Pretend to Die (After James Lee Byars)

Project Arts Centre, Dublin

One-night performance exhibition with Three Actors: Moira Brady Averill, Tiny James, and Megan Riordan. Presented on July 17, 2014, during the opening reception of the exhibition, "The Centre for Dying on Stage #1" curated by Kate Strain.

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Text from flyer distributed at the event:

In Spring 2014, as part of James Lee Byars: I Cancel All My Works at Death at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), the curatorial duo of art historians, Triple Candie, hired actors to intermittently ‘pretend to die’ during the opening reception.

The performances were live-action editorials. The actors – all adults including a man who looked elderly – were instructed to pretend to die as a child might, dramatically, in a manner that called full attention to the act. The first death occurred in MOCAD’s crowded cafe/bar area. The second, 45-minutes later, occurred in the hallway between the entrance and the book store. After that, the museum’s director requested that the final ‘death’ be restricted to the gallery where the exhibition was housed owing to concern that the deaths were upsetting to visitors.

The title of the performances – Pretend to Die – combined two dominant aspects of James Lee Byars’ art. He called his performances, or actions, ‘plays’ to conjure up both the imaginary and scripted events, as if for the stage. Some were meant to exist only in the viewer/ participant’s imagination (such as Pretend to Fly, 1969), while others Byars enacted in spaces that were adjacent or peripheral to the art world (such as the street in front of a museum). Death was a common theme in these works. His Play of Death (1976), for instance, lasted mere seconds and was performed from 13 hotel balconies in Cologne’s main square.

The way Pretend to Die occurs tonight is in marked distinction to how Byars would have had it. His deaths were quiet, regal, and ceremonial. While theatrical, they were never dramatic.

6:18pm: Death by laughter standing by the bookstore
actor: Megan Riordan
6:59pm: Death by fright standing next to box-office in the foyer
actor: Tiny James
7:26pm: Death by peanut seated at a table in the foyer
actor: Moira Brady Averill



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