Changing of the Guard: A Performance by Gracie DeVito
- Gracie DeVito interviewed by Dorothy Dubrule, October 2014
Dorothy Dubrule: A lot of your performance works seem specifically designed to test the parameters of the space they occupy, both physically and with satirical prodding– for example, the fight at the bar installation at Tif Sigfrids, the drive by on the sidewalk outside LTD, and the disruption of the gallery wall at Commonwealth and Council. What goes into your considerations of site when building a performance piece?
Gracie DeVito: The first thing that pops in my head when I get asked to do a performance are the parameters of the venue. I check out the physical traits of the space, and also the circumstance that brought me to it or why I was asked to perform, and what the space means in the context of where I am in my art practice and maybe in the art world. For example when I performed at Commonwealth and Council I was pretty new to performance and gallery shows so I did something that basically used the most obvious part of a gallery, the wall, and a thing which I had seen many great performers do, jumping out of it. From the moment I saw 356 I knew if I ever did a performance there it would have to be influenced by the size of the space. The huge downtown gallery is on my mind and so the first thing I planned was a way to move from one end to the next.
DD: The title of your new piece at 356, “Changing of the Guard,” connotes a ceremonious coming and going, a celebration of entrance and exit. Is the significance of beginnings and endings an overarching concern in your performance work?
GD: I chose Changing of the Guard as a model because I was asked to do a performance while another show, Jonathan Horowitz’s “590 Dots”, is in the process of evolving at the space. I observe a traditional COG as a performance that happens in order to bring attention to something else, but draws a crowd in it’s own right. (It’s a nice metaphor for performance in the gallery context, sometimes).
I don’t think of the guards in my piece as coming and going, but rather working, doing a job. When they are off, they are off duty, but another one is in their place. Actually I have trouble with endings. Beginnings are fun because you can make a grand entrance. Often I commence a piece by chanting the title of the piece on my harmonium. One time my sister said, of a couple of my pieces and performance art in general, “It’s all good, but there is no ending.” I think that’s funny. Performance art never ends it just trails off and then people go look at something else.
DD: I’m interested in the many varieties of training that the body undergoes to become a performing body, particularly because live performance always involves a degree of improvisation. What kinds of training have informed your performance presence?
GD: I love this too. Mainly I like to train my mind and body with yoga. I find physical yoga practices push me to want to do more physical things in my performance like take falls, get in fights, or pulley myself across a gallery, but meditation is where I feel like I am really working. Watching the great amount of anxiety that comes up when I have to design a performance is really interesting and can be scary. I like to cultivate joy and a feeling of collectiveness as much as possible. When I train or meditate it puts me on the right track for my performance practice, which always involves me interacting with so many other people. Then I am open to respond to surprises, whether they are in the realm of performance or day to day production. Planning the piece throws the most punches and often feels the most like improv to me.
For my practice, it is important to watch performances that I admire, usually in movies. It is important for me to watch comedies.
DD: “Changing of the Guard” will take place every hour on the hour over the course of 7 hours (11AM-6PM). Do you plan to maintain an engagement with gallery visitors throughout the duration of the piece, or do you consider each hour to be a distinct, separable performance?
GD: That’s a good question and one I was asking myself today. Each Changing of the Guard is considered the same performance, but the crux of the action is only 10 minutes. That leaves a lot of consideration for the space in between each changing. A couple of characters are reoccurring and need to be on standby through out the whole day, and I think this is one of the most funny parts of the performance. What are they gonna be doing while the guard is watching over the gallery? Behind the scenes with the guards could be a whole other piece, “When They Let Down Their Guard.”
I like short performances, though, and this way I get that but also the humor that comes along with the concept of “being on the job.” I can’t leave after the performance happens 6 times and probably by the 7th I’ll be so burnt out that I wont even want to go out. I’ll just leave 356 at 6pm like I work there.
I like it when art feels like work because that’s what I do for work. To come back to the parameters of this piece, it has so much to do with labor in the art world and how the art world generates labor. Jonathan Horowitz is paying gallery visitors to make dot paintings. Like that, my performers are on the job here!
Dorothy Dubrule is a LA-based choreographer and performance scholar
- Gracie DeVito "Changing of the Guard"
Changing of the Guard
performance by Gracie DeVito with:
October 11, 2014
at 356 S. Mission Road, Los Angeles
Changing of the the Guard
A performance by Gracie DeVito with:
Saturday October 11
11 AM – 6 PM
Every hour, on the hour
356 S. Mission Road
Los Angeles CA 90033
Tags: Ethan Swan, Gracie DeVito, Indah Datau, Jake DeVito, Jillian Risigari-Gai, Joseph Tran, Julia Leonard, Luke Harris, Sara Gomez, Sarah Johnson