new wall, a fully clothed Kovaks was sitting with a friend. He looked up with puffy, tired eyes and seemed to swallow a moment of frustration at my intrusion on his conversation.

“I woke up this morning to KVAL’s news cameras in my face, asking me for an interview,” he said wearily.

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I’d checked in on Kovaks on Wednesday, when he was still in social mode and learning how to use a toilet that someone brought him. Now there was a bookshelf, a garbage bin, a house plant, a sitting room, a giant painting, a pantry nook, a TV room, a wall of business cards, and even soft music playing in the background. Kovaks had stayed up until 5 am constructing his little house, and the fatigue wasn’t doing him good.

“I keep trying to have important conversations with my girlfriend,” he said. “But it’s kind of hard when people are constantly walking through.”

How ephemeral it must have felt, sitting there like a zoo animal as countless visitors peered in, knowing that in a few hours he would have to tear it all down. Now that he’d created this world, what more was there to do but destroy it and return to things like class schedules and girlfriends? The performance was finished, the statement had been made. As he’d said from the beginning, the piece was really more about the public than it was about him.

“I think I might take a nap later,” Kovaks said. I imagine that after it was all over, he took a little more than a nap. Without us, there would only be him… and maybe sometimes that can be a good thing.

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