What's in the Box?

What’s in the Box?

This 3-part performance used personal history, humour, audience participation, breakaway beer bottle props, and video to examine how we accommodate, encourage, and desire violence on a practical level through humour. Performed over the course of 3 nights as part of Short & Sweet at La Chapelle Theatre in Montreal, each part took advantage of the 3-minute time limit strictly enforced by the curators. With a countdown clock embedded in each evenings’ video projection, I (try to) tell the story of the box that has been sitting on the top of a shelf in my office since 2009, taunting me with its very presence.

Part 1
While a countdown video with representations of violence was projected behind me, I talk about the box that contains 2 prop beer bottles made of sugar that I have never opened. I tell the audience that I want to open it now, and have 2 volunteers (finally!) smash these bottles over my head.

The performance ends with me asking the audience, “Who wants to smash me in the head with a beer bottle?!” as the lights go out.

Part 2
Again, a video with beer bottle smashing examples from film and YouTube embedded with a countdown clock is projected behind me as I retell the origin story of the box in my office. I ask for volunteers to smash the bottles over my head, and they are able to demonstrate their technique. A male volunteer is eliminated because, surely we do not want to represent violence against women so literally. The lights go out as a female volunteer auditions her smashing technique.

Part 3
The video projection behind me shows various slowed down film and YouTube clips with beer bottles being smashed over heads. Leonardo DiCaprio in The Departed is showcased prominently in slow motion. The embedded 3-minute countdown heightens the anxiety of the piece, as I once again tell the story, am finally able to open the box, and solicit 2 volunteers who rehearse their smashing techniques. As the crowd yells, “Hit her!”, “Do it!” “You’re running out of time!” to the volunteers, they each smash a beer bottle over my head, and the lights go out.

In the aftermath of this piece, many audience members approached me to apologize for yelling at the volunteers to hit me. What intrigues me about this work which I hope to explore further, is that even for a predominantly art-friendly audience, the combination of permission granted by me to perpetrate performed violence on my body, the emphasis that I would not be hurt because of the nature of the prop bottles made out of sugar, with the countdown clock embedded in the video projected behind me resulted in bloodlust.

Commissioned by curators Sasha Kleinplatz and Andrew Tay for Short & Sweet, La Chapelle Theatre, Montreal