Francesco Gagliardi at Pieter

Apologies for the lack of performance images, sometimes pulling out my iPhone to take pictures feels like intruding and even like stealing. Also I find that cameras distract me, I visited Pieter to experience a performance of musical scores and not to be conscious of myself watching the performance on a 4″ screen.

Pieter functions through the grace of those who use it – Jmy James holds the lease and a community of performers and audience members provide for The Free Bar, The Free Boutique and also dance studio supplies. The room is spacious and has a wood floor, as I enter the Free Boutique is behind me and a table diagonally across from the stair holds bottles, sliced persimmons and a bowl of popcorn. Curry popcorn, I later determined.

Beyond the bar stands a chalk board with a rail holding many fat chunks of colored chalk. Color pops up again on the wall to my right as I cross to the bar: closest to me variously colored placards lean against the wall, their rectangular shapes vary in size from that of good quality paper back books to perhaps 18″ x 24″ and the colors I recall are white, blue, black and red. The larger rectangles are light tan and might be thin plywood or pale Masonite. There is a mound of flowered fabric, bedding I imagine, flowered in a way that is ‘pretty’ in some eyes but becomes gaudy in another context such as this. (Hmm, so easy to laugh?)

I pour myself a finger or two of Bulleit Bourbon, crunch on popcorn and look around this new (to me) environment, relaxing into a less self-conscious space in preparation for Francesco Gagliardi’s performance.

Gagliardi sets a table up before us and places two iPods on it. His demeanor is focused, his expression is a bit drawn, and his lips are pursed. He might be listening and he might be very self-aware. I recall a friend describing to me this artist’s practice of “performing in another space, and bringing the dimensions of that space into the room with him. His movements often suggest angles that are not present in the architecture until finally he causes a shift in the audience’s comprehension of space by moving a prop slightly – and although this new angle is awkward, one’s body will respond with relief that it has been achieved.”

Gagliardi played snippets of what sounded like AM talk radio, as harmless as it is enervating and interesting. On once, stop, repeat, repeat, vary time, repeat, and so on.

My sense of timing was stretched thin by bouts of tedium – each sound, each motion, each prop was modest in nature. He placed his plastic cards on the surface of the table in four piles and held them up in two’s. Again, much was the repetition. As a matter of fact I think before the card action Gagliardi used his arms as if to signal – first at his sides then rising – right arm all the way up, left stopping part way, repeat, reverse, vary, etc. The sense of signaling that I had during this movement of the piece was reinforced when the artist picked up the plastic cards. He looked like a boat or a plane signaler.

Much of what he did felt like presentation and display. He was offering us glances at things and he was looking himself.

His quick steps to retrieve, and to set aside, his bits of matter felt like rushes of sound. Thinking back I can swear I heard a whisk of air and his be-jeaned thighs also whisking where the orientations of the weave rub past each other. Funny, how my mind plays tricks on me. The only sound I noted in my book is the clack and slide of the plastic cards moving off and on the table. My cryptic and difficult to read scrawls read thus:

“a series of pauses + w/ arms suspended, hold surface above the surface (which is) supported (from) below—plastic cards – nice sound:::red/blu __ scrape click clack lift hold x.x.x.x stop hold up—–what space is he in? (now) lower now, softer noises       display or looking? flags like ships?        flash cards?

He brings a book to table, this also mundane act is casually, half-hardheartedly even, offered for our consideration. On paper (white) he wrote with a black plastic pen, on black paper he wrote with a white plastic pen. The first did resemble text, the second was scrawlier. I became aware of us in the audience, some of us moved, made sounds, I was momentarily taken aback. One resists the need to impose on a performance in some cultural venues – here and suddenly I thought that we were a part of the thing, we cannot help but be by our presence. Interesting to me and needing some thought.

Another friend used the term ‘mundane’ and spoke of the above passage as “who hasn’t read a book, drawn, cruised the crowd, and made the first actions to better enable the latter – while spending time in a coffee shop? Such mundane things we all do.”

“oooh, low, flat pyramid (in a) loose (stack) again lift – show – whisk. lay flat, silence. Gagliardi moves – a version of the scales? an arpeggio? a flourish, certainly.”

Reversing his table now, and holding his things vertical, as opposed to the earlier horizontal. Or vice versa, (or neither, or both.) again and again lifting the pieces of his pyramid and showing, moving through the stack sometimes all the way, sometimes not. Always his feet are together, right foot front.

Move forward now, with table, bringing sheets of paper. Colored papers, many. Hold pack in hand and lay out on table in two rows of four, or more. Orange, pink, purple, light yellow, pink, lavender or grey, salmon, pink, bright yellow, and so on into the night…

Many of Gagliardi’s motions look like scooting or sweeping. And the surfaces that he holds, he does the scoot/sweep thing with them over and around the table surface. He will hold his slender surface above the table in presentation mode. I hear laughter and wonder why. In an audience I worry when others laugh and I cannot. Who knows what? Perhaps the laugher is made nervous? Or is it an excluding laugh, meant to signal knowledge not shared? Hmm.

The artist moves in circles one side and another of his table. This is somehow sexy and weird. Table is placed at 20 degrees to the room, and yes it does feel right. The color paper and the next prop reflect in the table’s surface. This is nice to notice.

A second book. A flip dance, repeating.

The paler colors of the new surfaces echo the table, as well as reflect. Look. Consider. Confront. Present.

Now Gagliardi uses tape to mark out a floor plan on the floor, this is a nice series of moments.

And now the fabric, the sheets, the flowered presences. Gagliardi holds them up, one by one. The first he folds fairly traditionally for a sheet, and sets aside. the second he folds into a tube-like thing, then a rectangle. Much is the drama and the fabric is like flowered air in motion.

The last sheet he folds like a boyscout folds a flag, and I am back to ships and planes.

That I understand this as music is as much due to my expectations as anything I experienced. Labels feel less necessary, once I’ve been there with something.

Pieter website:

Francesco Gagliardi website:

(image relating to comment below) Kathy Prendergast, City Drawings Series (Addis Ababa), 1997, pencil on paper 31 x 21 cm. Drawings done free-hand and showing only streets and by-ways. This work is not done from memory, but memory is allowed to intrude upon facts, as I would have to think the case in Gagliardi's performance. He seemed to be taping out the limits of spaces through which one might move, or have moved, while Prendergast made her lines to denote possibilities for passage. Each implies a performer in an originating experience as well as in the role of maker Image from Kerlin Gallery, Dublin, Ireland..

1 Comment

  1. It occurred to me, as I drove south on Glendale Ave to a studio visit after posting these notes tonight, that I neglected to mention the nine pieces that Gagliardi performed. You can get a sense of them from the video above.

    The only two of which I can be certain are Map Piece, which I take to be the taping piece and which, by the way seems like the best and most honest mapping related work I’ve seen since the 90’s when Kathy Prendergast made the her Cities Drawings (old loves which I will take any opportunity to bring up again)

    Three Deathbed Scenarios will have to include the bed sheets, don’t you think? Nice to attach a title to what I saw, v. nice.

    Guessing then that Seven Museums included the colored pieces of paper.

    I wondered, as I wandered around doing errands on Saturday, whether Gagliardi’s repositioning of the table signaled a change in the work being presented. This might be the case… The fact is though, that the works were difficult to differentiate experientially and so you, friendly reader, know as much for reading this as I did when I experienced the performances.

    GT 10:00 pm, Sunday, November 13, 2011

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