Performing in conjunction with Accumulation (Phase 2) Kelly Hunter and Dan Derosato performed in service to their fellow artists. Each Accumulation artist was contacted for a pre-performance interview where they were asked to describe a situation in which they hadn’t spoken to someone they loved in a long time. The cycles of Fill the Void were dedicated attempts to satisfy the longings that had been expressed by the interviewed artists. Through their relationship with one another, their interactions with the audience and the consumption of countless confections, Hunter and Derosato’s work culminated into a vision of hollow sweetness that described the essence of the void as much as the process of filling it.
For an hour, Hunter performs in the gallery alone, meticulously preparing the space.
A table is set for three, a salad bowl full of dark and milk chocolates is set out, along with glass bottles of milk, a jug of Carlo Rossi and two wine glasses. Individualized servings of chocolate pudding, Valentine’s Day cookies and a bowl of chocolate frosting are unpacked. Red and white dominate the space, Hunter decorates a small white cake with red icing, red and white carnations and two balloons (one red and heart-shaped, the other round and white) help to set the scene. Hunter sets a recording of a heartbeat through a Honey Tone mini-amp that will play throughout the entirety of the performance. Anticipation builds, Hunter’s nervous energy is hard to discern as performance or reality, eventually Derosato will arrive.
The artists begin the first of seven cycles which with the setting and resetting of red and white accouterment on their table, selves and surroundings. They switch tablecloths, alternate their red and white tee-shirts, pour glasses of red wine that contrast the glass bottles of white milk. With each iteration white paint is added to the red, heart-shaped balloon, red paint is added to the white balloon. They add blush to their faces; chocolates and frosting are set out.
During these phases, the objects the performers allow themselves to touch is dictated by the color of their tee-shirt, causing them to rely on each other to construct the setting each time. They routinely speak with each other throughout the performance. Like the energy that emerged from Hunter’s solo moments in the gallery, it is difficult to render where performance begins and reality ends - do the artists want us to witness this vulnerability? What can we extract from inspecting their relationship in this way?
Following each table-setting, the artists sit down to consume the treats before them, a pudding cup, spoonful’s of chocolate frosting, cookies, milk and wine. The third chair facing them representing an absence as well as an invitation to audience members to join them. I sit with them, the settings before me encouraging me to take on the role of dinner guest. I feel excited to eat a mini-Reese’s with a fork, to scoop up mini-chocolates as if they were salad - there was a feeling of “playing pretend”, something surreal and nearly cartoonish about all the objects that were laid out before me. Occasionally the artists stare sweetly into my eyes, smiling, sighing and batting their eyelashes. I make eye contact in attempt to connect, but without long look down at my chocolate dinner, feeling an intimacy that I’m not quite sure what to do with. At other times they look off, attempting to catch the gaze of an audience member, again smiling and sighing. I ask for a piece of cake, they quickly shake their heads “no”.
Creighton Paecht Baxter sits down not long after me; Dan offers her a bite of pudding. Baxter reaches for some cake, Derosato smiles sweetly.
Towards the end smiles grow tired, everything they’ve consumed begins to take its toll - all of their consumption and ritual accumulating in attempt to satisfy the deep voids that their fellow artists experienced. The artists’ final cycles involve a break to collect and connect the belts from previous performances into a large loop around the dinner table. Hunter walks to the West corner of the gallery and begins sewing together the strewn paper hands, originally from Schaefer’s performance and reutilized by Phil Fryer the following week. The hands flutter down the thread; we sense a touch of magic. The artist’s finish by bringing a few other choice items to their table, including fabric and a small flat screen TV from Fryer’s performance.
Each cycle was completed with the writing of a letter to an individual Accumulation artist. At the piece’s finale, we see the letters laid out alongside three jars, each containing a strawberry and turpentine, peroxide and rubbing alcohol respectively. They become the site of white fruit floating in a rosy haze, nearby two helium balloons hang low to the ground weighed down by their new painted surfaces.
In knowing and loving another person, we willingly toy with a nearness to reliance. We allow them to support parts of ourselves that are found wanting, we grow with and from their presence. When these people exit our lives, how do we understand and describe the space that they leave behind? As we turn in on ourselves to fill the empty void, how can we hope to remain what we’ve become alongside another?