The Uncomfortable Zones Of Fun - December 2011
The Uncomfortable Zones Of Fun - December 2011

Frank Moore’s
The Uncomfortable Zones Of Fun
experiments in experience/participation performance

at Temescal Art Center, Oakland, California
Saturday, January 7, 2012


I like challenges!  But when they make this commitment to one another before coming to the performance:  “they had actually agreed ahead of time that they would not take their clothes off at the performance”…  Well, wonder why they came to something that they felt the need to make such a vow for!  This even goes more for those who belong to the cult of shrinks who have signed a loyalty oath to the established order!  Don’t get me wrong.  I like their coming!  I like challenges!  But then when they get righteous, then complained about nothing much happened!  And they said they came to give up control in order to get to spontaneity!  And of course they blamed me for their experiencing nothing much happening.  In reality a lot happened!.  Hot musical duets…  Undressing…  Shyness faded!  Of course there was much more that could have happened.  I remained dressed!  Need I say more? Going on a long trip without your husband to cure the boredom with him!  Saying you are too tired to give yourself or to have fun!  Saying WELL, YOU CAN GET INTIMACY OR WHATEVER WITHOUT NUDITY [remember, intimacy is the state of being together without boundaries or limits; so it is possible to have intimacy without nudity IF THERE IS A  WILLINGNESS TO DO WHATEVER IT TAKES… So if someone says WELL, YOU CAN GET INTIMACY WITHOUT NUDITY, that means that nudity is definitely needed if you want real intimacy].  

Da Boyz and Erika

There were two early birds who arrived at around 7:15 … they said they would come back, and they did!  This couple turned out to be two of the more willing participants of the night! 

People started coming in right around 8pm … the first to arrive was another couple … she asked, “What happened to the audience?”  Frank and Linda told them that they were it, so far!  Come on in!  They came in and took a place on the mats, and Frank encouraged them to look through the free stuff … she ended up taking some stuff.  As we finished setting up, getting all the gels on the lights, a cluster of people were forming at the entrance, looking at the materials on the table at the entrance … more and more people came as things got underway.  At the peak, Alexi counted 22 people, which we talked about later as being a lot!  Because most everyone stayed for most of the performance, Frank had a full plate, a lot of ground to cover!  In addition to the first couple, there were a trio of girls who came in right at the beginning, a German film student, a young sax player, the early bird couple, a couple both dressed in black who sat at the back of the room, a couple of girlfriends who came in a little late, and sat behind the first couple, three girls who came in and sat in a back corner, a guy who had been to burning man, and a young woman who sat near him, and a guy in a green sweater and glasses who also came in later, friend of the German film student … at the end of the night, there was a black dockworker just off his 10-hour shift, and a guy who works security at Frank Ogawa Plaza in Oakland, who both came in at around the same time … There was also another guy with short black hair and glasses who came in late, and sat closest to the couple in black. 

Frank started by talking to the first couple to arrive, asking how they heard about the performance.  They had seen it on SFFunCheap.com, and a bunch of other people chimed in that they had seen it there too!  The mic got passed around the room, each person saying where they had heard about the performance.  A bunch of people had seen it on SFFunCheap … the mic made its way over to the trio of girls, and Frank talked to them next, asking the one in the middle what had attracted her to the performance?  She was in graduate school, where everything was very structured, and she was looking for an experience to reconnect her to the spontaneous side of herself, open things up, to remember who she was outside of the academic context.  Frank said, “You came to the right place.  How did you know?”  She said that she didn't really know, but followed an instinct.  Frank had asked her what she studied, and she said she was in school for social work.  Frank said that it was funny, the performance before last had several professors of social work, and Linda described how the professors had talked about the experience of preparing students for that field, and the attitudes and focus of the students nowadays. 

Frank then talked with her friend to her left, an Asian girl who said that she liked the idea of “uncomfortable” … she said something along the lines of that it showed her parts of herself that she might not normally be aware of.  When Frank asked her how uncomfortable she wanted to be, she said that she didn't know, and then added that she felt comfortable with her ability to recognize when something was too uncomfortable, and being able to stop, and not be hard on herself for making that decision.  Frank asked her what she does, and she talked about liking a lot of physical movement … dance, yoga, surfing … she said she had gone on a 13 mile hike that day, so she was a little sleepy ...

When Frank asked the third friend the same questions, she said she had wanted to spend time with her friends, but also liked the idea of “uncomfortable”, and said that she was currently exploring personally how she can turn anxiety into excitement.  When she feels something uncomfortable or new, unknown, her heart rate will climb, she will get hot, sweaty palms …   Frank said, “Sounds good!”  She said yes, that this was what she was working on, seeing that as excitement rather than a negative anxiety … She also said that is a graduate student in psychology, working on her dissertation, and also a therapist.  Frank asked her what her dissertation was about, and she talked about the use of the drug Ecstasy in therapy.  There was a murmur from the audience, the guy of the early bird couple was interested in being a subject of her research!

Now Frank returned to the first couple … what had attracted her to the performance?  She talked about looking to do something different, because she has been doing the same things in her life for too long, and was feeling stuck.    She said that she was about to go to Guatemala to go backpacking, which was a little scary, because she didn't know the language, had never been there, and would be by herself.  But she was looking for something new, she felt stuck in her work, stuck in her marriage …   Frank looked at the two of them and asked, “So he is not your husband?” 

She replied, “Yes, he is. He knows all about this ...” Frank asked the husband why he was not going with her.  He said, “I was not invited.  And I have work obligations, I would not be able to go ...” Frank asked him how he felt about her going.  He said he was ok with it … She said, “This is like marriage counseling!”  Frank said that he did relationship counseling for years!  She said that she didn't think people here are going to be very interested in their relationship issues.  Frank said, “I bet they are!”  And there was a unanimous murmuring of agreement. 

At this point, we think the girl of the early bird couple broke in and wanted to ask a question of the couple … she wanted to know their age difference.  They said it was 19 years difference.  She asked the woman if she felt that this was a problem for the relationship.  She replied that this was something that if it were a problem, they would have realized it right away.  She had said that they had been together for 12 years, and married for 5 years. 

Frank asked if she would still need to go away if he were going along with her.  She said that this wasn't about him, it was about her … so in the end, she said that she would still need to go away by herself. 

We think Frank now talked with the early bird couple … she said her “sort-of boyfriend” found it online because he's “cheap”!  She said she was attracted to it because she has always liked theater, has done some theater, but had a real problem with stage fright because she is actually very shy, although people often don't believe that.  She said that she had considered acting, performing as a career, but at a certain point wondered why do something that makes you feel so much pressure, so uncomfortable. 

Frank asked the boyfriend what had attracted him to the performance.  He said that he lives in San Francisco, and was looking for something new, different, to do because he has gotten kind of jaded, he rarely sees anything that is new, that could make him uncomfortable … he saw a woman fall through a glass window recently, “and that was pretty cool” …  Frank asked him, “Will you undress Linda?”  He was taken aback for a second, and his girlfriend, “shy” said something like, “I don't know if I'm comfortable with that!”, but he said sure … Now?  Yes.  He got up and Linda got up and he undressed her, and then sat back down.  Frank asked him, “How was it?”  He said that he was blushing!  But he added that he didn't actually feel uncomfortable …

Frank asked him if he and Erika would undress each other and dress each other up in the costumes.  He hesitated for a minute again, but then said ok.  “Shy” said, “He'll do anything!”  So he and Erika went over to the costume area and started undressing each other.  When she got down to his undies, he had little tight boxers with fruit loops all over them!  Frank said he liked them!  Erika dressed him up in a net skirt, Hawaiian jewelry, a boa, tassels on his ears, and he requested the cravat skirt too.  Meanwhile, Frank asked “Shy” if she would come up and read one of Frank's poems at random.  She said ok, and sat next to Frank, and picked out, “Locked In/Locked Out”, and read it with a lot of passion, a really amazing reading!  We said afterward that the poem obviously really spoke to her.  When she had finished, and he was sitting back down again, Frank asked him how he felt.  He said that he felt good … he said he had to admit that he was a little uncomfortable about taking his clothes off in front of other people, but it felt good to do it and get past it.  He had been a little self-conscious of his hairiness.  At first Frank thought he had said, “His area” … and wondered what area he was talking about?  But when he repeated that he meant his being hairy, Frank said, “I thought that was supposed to be sexy.”  And “shy” chimed in, “I think it is!”  And added, “But nowadays, everyone is shaved, and guys shave their chests and backs, etc. ...” 

Frank now turned to the German film student (and this is how we found out that she was a German film student!) … he asked her how she had found out about the performance.  A friend of hers had told her about it, but now he wasn't there!  She said to be honest she didn't really know where she was, had come at his invitation, and had only been in the area for about a week from Germany.  She was studying film at UC Berkeley.  Frank and Linda told her about the Beau Picasso New Year's Eve celebration in Munich, which featured an homage to Frank in the form of a screening of “In The Mess”, which Frank shot on video in the 80s.  Frank and Linda described how it was a performance at UC Berkeley, in one of the classrooms with Frank and another gal, nude on the floor on a big piece of plastic, covered in chocolate, whipped cream, sugar, sprinkles, etc., by Mary the chef, nude except for her apron!  Then the three of them writhed together “in the mess”!  Frank asked her what kind of film she studies, and she talked about studying an Austrian film-maker who makes what she called “essay films”, films that are self-reflexive, that are sort of films about films …  Frank said, “Like this ...”   She seemed to agree. 

Next Frank turned to a young man in a studded leather jacket.  He had seen the flier at San Pablo and Ashby, and was attracted to it because he is a musician, and often finds himself in uncomfortable situations playing music because of his style and approach.  Sometimes the way he plays makes other people he is playing with uncomfortable.  But he likes that feeling, and felt like this could be a place to explore that, to improvise, etc.  Frank asked him if he would do a duet with Frank.  Did he have an instrument with him?  Yes, he had his saxophone.  Frank and Linda told him about Frank's duet with Vinnie Santino of SPIT, how they had recorded it in Vinnie's studio in LA, Frank vocalizing with Vinnie playing the sax. 

At some point earlier, Frank had asked the psychologist and her friend the social work student, if they would exchange clothes.  The psychologist said she would. But limited it to the over-clothes …   Frank asked her if she thought that is what he meant.  She said no, she didn't think so …  So Frank asked again if they would do it, and she said, “No ...”   When Frank asked why, she said that they had actually agreed ahead of time that they would not take their clothes off at the performance.  She added however that because she is a therapist, she has to maintain a certain mode of behavior in all areas of her life, which obviously meant that she could not take off her clothes in public.  The social work student said that she was having a hard day, and didn't really feel like taking her clothes off. 

We think then that Frank asked if the gal sitting behind the married couple would exchange clothes with Erika.  He had not actually talked with her before this point.  She had come in a little later than the others with a girlfriend, and they had appeared to be really enjoying the performance.  She said a big loud, “No!”  Frank asked her why.  First she said that their clothes wouldn't even fit each other.  Then she added that she felt that “nudity was not necessary for insight”. 

So back to where we were!  Once Frank had set up the duet with Jason the sax player, he also asked if the Asian girl and “Shy” would undress and put on the costumes.  She said ok, sure she would do it … she agreed with the other girl who was saying that there was nothing really special about nudity, that people think its a big deal, and that it reveals something, but all it reveals is the skin beneath the clothes … but she would do it, she didn't think it would be very interesting …   Frank said, “I don't care about 'interesting'.  It is the last thing I care about!”  She asked what he cared about then.  He said, “Intimacy.” 

The “shy” girl basically verbalized her whole thought process around Frank's request.  She didn't really feel like getting undressed in front of people, but on the other hand, it was about going past your boundaries, going past what feels uncomfortable … on one hand, she didn't necessarily think it was necessary, but on the other hand, why not?  So fuck it!  Frank said, “That is the key to life.  I always say, 'Fuck it!'”

So the two of them went over to the costume area, and Linda pointed out that the jewelry had mainly come from Betty, and told everyone about Betty and how she came to be part of the tribe! 

So while Frank and Jason did a great duet, the two girls undressed each other, having a great time, and dressed each other up in the costumes and jewelry.  After they had finished, they gave each a big hug and went back to sit down.  After the duet, Frank said to Jason, “You're hired!”  Frank and Linda told him that Frank's regular musicians had not been showing up for a number of performances. 

Now Frank turned to the Asian girl and asked her how she felt.  She thought for a moment, and said that she actually felt “angry”!  “Why?” Frank asked.  She basically said that she felt “silly” … Frank asked, “And what if it is silly?”  She said something in acknowledgment, but really just continued with what she was saying … So she had undressed, and everyone could see her body, so what, she didn't really mind that, but what now?  People think it is such a big deal … like having sex with someone is supposed to make everything deep and real, but you have sex, and then what … as if that is the end all, and everything stops there, and people think that is all there is, but it really is just the skin, just the surface.  But people just stop there.    Frank asked her, “Do you think that we are stopping there?”  This seemed to break up what she had been getting into, and she said, “No ...” and that she was glad …   And then she said something like, “I guess if I look at the actual experience of it, it was fun, and I guess I could leave it there.”

We said later that it seemed obvious that her return to sit with her two friends who had not been willing, and with whom she started talking to right away as soon as she sat down, had a lot to do with changing her experience of the undressing.  She had obviously really enjoyed it a lot while she was doing it … and then it had turned into “anger”.  Linda said it was like what Frank's warning sign says, but in this case, it all happened right there during the performance, not after the performance. 

Frank asked “Shy” how she felt.  She said that she did feel uncomfortable taking her clothes off in front of everyone, but ultimately she felt liberated and had fun.  She said that she has always had issues with the way her body looks, and she also puts a lot into the way she dresses, wanting to look cool, so having these funky things put on her challenged that, but she let that go, and it was just fun.  Frank said that everyone has the same self-consciousness about their bodies, no matter what their body looks like … except for him! 

Frank turned to a young woman who was sitting near the back, and asked her how the performance was so far.  What we mainly remember of what she said is that she had come late, and she would try to be on time next time, so she had missed it, and didn't really have much to say about it.  Frank told her, “It is not over yet!”

He also talked to the guy who was friends with the German film student.  He had come in late, and Frank asked him how he had heard about the performance.  He said, “Somewhere online …” He couldn't really remember where … Frank said, “And I guess you don't remember what attracted you to it either?”  He laughed.  He said something along the lines of that it had looked different, unusual … 

Then Frank turned to the couple in the back wearing black.  He asked the guy how he had heard about the performance and what attracted him to it.  He answered that he had seen it in SFGate, and was attracted to it because it sounded like it would be “erotic fun”.   Frank asked him, “How is it so far?”  The guy replied, “Actually, it kinda sucks.” 

Frank asked why.  The guy said that it was not what he thought it was going to be, and that the nudity was not consensual.  The “shy” girl chimed in saying that she did not see anyone who did not want to take off their clothes being made to feel that they should, or that there was anything wrong with their choice.   He tried to backtrack, explaining that it wasn't that the people who took off their clothes were not consenting, but that he was sure that not everyone there consented to see nudity.  “Shy's” boyfriend said, “What makes you think you can speak for everyone here, that you know what we are thinking?” 

Frank said he would think that anyone who did not want to see nudity would just leave.  The guy replied, as if it made his case, “And some have!”  A guy sitting next to him, who we had not heard from up to this point, took the mic and said to the guys, “It sounds like you came here with a lot of expectations.” 

The guy kept defending himself, saying that the description of the performance was all about nudity and erotic … but this was not like other events that they have gone to, where everyone is consenting to what is going on. 

Now the girl who wouldn't exchange clothes with Erika chimed in as well, “Were you expecting a sex party, like a swinger's party?!”  He said, “No, not at all ...” But it didn't ring very true!  Now he started to crumble, saying, “Now listen, I don't know, I, I, sometimes people don't understand what I'm trying to say … look I just came to be entertained, and it’s alright, it’s ok so far ...”  

Frank asked him what other kinds of events they have gone to.  He mentioned nude beaches, nudist colonies … and then said that his partner didn't want him to talk about any other things that they attended. 

At some point in here the guy who had undressed with Erika said that this made him feel like putting his clothes back on … because he was “not as drunk anymore”.  But his girlfriend, “Shy”, stayed in her costume. 

We think now the friend of the girl who asked him if he was expecting a sex party spoke up and took the mic … She said that a lot of us have expectations when we go out.  “We want to be entertained …”  She talked about how people want to be entertained, but also think too much … “I was sitting here and thinking about what is happening, and what things mean.  I would think and think and think, and then just decided to stop thinking about it, and I realized I was enjoying it, was laughing, and actually I was being entertained!” 

“Shy” added that if she were to think of what expectations she came in with, it was that she thought, for whatever reason, that she was coming to see an improv troupe that would do comedy skits, and at some point pull people into them … She said that if she were to hold on to that expectation, she might have a hard time with it, but she didn't, she just went with it, and was enjoying the performance.

Frank asked the friend who had just spoken up if she would read a chapter from his book.  She said, “Now I am uncomfortable!  English is my second language, so I am not very comfortable reading …”  But she came up to read, and sat next to Frank while Frank selected a chapter … Chapter 5: A Channel, not a Creator, which starts: “I am not T.V. I am not the show. Art should not be a show.”  It was exactly what she had been saying, and after she finished, thanking Frank for selecting a short chapter, Frank told her that it was really what she had been talking about.  She said yes …

Frank asked the sax player Jason again why he had been attracted to the performance, and this time he described how he often plays with rock musicians who get uncomfortable with his freeform style of playing, and it makes him feel uncomfortable playing with them, creates a whole feeling … so he liked the idea of coming to an event that was already called uncomfortable!

Frank asked “Shy” if she would read another poem of his, “Wrapping/rocking”.  She said sure, and came up to read.  After the performance we talked about how it didn't seem as deep a reading as the first one she had done of “locked in/locked out” … which seemed to have spoken to her more.  Linda said that it was a little harder to follow, when usually the images are very strong. 

Frank also talked with the German film student girl again, asking her, “If this was a film, what kind of film would it be?”  She said that it would be a “loop”, which changed a little each time it repeated …   Frank said, “Or a series of random loops ...”   She said yes, but it wasn't random because Frank had a lot of intention in the way he directed the performance. 

Now we think Frank turned to the married couple, asking them how the performance was so far.  He took the mic and said that the experience of the performance had given him the image of how they were as if all in a waiting room for Heaven, waiting to talk to God, stripped away of everything that they were holding on to about themselves, of everything they thought of as themselves.  He talked about the way Frank talks to people, which strips things down in ways so that people can let go …  It was an amazing description of the performance, and Frank did not miss a beat.  Frank said, “Ok, are you ready to let go?”  He said yes, but he didn't know what that would mean for him … Frank asked him if he would do a vocal duet with Jason on the sax, singing without words.  He said yes, and he went over next to Jason, and they did a short duet that was really neat! 

Now we think Frank asked the married couple if they would undress each other.  They talked amongst themselves very briefly, and then said they would.  Meanwhile, Frank asked Jason to play along with them.  While they took off each other’s clothes, Jason played a swinging melody that sounded like a version of the classic strip music …  

After they had sat back down again, the girl who Frank had asked to trade clothes with Erika now raised her hand, and asked Frank what was the purpose of having people take their clothes off, going on to say that she didn't think that nudity was really necessary for intimacy, connection.  It was similar to what she had said before and what the Asian woman had said, but now she was asking for the purpose of it, she didn't see what the purpose was. 

Frank replied that it was nonlinear.  She asked, “Like random?”  Frank explained that random was something different, and Linda described the random nature of the ritual of Gestures, where descriptions of physical gestures on individual slips of paper are pulled randomly out of a bag, and people in pairs or groupings do the gestures together.  When the girl asked Frank about there being a pattern, Frank said yes, but the pattern is “chaos”.  Also at some point in the conversation, when she was asking Frank why the nudity, and Frank was explaining that it was nonlinear, Frank turned to Jason and asked him why he chose the notes he played when he was playing during the couple's undressing.  After the performance, Frank said that he was thinking that Jason would say something along the lines of that he didn't really “choose” the notes linearly, that it was like what Frank was describing as “nonlinear”.  However, Jason proceeded to describe why exactly he chose the exact notes he played!  “I played the B-flat because it gave it this stripping music sound ….” etc.

Frank now asked the married couple, now undressed, and cuddled up together, “How do you feel?”    She said that it was actually very comfortable to undress each other, very familiar.  She thought that if she was alone, she would have felt much less comfortable doing it. She said they were naked with each other all the time, so it felt very normal, natural. 

When Frank asked him how he felt, he at first said he felt “bored”.   But then he corrected that, saying that he was tired from playing music all day, and that really it was more like “bliss”, that his brain was sleepy, and it made him think of the word “ecstasy”, a word that had been used earlier.  

Frank asked her if she would rock, in the way that was described in the poem, either with Frank, or with her husband.  She said she would, that she would rock with her husband.  Frank said, “Ok, but before that, I have 3 more people to talk to!”

Two of them had only just come in … a black guy who sat over behind the band area on the riser, and another guy who had sat in the back, wearing a hat and glasses …

Frank talked to the black guy, probably in his 50s, asking him what had attracted him to the performance, and how was it so far …   He said that he used to live in the neighborhood, and comes back every so often, and has been seeing the fliers on street poles for a long time, and has been procrastinating coming!  He said that there was a really good feeling there in the space … He said, “People are being real, it feels really mellow, it even smells mellow!”  “It doesn't smell like incense!  It smells mellow, feels real good.”  When Frank asked him what he does, he said he is a longshoreman at the Port of Oakland, and had just worked a 10-hour shift.  When he first took the mic, he joked that he hoped he wasn't the token black guy, who get killed at the end of the movie!!

The other latecomer was a security guard at Frank Ogawa Plaza in Oakland.  We can't remember exactly what he said, but he was enjoying it, and also liked the vibe in the space … he said something like, he bets that a lot of the people there “meditate” and are into mystical, metaphysical things … and this was a positive thing, he liked that. 

Frank also talked to a young guy near these others, who had also come in late.  He was attracted to the performance because he had recently been to Burning Man, and this felt like it was in the same spirit of Burning Man.  Frank asked him how the performance compared to Burning Man.  He said that it was more guided or directed …  He said that at Burning Man, you have to really create your own experience, seek out the things that you want to explore that are outside of your normal experience. 

At some point, Frank also talked to the girl in the back who had said earlier that she had come in too late to comment on the performance.  Now when Frank asked her how the performance was so far, she said she wondered why certain people were being intentionally “targeted” … but we think overall she enjoyed it.  Later, we wondered what she had meant, and weren't sure … one possibility was that she hadn't been asked to do anything, and had wanted to be called on!

Now Frank returned to the married couple, and they started rocking together.

At some point, Frank asked the couple in the back (the guy who had said the performance “sucked”), “What should I ask you two to do?”  They couldn't come up with anything … Frank came back to them even to check in, and she could only say that she was tired, and maybe he could ask them to “go home.” 

Earlier, the three girls, who Frank never actually spoke to, got up and left … the trio of girlfriends left later, but hovered for a while standing up, watching the performance unfold ...

The guy sitting next to the “it sucks” couple said that he had enjoyed the performance.  He was another who Frank had not actually called on to do anything, but he was the one who had pointed out that the couple next to him seemed to have expectations … 

Near “the end”, Frank also asked if Jason the sax played would be his “band” at the next performance.  Jason said he would love to.  Frank asked him how the performance was, and he said that he “didn't really learn anything new” but then went on to talk about how he had “great respect” for what Frank does, what he did that evening.  Jason turned out to be the last to leave, perusing the free stuff, and ending up with a copy of Tony Ryan’s great book of nude photography and a big stack of zines!   

Frank now turned to the married couple … they were melted into each other, rocking cozy naked quiet … Frank asked him, “Will you give up your work to go with her?”  He laughed …   She said something like, “then I would be comfortable … I want to push myself outside of what I am comfortable with ...” 

Frank said to him that he can come to the next performance while she is in Guatemala.  “And who knows what he will do with who?” Frank said. 

She said, “That's true ...” 

And that was “the end”. 

On his way out, the longshoreman asked Alexi when the next performance would be.  He told Alexi, “This is real mellow, the real mellow!”  He said that he really liked the space … “Most people out there don't even know this little hole in the wall exists … let's keep it that way!”

The woman of the married couple went up to thank Frank after the performance.  You could feel that it had meant a lot to her.  The husband asked Erika, “Have you come to these before?”  Erika told him that she was a student of Frank's, and that we all live together, and he said that he had noticed that Frank hadn't picked her very much...

We broke down the set, talking about the night, eating popcorn … another amazing performance!!  Corey said at one point that it was really amazing how deeply the performance affects people, pointing to the look on “Shy's” face when she was getting ready to leave.  And Linda said that it was everybody, even the people who appeared to not be “getting into” it or not “liking” it … it affected them very deeply too.

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