Brandon LaBelle

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I am sitting in a chair

I sit in a chair and apply wood to it, while trying to remain seated. Over time, I try and disrupt my ability to sit comfortably, to problematize my position through the accumulation of wood. Microphones are attached to the chair and amplify the event. In addition, a video camera records the action and plays back through projection every five minutes, and then records again, thereby capturing the duration of the performance in multiple frames.

The work amplifies the tension of being in place: to explore how space and the body do not connect or complete the other, and how such a process may signify through noise, disruption, friction.

Performance at Activating the Medium festival
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
February 7, 2003

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Randy Yau (organizer): So, the performance is about 'time' and 'space'--and a chair. Can you elaborate on time and space--And how these elements relate to the added dimension of the chair and your body (action/video) becoming an object of transformation?

Brandon LaBelle: Time becomes the time of the performance as highlighted in the video—the video will form a composite that gets built up over time, and will signal the duration of the event; space gets articulated through the video as well, as a series of frames that implode on themselves—yet in turn, by emphasizing the chair as an object: building the chair, as a mutant form, is also about turning the chair into a different space, and therefore, how the body gets “fitted” into it.

Yau: What inspired you to take Alvin Lucier’s original work two steps further? As well as taking it from a pri
vate recorded situation to a public performance.

BL: Lucier’s work, particularly “I am sitting…” always fascinates me, simply because it brings the dimensions of sound, space, and the presence of the body, into play in a stimulating way; to refer to it in a way is simply a beginning—it has a conversation with Lucier, in a playful manner, as well as breaks off from it, to form something else, possibly by situating it within a public performance—to make public the body and the act. Also, for me the chair talks about the “power” of architecture, which I don’t think Lucier addresses—his is strictly a “phenomenal” interest (though there is the stutter…). The chair for me signals how architecture, or the forms of the built environment, situate the body, and through such situatedness causes it to function a certain way: the chair tells me how to sit. By transforming the chair, through a performative act, I’m also hoping to underscore it as a powerful and determining object. This is how I think of architecture…

Yau: What are your expectations of the audience?

BL: That they’ll think about the chair they are sitting in.

Yau: As a work that is specifically relative, in its context, to a previous work, what significance does it hold for those with no previous knowledge of this context?

BL: It really doesn’t matter whether they know Lucier or not—I think the piece, while making a reference, doesn’t rely upon it. If you know the work, then maybe you have a little private laugh to yourself, and think about it a little.