Preliminary Studies and Performance Art

The distinction between what is performance in Walker’s production and what counts as writing has been intentionally blurred. His work has never been based on the idea that writing itself is a kind of performance art. Rather, what we see in Walker’s less obviously performance art projects beginning in 1993 is a kind of sacrifice of written critique, a cancellation of its intended purpose to add to and be recognized as a contribution to some profession. A significant amount of this work is engaging professional behavior sets found in social anthropology, cultural studies, history, social work, science and technology studies, medical science, performance art, writing, and filmmaking. It is challenging the necessary realities of the professional universe, the very means of existence of so many overly professional practitioners in general.

This work included the following projects, selected in no particular order:

 

Syncretic Beings Labs (SBL)
(Writing, Video Art, Performance)

Experimental human resources contracting, mostly for the US Department of Defense, is the job of the Syncretic Beings Labs (SBL). The ostensible goal of SBL is to create culturally resistant, syncretic beings for employment, research, and citizenship. SBL especially looks to refashion failed or broken syncretic beings created by higher education and other state personnel. These failed or broken beings are designated “synbedevels,” short for syncretic beings in development. SBL had for decades hoped to refashion and develop a syncretic being who would be able to assume the leadership of SBL itself. This hope was realized in 2010 when Drew Walker became SBL’s director.

From 1996 to 2010, Walker’s ethnographic and philosophical performance work supported by SBL involved an in-depth series of studies of aesthetic and scientific careerism involved in the use and abuse of what might be called state authority. This has included kinds of existential immersion and adaptations of identity needed to advocate for those with Alzheimer’s disease, to lead a campaign for a US congressional seat, and help drive other state-funded exercises in futility. Much of this work is reproduced online in the form of quasi-science-fictional research and industrial entities related to SBL. A series of traces concerning this work are linked below.

Since his takeover as director, SBL has been pursuing different strategies than it had previously.  These strategies are centered around the development of Walker as an emerging artist and its use in pursuing the new goals of SBL.

 

 

Naming the Cause          


A science fictional plot combined with an alternate reality and history underlie my doctoral dissertation for Columbia University’s Department of Anthropology. A character named Gabriel confronts “the Cause” in the form of Alzheimer’s disease with a plan to thwart a cure and save what he sees as the secrets to the universe contained in delirium and dementia.

 

What We Were Told To Do

 

Being flown from Berlin to Chico, CA, this performed allegorical piece served as what is known in academic anthropology as a “job talk.” This performance had only one question from a faculty member. He no less smugly than simply said “What?” This act verbally confirmed this piece as an allegory of academic discipline.

 

Engineering Syncretic Beings

 

Ancestor Ball  (1998)
Fiber Materials, Plastic, Papiér-mache
1 inch (2.5 cm) in Diameter

A fetish figure is created out of a variety of fibers that subtly respond to their environment, including human interaction, as well as to aging. A performer urges a group of science and technology studies scholars to consider a new hybrid of anthropology and neuroscience.

 

Beyond the Living and the Dead

 

As a part of a panel for the annual American Anthropological Association meetings, the audience is urged to discard their notions of the living and the dead, and opt for a third concept of changing forms of pre-human, human, and post-human development.

 

Uprising of the Garden Gnomes

 

Berlin 1993 is the original site for this series of performances that ethnographically engage not only small garden colonists and people on the street, but also engage forms of upper-middle-class faux elitist tendencies. Maybe so few will accept being considered a gnome precisely because so few are able to accept their own absurdity as social and political actors.

 

Ruins of the Great Beyond

 

Berlin’s Volksbuehne is the venue for an enthusiastically fan-based consideration of symbolism linking outer space and racialized ancestors. In the film Cocoon as well as in the work of Sun Ra, new forms of symbolism are set to confront the process of becoming cooly ancestral. Yet, it is allegory (and not symbolism) that is needed to confront histories of pervasive racism.

 

Oily Sinclair

 

This is a document containing material for a performance piece first performed in 1995.

It emerges from my time with a water spirit healer in the Niger Delta, near Port Harcourt, Nigeria, and weaves back through my own personal and family history.

 

The Senility of Lenin

 

After suffering from a series of debilitating strokes, Lenin’s vision of development was being pushed aside by the work of the Stalinists. Lenin was confined to his bed and wheelchair, his only political direction being affirming the importance of a written point or opinion with the Russian word “vot!” (“that’s it!” .) Is this the origin of a kind of Marxist praxis that has mistaken Lenin’s disability for a kind of senility or dementia? Do we really know about his cognitive state during this time, or does it matter?

 

Telling Relations

 

In the center of a parlor a woman is sitting in a chair, her arm is moving up and down at her side accompanied by a metronome beat, at the rate of a grandfather clock and, as she moves her arm, watching her arm as it moves, she is saying “up-down, up-down, up-down…”

 

Plantation and Collection 

 

This is a document containing material for a performance piece first performed in 1994.

It describes the imaginary and dream world of a white, middle-aged collector of what she sees as both slave memorabilia and reminders of her own (Lithuanian) ancestors.

 

Angelus Novus Africanus

 

 

Bataille’s Eyes

 

This is a document containing material for a performance piece first performed in 1994.

Much of my work on the issues of the first-person (“I”) can be related to the time when I was developing this.

 

Empire of the Second Spear

 

This is a document containing material for a performance piece first performed in December 1993.

It covers work I had done two years earlier in Gunma Prefecture, Japan where I was hanging out with a local group of practitioners from a Shinto shrine at the foot of Mount Akagi.