Event Horizon was a performance created by Elyakim Taussing (aka Peter Elyakim Taussig) and presented by Artspace in 1989 when it was located in the Market Hall. The work fit well into the goal Artspace had set for itself in the Market Hall: a place for multidisciplinary artists to try new things, with enough square footage to allow big messy art the space necessary in which to do it. Performing with Taussig are three performers who have made other appearances in the Video Vault: Robert Winslow as the lecturer, Peter Chin as the butler and Katherine Duncanson as the reporter.
Taussig was - still is - something of an iconoclast in the Canadian art world. Not evident in this piece is that his chief talent - and how he first made his reputation - is as a composer and musician. (During the earliest part of his career, in the 1960s, he played with the Toronto Symphony, founded the chamber ensemble Camerata, and recorded over 200 chamber music concerts with the CBC, where he met his idol, Glenn Gould.) Event Horizon was created during his performance artist/filmmaker/comedian phase, which bridged the gap between his career in serious music with his current life as a pioneer and inventor of new techniques in music education. For a full - and entertaining - accounting of his life go to http://www.petertaussig.com
We reached Elyakim via email at his current home in California and he told us about Event Horizon:
“The piece was inspired by Stephen Hawking. I had just read about his theory of black holes and of the boundary that separates them from ordinary space. He called this boundary an ‘event horizon’ beyond which nothing, not event light, can escape. I was fascinated by the analogy of his personal situation, being paralyzed, and imagined his brain with the enormous reservoir of ideas and thoughts as a kind of black hole from which he struggles to communicate with us one letter at a time, in a way defying his own event horizon.
That was one aspect.
The other was my lifelong mission to mock pretensions and academia. We created this character (played by Robert), a two-bit professor who gives a pretentious (nonsensical) physics lecture speaking for ‘the great man’ (played by me) who throughout the show sits slumped in his wheelchair unable to speak for himself (clearly NOT Stephen Hawking). The third character (played by Katherine Duncanson) was this ditz reporter from Better Homes and Gardens who wants to interview the great man about black holes and aliens. And finally, Peter Chin created this endearing character of the great man's butler, dressed in tails, going about his butlery tasks totally ignoring the mayhem.
During the piece I proceeded to envelop myself in streamers of Saran Wrap suspended from the ceiling, cocoon-like, as a tactile metaphor for the black hole experience. It scared the living daylight out of the audience, as the wheelchair got tossed around the space and it seemed I would suffocate.
Incidentally, some of the ideas and rehearsal techniques the four of us developed for Artspace we later also used in 'My Memorial Service' which we produced for the Music Gallery in Toronto."