I am Chris Purdie is a performance art piece involving thirty-five performers playing the role of visual artist Chris Purdie. The cast wears the "Chris Purdie uniform" and performs the role as they interact with patrons attending the artist's reception. For the duration of the exhibition, there will be at least one "Chris Purdie" in the gallery during their hours.

Monday, March 2, 2009


Thursday was the Mega-Big Purdie Lecture Thingee at UVU (referred by the performers involved as the MBPLTAUVU—not yet, but I hope it catches on). Fully intending to get there a half hour early, I got lost on the way and struggled with finding parking (a massive booger); I ended up getting there barely 5 minutes early. Chris handed one of us Chrises an outline of what Chris wanted to cover, and while techno-dudes were setting up techno-gear (for me, the most recent technological innovation I’m comfortable with was the Timex-Sinclair One Thousand, one of the first Personal Home Computers, complete with 1,000—that’s right, I said 1,000—BYTES of memory; I was very good at programming it to draw circles in less than 45 minutes), the Chrises were able to go over it quickly. A few ideas were bandied about and discussed, but we mostly spent time “getting into character”.

After the introduction, we kind of muttered self-consciously, then we started talking about our show. Very rapidly, it became obvious that each of us was channeling a different aspect of the Chris psyche, and each of us remained consistent to that throughout the performance. No one had planned who was going to say what, how each of us were going to act, or what each person would focus on, but everything worked seamlessly. Chris was rather confrontational (in a focused, inoffensive way), Chris was very obviously uncomfortable in front of so many people, Chris felt emboldened to explain his motivations to the audience, Chris helped keep the discussion to the outline Chris had written in a comfortable and self-deprecating way, and Chris liked to discuss underlying philosophies that had helped formulate and govern the project. Finally, at the end of the panel of Chrises, one of us discussed our social awkwardness, and everyone at the same time fell uncomfortably, awkwardly silent.

It could not have gone more smoothly (aside from my speaker suit malfunctioning).

What was particularly interesting was that afterwards each of us was able to talk to each other comfortably, politely, and at a level of ease with each other that usually takes a significant amount of time to reach. It seemed that, through the Chris experience, each of us had made a certain level of connection with each other. There were a number of lively discussions within our group, but each potential confrontation was politely side-stepped, each disagreement was civil and respectful, each discussion was filled with attempts to understand the other’s point of view, and everyone was painfully, almost irritatingly, polite to each other. Each of us had developed a certain level of empathy and understanding with the other that led more than one member of the audience to wonder if we had already worked with each other for a substantial bit of time.

By the process of connecting with Chris individually, each of us had (by emulating Chris for a moment) connected with that part of the others. It was a very interesting exploration in social interaction, as well as an intriguing view of the effects of social dynamics. And it was very cool to meet others who had been Chris, people with whom I would not mind spending more time, at all.

1 comment:

Chris Purdie said...

Thanks for the post Andy. You are a brilliant writer, I enjoyed it.