|Aspen no. 6A, item 4|
'No' an Event arranged by Kate Millett
A the Structure
The structure-both a sculpture and a cage-consisted of a framework of twelve wooden 2x4s and 72 wooden dowels of a diameter of 1 and 1/8 inches. It was rectangular, measuring 12 feet long, 7 feet wide and 71/2 feet high. It was formed by two squares of notched 2x4s which constituted its top and bottom, the top square mounted on 4 2x4 pillars. The structure was pre-fabricated. measured out notched drilled and fitted in the studio, then disassembled and transported to Judson on a push cart. There it was reassembled for the performance, then once again dismantled and returned to the studio.
Each long side of the cage consisted of 23 poles, fitted to holes drilled at intervals of 5 and 13/16ths inches. the shorter ends of the cage had 13 poles each, placed at intervals of 6 inches. Three poles in the front were removed to allow the participants, the people who had come to the event, to enter. When the cage was closed on its occupants these three poles were replaced, chucks filled in the holes in which they lodged, and a final 1x2 nailed over the top of the front framework so that the poles could not be lifted and thus removed. All the poles were so exactly fitted that none could be moved up or down. To make this entirely impossible, narrow 1x2s were nailed along the top of the other three sides.
Because all the 2x4s had been notched and fitted exactly, the structure was extremely strong and required no reinforcing angles or other devices, but stood firm and rigid of its own accord and was capable of withstanding the pressure of its fifty occupants.
The bottom of the cage rested on the floor of the gallery but was too heavy to lift, and though it was open at the top only a few inches separated it from the ceiling at all points save at the center where it was flush with a protruding ceiling beam.
Because of all these precautions, it was assumed that the inmates would find no means of escape and would be forced to break the bars of their prison- its thick strong dowels. But here I found I had underestimated the ingenuity of my victims, their respect for sculptural structures and their powers of cooperation among themselves, for they did find a peaceful means of egress. This I took to be significant. It also left the structure in tact for other performances. The only alternative I had imagined was the dramatic and unceremonious escape which Bici Hendricks finally made by climbing over the seven foot structure at one of the points where a very narrow space between it and the ceiling allowed for a strenuous squeeze-out.
B The Performance
The structure was put together between noon and three in the afternoon/ At four o'clock the doors were opened and the structure was on view in the gallery's semi basement darkness, dramatically lit by two spotlights. As I had expected, it filled the entire gallery, leaving only a small area on all sides for spectators. It seemed rather austere and imposing, but not yet a formidable primary structure, severe in its purity of clean and untouched wood, the shadow of its bars quietly falling on all the surfaces in the room. A few of its later occupants saw it and, intent upon its aesthetic properties, did not guess its other functions. Others who did not stay for the performance, understood it only as a sculpture. A good many more understood it not at all. Still others never saw it.
Just after five-thirty the few spectators standing or sitting in the gallery were ushered off to join the majority awaiting the performance on the pavement outside. The gallery was then cleared of its folding chairs, all lights were turned out and the three bars were removed from the front of the cage to function as its entrance.
Then the door of the gallery was opened and silently and in the dark, the participants were led in single file into the cage The handful we had seen a few moments before had grown to a multitude, and as the cage was already very fullthose last to arrive (as well as other late comers) - were placed about the cage and seated as spectators. Still in the dark, the final bars were inserted at the front end of the cage. If the last ominous ring of the hammer had not yet informed them, then the lights which came on one moment later , acquainted those within the cage of their situation. The lights dimmed again and a tape began. I had found the cage surprisingly beautiful when it was empty, but full- it took on many new meanings, some of them contradictory.
There was a brief period of uneasiness and one could senseeven physicallythe nervous uncertainty of those trapped inside. But this soon gave way to a different mood. Cigarettes were lighted up and conversations began even between strangers. A few were cognoscente, still fewer were friends; most were curious, many were off the street, a number were innocents. Inside the cage were old men and babies, cooperative children and a large number of young and middleaged men and women of all races and several nationalities.
The tape ran on -- a collection of sound effects and sound track sequences fom Hollywood movie sources- an entire gamut of noises: footsteps, running water,flushed toilets,, closed doors, gunfire, animal growls and barks, roller-coaster and carnival sounds, soothing music by which to eat popcorn between one Western and the next, a Protestant hymn, the noise of numerous catastrophes, a baby's cry, and a number of banal mood tunes.
A second tape was placed in the rafter above the cage to record the sounds made by those within. This tape, the largely incomprehensible noise of fifty people talking at once over the noise of the other tape , is both valuable and useless. movies made of the event will quite surely be of the same caliber as the lights were dim or altogether cut off during the first and major section of the event.
After twenty minutes, the occupants of the cage were finding their situation less and less agreeable and the tension began to mount once again. There were continual queries of "How long is this going to last?". Wardens Jon Hendricks, Fumio Yoshimura and I either ignored these pleas or answered with deliberate honesty, "I don't know". Our prisoners had not yet perceived that this was true.
The spectators were of two sorts: one group enjoyed the spectacle of their fellows with relish and even delighted amusement, another group sat silent and thoughtful. Numbers within the cage were fading into contemplation as well. Others discussed their plight and a few began to confront it. At this point the room was darkened again and the tape rendered an eloquently corny version of Taps,, bugles echoing and superimposed upon each other. The room fell into a strange silence. As the last bugle fades all the occupants of the cage came alive as if expecting release, but instead the tape gave them only thoughtless gaiety and the lights went up only to dim.
Then there was a rush of activity within the cage and the room waited with excitement. The caged pulled together at their cage, stretching its bars with concerted energy and at last one little woman trickled through. She was cheered hilariously by the entire room. Now others, then all-- or early all, for though most went quickly out the door, not even wishing to comment, a few appeared to wish to stay behind bars in the brightly lit room and withith the way open to them
These last constituted a quite unforseen second act, for many spectators stayed on as well and others arrived to watch the interesting and aimless existence of those behind bars for another fifteen minutes. Then all seemed to have understood that the event was finished They left quietly and the cage was taken apart and removed.
The Judson series had been named Destruction and Manipulation. this event was given the day of the march on Washington and the Pentagon. Claustophoebia is appropriate on many occasions
I had many misgivings about the 'propriety' of caging others. Moreover, this was to be a "happening" in quite a literal sense, as I could have no knowledge of what would happen once these people were caged , and that too gave me cause for apprehension as well as a fascinated curiosity. The length of the piece was not determined and must depend only upon the actions of its participants who were its performers. All action would be theirs and therefore unplanned, spontaneous and their own. Only the situation was determined in the size and shape of the cage- an extreme but very probable situation.
Cages are not new to me: I have known them for a long time and had already made reference to the fact last July when I did one large Trap environment in a basement on the Bowery. I expect to deal with them again in the future as there are so many everywhere.
Original format: Two legal-size sheets folded to make an eight-page booklet.