Relations with Ramble
Words: Daniel Stephen Johnson
Images courtesy Bent Duo
and Le Petits Versailles
I saw this call for performances at Le Petit Versailles, and we proposed a different project there that was going to include new work, which we hadn’t thought much about. They were really into the group and into the general project, and we wanted to do something that was site-specific and involved the garden in some way. They’ve got a long history as a queer-run space, so it seemed like the right place for it.
When some of the other things we were going to do didn’t come to fruition, we were just like, wellp, instead of doing other works – we were going to do a Cage piece, and then a piece by one of our friends in L.A., and some other stuff – let’s just do our own! This is the perfect place to do our own piece. And thinking about the garden, we were thinking about outdoors and we were thinking about summer, and it naturally led to cruising.
We talked about, in making our own work, doing stuff that involves the audience in some way, doing things that aren’t typical. You know, we’re a piano/percussion duo in spirit, but we hate trying to find places with pianos, and I’m tired of schlepping percussion gear all over the place, so a lot of things came together. This garden definitely does not have a piano, and… have you been there before?
Many times! I know the people who run it.
It’s a cool, tiny place. I used to play in this German cabaret group a long time ago, and we did a show there, which was fun, and we brought a keyboard in – I was playing piano for them at the time – and it seemed like a nice place to try to do something that could allow the audience to roam about, and create something where they can discover things. That’s where the idea of Ramble and this “cruising piece” came about.
What is cruising? How would you describe it?
Hmm… that’s a good question, actually. I can’t say I’m a “cruiser,” because it’s not something I’ve necessarily had a lot of experience with.
It’s sort of a seeking-out, checking your area, looking for who else may or may not be available for sex. So there’s a hunt that is on, and a looking for knowing glances. I think you’re paying attention to small but specific cues. And other people, either in their body language – if your eyes linger, if you’re in certain spaces, if you have a handkerchief in a certain place – there’s some sort of cue that this person is available for cruising. That’s half the thing, that whether you’re in a park, or if you’re at a bar or walking around the sidewalk, you’re on the hunt for other people, seeing and sending out those cues as well—a sort of reciprocation.
It’s not just about the sex itself; it’s the moment leading up to it. You could cruise and bring someone back to your place. It doesn’t have to be in a park. We’re choosing to set ours in a park, and thinking about the Ramble, which of course was a famous cruising spot, but it could really be anywhere. It’s really about seeking out available partners.
But it’s important that it has a public aspect to it, that it takes place in public spaces.
How would you describe the materials of the piece? Without spoiling anything…
Specifically thinking about the space—as you know, it’s not huge, so we want to limit the number of people who can be in the space at the same time. If it’s crowded, you’re not going to get a sense of exploration, so we only want to allow a few people in at a time, in which people can come to the space and explore.
We’re going to put some sound installations in the space that may or may not be going all the time – maybe come in quietly; maybe there’s activity – and then maybe an audience member will stumble across a performer, and depending on certain factors, there may be a small performance that happens just for you. So there’s this private sort of thing, but you can watch someone else have a performance in a corner, so there’s possibly an aspect of voyeurism also.
What happens in the performances—maybe I’ll leave that to the audience’s experience. David and I, as performers, will be doing different things at different times, based on different circumstances, so we’re really taking cruising as sort of a form, in which to insert all these private performances, with small things that can happen in it.
And maybe you come into the space, and nothing happens for you, and that was the thing about cruising that’s kind of fun: there’s no guarantees. You stumble across something, and maybe it’s really exciting, maybe it’s boring, so, you know, maybe you don’t like it and so you walk away. This will be our first go at it, to get a sense of how the audience chooses to engage with the environment and how we appear to them as performers.