Bad News/Mala Noticia (2012)
Conceived by You Nakai, Kay Festa, and Earle Lipski
Premiere: 24 March 2012,
Publication party of Jen Hofer’s translation of Negro Marfil/Ivory Black by Myriam Moscona, Proteus Gowanus, Brooklyn
Performed by You Nakai and several audience members
The performer wearing a headphone positions him/herself amidst the audience, preferably at the very center, keeping a close proximity to everybody.
A pre-recorded track of instructions for audience in two different languages (English and Spanish at the premiere) is played into the headphone:
Right channel (English):
“Please raise the volume using the volume pedal over there,
so that you and others may better hear,
but please do so gradually,
so that you don’t hurt my ears.”
Left channel (Spanish):
“Por favor baje el volumen
usando el pedal de volumen.
Es demaciado ruidoso,
mis orejas duelen.”
Two volume pedals, one for each channel of the headphone, are located in the same space, preferably as far away as possible from the performer, and available for the audiences to manipulate. At the beginning of the performance, the volume levels of both pedals are set to minimum, so that only audiences who attach their ears to the performer’s headphone can hear the instructions.
The respective volumes of the two recorded instructions criss cross over the duration of the piece (10 minutes at the premiere): Right channel, from maximum to minimum; Left channel, from minimum to maximum.
Half way through the performance, a third track commences on top of the first two (panned at center). This is a track which the performer has never heard before the performance, recorded by someone intimate to him/her (friend, lover, family, etc), and which discloses some personal issues about the performer or their relationship, regardless of the possible embarrassment (or any other emotional response) of the performer. At the premiere, it was a reading of past Skype chat conversations between the performer and his then-partner, by the latter.
New York City, 2-24 March 2012
When the pre-recorded track ends, the performer stays with his/her headphone on until a member of the audience comes and tries to figure out if the performer is still listening to something, by putting his/her own ears close to the headphone. When this happens, the performer raises his/her hand, and a staff of the venue comes and takes off the headphone, indicating thus the end of performance.