The Glamorous Life of a Performance Artist | Gearing Up for the Lone Star Performance Explosion
by Harbeer Singh Lagataar on Sunday, February 19, 2012 at 4:05pm
The rain has let up for a moment and four different bird varieties express their jubilation in song. Woven in with these sweet warbles are the sounds of wood hitting metal.
BANG! CLANG! BOOM! THUD.
It’s Saturday, and it’s been pissing rain for two full days now. There is a veritable river, four inches deep, flowing from Nestor Topchy’s back yard into the storm swale out front. That’s four inches of water–not counting the mud.
Cars slow down to weave through the narrow passage between the two heaping piles of debris on either side of this quiet, residential street. It’s like a game of Frogger. Five men shuttle back and forth carrying long boards with nails poking out, overstuffed arm chairs, ratty waterlogged couch cushions, vintage suitcases, and all manner of jetsam that was evacuated from notsuoH one week ago–carrying it from the piles on the side of the road to the back of the dumpster on Nestor’s lawn.
We are gearing up for the first ever Lone Star Performance Explosion–aka the Houston International Performance Art Biennale 2012.
Last Sunday, Nestor and his army of volunteers cleared out the second floor of Houston’s storied notsuoH. It had to be done on a Sunday–notsuoH is on Main Street, downtown, and the City would not allow them to install a chute and dumpster. The problem is, all the dumps in the area are closed on Sundays.
So they carried all the junk and old shelving–three double-axel trailers’, three dually trucks’, and three standard pickups’ worth–down the stairs and dumped it here, like they’ve always done, expecting the City to pick it up during standard trash pick-up, like the City’s always done. Except the City is operating under an austerity budget and they’re not having it. They told Nestor he had two choices–clean it up, or pay a fine and clean it up.
So here we are. The chest high pile of scrap wood which once made up the shelving in what used to be a department store in downtown Houston is now a de facto beaver dam.
Starting at the driveway, pieces of plywood, old doors, cinderblocks, bricks, and paving stones create a somewhat stable path across the flowing water. The stones shift under my weight. This is the inverse of Hercules cleaning the Augean stables–these laborers are going against the flow of water to move a haphazard pile on the side of the road to a haphazard pile in a blue construction dumpster. And who is the genius who placed the dumpster so that its doors are on the far side?
Jim Pirtle is nowhere to be found.