Embracing the spirit of creative "whatever"

Students carry out a two-day performance art event

Take a bunch of Kenyon students. Give them a seven-foot-square stage and forty-eight uninterrupted hours. What do you get? This past November, you got dancing, dating, shrieking, lecturing, poker playing, and more. In short, art.

Performance art, that is.

It was all part of an event that drew nearly a hundred student performers, whose offerings ranged from the goofy to the contemplative. Seniors Andrew Braddock, Andrew Kingsley, and Rebecca Mumaw, veterans of a performance-art competition held each spring, organized the two-day affair, which took place on a stage set up along Middle Path near Olin Library.

Passers-by never knew quite what they would see during the event, which lasted from Tuesday to Thursday, November 8-10. Michael Castle '06 sat at the edge of the stage, legs dangling, and read aloud from a collection of southern folk tales. Mariana Templin '08 puréed her dinner from Peirce Hall in a blender and drank it over the course of an hour. Katie Mikulla '06 dressed as a hamburger and danced around while trying to avoid a "chef" armed with a knife and a spatula.

Allison O'Flinn '06 aimed for something "as awkward and entertaining as possible." She held an impromptu "date" on stage with a volunteer whom her friends had grabbed at random from the crowd. O'Flinn treated her date to a dinner and champagne from the Kenyon Inn, asked him questions about himself, and carried on a stilted conversation. "It reminded me of the dating reality TV shows," she says.

Braddock filled many of the overnight hours with eccentric performances, including saying "good morning" to every name in the Kenyon campus directory, doing jumping jacks, and taking apart his bicycle. "What you are doing should be an expression of who you are," he explains. "I like bikes, and I like tinkering with things."

Other offerings took a more serious turn. Philosophy major Charlie Djordjevic '07 gave a late-night lecture on the history of nihilism in the West. Elaine Driscoll '08 paced nervously on stage and read from The Sickness Unto Death by So/ren Kierkegaard, punctuating the reading with anguished screams.

To Kingsley, the event was a blast. "You can do whatever you want," he says. "It's just a way to have fun. Or make a statement. Or not make a statement. Or whatever."