Recorded at Temescal Art Center, Oakland, California.
Well, this one was perfectly cast to observe and confront what I call THE COMBINE PLOT. In the late eighties I wrote:
It is important to understand the nature of the general plot of fragmentation, the combine plot. I took the word "combine" from the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey. In the book, the combine is a fear machine network which secretly installed pacemakers of fear, doubt, and mistrust in almost everyone in childhood. This made people much easier to control. It isolates people into cells padded with fear and doubt, making the people part of the combine. There are some misfits whom the combine missed with its fear pacemakers. In others, the fear pacemakers blow their fuses. These people without the fear pacemakers are very dangerous to the combine because if they are not checked, destroyed, discredited, isolated, or enfolded into the combine, they can show others how to blow out their own fear pacemakers, can show others how to be free humans linked to other free humans. The combine rarely has to directly destroy the misfits itself. Just direct eliminations would reveal the existence of the combine. So such direct eliminations are kept to the minimum. The real tool of the combine is a vague sense of uncomfortableness, of inferiority, and of mistrust within the victims of the combine. The setting of the novel is a mental ward in which most of the patients are self‑committed. They believe themselves weak, unable to cope with the outside world. They believe the fear comes from themselves, not from the pacemakers. They just have to start believing in themselves, and they could pull out the pacemakers and walk out of the hospital. But every time they reach this threshold of freedom, the combine, by clever remote manipulation, turns up the vague uncomfortableness and mistrust. The victims themselves do the destroying of the misfit either in themselves or that con man pied piper who laughs at their fears and limits, who shows them the way to freedom. It is the victims who do most of the censoring.
One of the main functions of art is to be that misfit who reveals and fights against the combine, to show the way back to freedom and self‑trust.
In the audience there were a group of four young psych students who had basically been forced to sign a loyalty oath to The Combine Plot to go to school. They had internalized this as a fear that if they violated the loyalty oath in ways they couldn’t pin down, they would be kicked out of the school. Their fear of undressing me became a tool for examining this box of “PROFESSIONALISM”. Also there were a couple of professors who train social workers. At one point the female professor told us that typically students have to unlearn around fifty percent of what they learned in college after college to live. Also in the audience was a cute lusty pair of lovers who provided the erotic juice for the night. The hot babe turned out to be seventy one years old! Also at one point a family with a kid came in. I just told them there was nudity and eroticism in the piece. They had no problem with that! I have noticed from watching videos of performances in other countries that people bring their kids to edgy performances, unlike in this country.
I had the student who had been a nurse read my poem OUT OF ISOLATION, which is about breaking out of the isolation of PROFESSIONALISM into warm human love. She almost cried.
Early in the piece, I had my poem NO CAN NOTS read. I wrote it for a class of pre- med students. It sums up what I was trying to get through to the psych students. But the reading was garbled. So here is the poem:
NO CAN NOTS
Sunday, April 28, 2002
Talking to future healers
& maybe future
muckrakers & troublemakers
Not really future
You are doing IT
I’m not talking to the future guards
Of the corporate normalcy
Armed with can nots,
Limiting futures from birth,
Enforcing coloring only within the lines,
Enforcing doing everything
THE RIGHT WAY
THE NORMAL WAY
To turn the intensity of what had happened in the performance back into the physical intimacy, we did an erotic dance ritual which became more and more explicit, direct, raw. Linda, Erika and I kept falling into prickly rubbing aroused pleasure friction deep as the audience all left. For all you know, we are still at it! Performance art is like that!