I was wondering if, instead of describing and commenting on the performances tonight, there was some way for me to write fiction, write some kind of – what: short story?, historical saga?, unintentional melodrama?– that would resonate and interact with each of the performances I will soon see. Tonight there will be four, one each from Cuba, Israel, Saskatchewan and Montreal. What kind of fiction, what kind of story, could encompass these four places and artists? Probably none. It will most likely be a forced fit, a shotgun marriage. Perhaps replacing the entire evening with fiction is a bit extreme. (Though replacing the entire world with fiction has always appealed to me.) But some compromise might occur, alternating between descriptions of the performances and fiction generated from somewhere within my head, wondering if such a thing will actually occur as the evening unfolds. Fictional story in italics. As I arrive at the pool, our man from Cuba is naked, standing in a wooden box slight taller than he is, being encased in clay by three volunteers. (*****Carlos Martiel*****) The clay is just past his ankles, bags of clay surround the box and it seems likely to me the clay will eventually make it all the way up. It is reminding me of a scene from the novel Cigarettes by Harry Matthews (the only American member of OULIPO.) If I remember correctly, in this scene, two gay men, life long lovers, are engaging in more and more extreme S&M play, culminating in a scenario where one man encases the other in concrete. When the concrete dries, the first man plans to smash the concrete with a sledgehammer, freeing the second man, and then they will make love. However, just as the concrete finishes drying, the first man has a heart attack, and the second man, completely encased, must helplessly watch his lover fall over and die, unable to help him. It is an absurd, heartbreaking scene within an utterly remarkable novel. Our story beings in a swimming pool (a bit obviously) and concerns international spies. One spy must meet another, and as she arrives she scans the room. Which woman, which artist, in attendance, is her connect, her contact. They were supposed to agree on a tell, a symbol, an action or item of clothing, but somehow this information was not correctly conveyed, and now she has only her experience and instincts leading her towards her goal. There are several possible candidates: the grey haired woman in the white and blue striped sweater, the young girl in a green shirt with big glasses, one of the children running and playing below, maybe the naked black man in the tall wooden box. The clay is now almost up to his waist. Three children, all girls, are running anarchically around in circles in the pool. The fact that there is a naked man being encased in clay behind them appears to matter little. Time passes and the clay is now just past his rib cage. He stays utterly, inhumanly still for the entire time. A statue of flesh encased in clay. His stillness is like a voice. The clay encasing him has been clawed at, you can clearly see human fingers have been dragged across it in every direction. Clawed at to push the clay higher and higher. The clay is now past his rib cage, almost to his neck, right up to his neck as he remains utterly still. I am wondering how they will get out of it, what will happen when he is entirely encased, which is practically now. Correction: it is now. Without prompting, the crowd grows silent, somehow knows to grow silent. Almost without moving, from within, he pushes the clay, but we see nothing, except it falling from his body, a blanket or second skin peeling off him as if by its own volition. He walks through the crowd and out. During the opening introductions the clay is shoveled up, packed into small cardboard boxes, one by one lifted out of the pool. The evening continues without one spy meeting another, as each spy scans the room again and again searching for hope or sign. So much depends on this covert meeting: international relations, the success and failure of the human project, governments and the shadows that give them hope. Between performances, Spy #1 stands in front of the building, smoking, and as a stranger asks for a light conversation ensues. Now we’re all in the pool, as instructed, as the performer, rope around her waist, raises her hands. (*****Kineret Haya Max*****) She enters the pools, claps rhythmically and everyone claps along, a pool full of people clapping loudly, rapidly, with little similarity to applause, until she motions us to stop. Turning in circles, one word at a time: “To… to apply… to apply force… to apply force so… to apply force so as…” etc. until the entire sentence reveals itself as: “To apply force so as to cause or tend to cause motion toward the source of that force.” (At least I think.) Unfolding a plastic bag from her pocket, a blue plastic bag from The Gap, pouring some sort of liquid into it, determinedly rubbing the plastic together as she paces back and forth, rapidly rubbing her hands together with the plastic bag between them as the liquid erases The Gap logo. One less corporate logo in the world. Rubbing the ground, blackening her hand, spitting on her hand, cleaning the ground with it. What gets clean and what gets dirty. Undoing the rope from her waist, tying the plastic bag around it, giving one end of the rope to the audience. A note attached to the end of her braid says ‘please pull.’ Tug of war with the audience. The audience wins. Everything about dynamics, the push and pull between performer and spectator, when will we do as we are told and when will we refuse. Clapping that is not applause and clapping that is. Out in front of the building, a conversation: “Are you here to meet someone?” “I’m happy to meet anyone, but no, not particularly.” “So you’re not here to meet anyone?” “No.” Obvious disappointment leads to the next question. “Why? Are you here to meet someone?” “No.” What does it mean when one spy can’t find another? When one spy can’t find another perhaps it’s a performance. “Is it your birthday?” A white table. On it is a birthday cake lit with candles. The table smashes down into the pool. Smashing on top of the cake. The chair smashes down into the pool. I am startled, almost jump. (*****Robin Brass*****) The performer stands tentatively with a suitcase. She unfurls a sash from her waist and slowly lowers the suitcase down into the pool. She sits on the edge, looking down at the suitcase. With great effort she lowers her body after it, picks up the suitcase, puts it down, covers her face with the transparent sash, puts down the suitcase, uncovers her head then walks towards us, ties one end of the sash to the suitcase and spins around, the suitcase flying around her. Taking one leg of the table and using it to smash the rest of the table. Placing the broken chair upside down on her head, so the bars of the chairs back cover her face. Trying to climb back up the wall but it is difficult. On the ground, pushing the broken, upside down table, out of breath. Spinning around with the suitcase and releasing it into the wall, smashing it open, hugging the now empty suitcase, tapping against its shell like a heartbeat, empty heart and empty travels. Crouching on the ground, sash around her face, suffocating herself. I am thinking about the word empty. For a moment I have a strange fear she might actually strangle herself but instead she lies down calmly to sleep, rolls slowly towards us, rolling towards us, rolling, slow motion, towards us, the great effort of slow motion, stopping out of breath before rolling backwards like Sisyphus, crushed under the remains of the broken table, struggling to get out, the struggle turning into some kind of sex. Sex with a broken table or I just have a dirty mind. An audience of stuffed animals being carefully placed around her watch her silent tantrum. A bucket of water. A tea party with soaking wet stuffed animals, a birthday party, a celebration. A sad, soaking wet celebration. Each damp animal has a single lit birthday candle. Maybe ‘Is it your birthday?’ is the tell or maybe not. She was so sure that this wasn’t her connect but now thinks maybe it is. Uncertainty is the mission. She doesn’t know why but catches herself starting to cry, just a few tears, and the performances are starting up again so they both head back in. Absent-mindedly placing her hands in her pockets, she realizes she has something she didn’t remember putting there. An envelope. In the toilet stall she opens it. A letter. The connect has already happened and yet she was completely unaware. The opposite of a pick-pocket. A spy that places something into your pocket without your knowledge. A letter she will wait to read when she gets home. Performer in red tights seated in a chair, hands on her knees, in the middle of the pool. (*****Victoria Stanton*****) Stands up, hands behind her back, turns to face away from us, walks behind the chair, picks up a large poster, placing it on the ground in front of the chair. The poster is a photograph of her back, of her facing away from the camera. The next poster is a shooting target, a faceless black figure with a target printed on his chest. She slowly walks forward holding the target in front of her, reaches around the poster to caress it, her index finger circling the bulls-eye. She places the target-poster off to one side, a little in front of the poster of the back of her head. The places we can’t see. Walking forward with the second poster-target, she waves it in the wind, wraps it around her face, reaches around and caresses it. She is the target or only a target. With the poster covering her face, wrapped around her, she kneels to the ground, places the second target-posted on the other side of the stage. When I think of drones, or very modern policemen, I think of targets. This an unnecessarily melodramatic thought. She is picking up the poster of her back, cutting a hole in the back of her head, placing it back down on the floor. An image of her head, a hole in the back of it. Sound cue and ‘Here Comes the Sun’ plays. A song we’ve all heard but none of us know and I think she’s crying followed by Bowie with a song I can’t yet identify, don’t know the Bowie catalog all that well, the chorus something about moon age daydream, perhaps the title as well. She’s sitting in the chair, in the middle of the pool, crying or not crying or crying, hands in her lap. Killing people is something that happens every day in places all around the world. Posters, photographs and targets. Shooting galleries. Killing. Another song. Crying. More crying. “I haven’t got time for the pain / not since I’ve known you.” Placing sheet music on the piano. Taking off his watch and placing it next the to the sheet music. Playing the piano: Erik Satie. When Ravel won an award (something like the medal of France?) he publicly refused it. And Satie apparently said that Ravel did the wrong thing, he should have accepted the award and worn it as a badge of shame for having done something wrong. Invited to sing along with Satie and much of the audience does. Beautiful Satie sing-a-long. Shooting galleries. Now three piano players. Teaching amateurs how to play Satie ending in a three minute, 80’s synth disco dance party. At home, reading the letter. A long letter from a better spy. Letter as target. Unseen, unmet spy. She remembers crying in front of the swimming pool building but still doesn’t know why. These spies may or may not be killers, as might we all. A botched meeting or a covert operation. She needs this letter like a hole in her head. She is reading this letter, a missive she was both expecting and not, having much earlier given up. Lying in bed at home. Lying and reading. Letter as target. A better, or more obvious, story would tell us what it said.