“But all I can see is Red, red, red, red, red now What am I gonna do” : William Kaminski’s Haunted Heck
What is sleep you ask, what is dream I ask, what is real you reply.
Being scared makes you freeze, makes your body shut, having fear means there’s an action to be taken, fear is a bravery you need to work through. I was reminded that there is also terror, terror makes fear breakable, terror shakes you to the core of your being and never leaves you be.
We were the first in line for the second night of LIVE THRU THIS KURT COBAIN HAUNTED HECK. We decided to enter sober. Standing in front of the red corridor, you asked me to hold your hand. I said I would never let go. I reassured myself. It would be too obvious for a ghost to enter a haunted house; they have more fun inside our beds. I was wrong.
We smiled at the tiara-wearing girl (Hole – Live Through This) in the entrance and walked in. I asked you if you want to be in front of me or behind me; you moved to my front, taking my arms above your shoulders and crossing them over your heart. Your upper back was on my chest, my chin was above your head; walking with spread legs, I realized I couldn’t protect you even if I wanted to.
Passing through the first room where Kurt was sitting on a toilet making sick noises, we had to almost touch him in order to maneuver our now-one-body through the room, startled by our reflection in the bathroom mirror.
We entered into Courtney’s closet – she came out of the rack and started shouting, you grabbed my arms so tight I thought you were going to hurt yourself. As we tried to enter the next room a looming man (El Duce) stopped us. There was hardly enough room to breath between our body and his when he began to shout, “I’m gonna get you girl, I’m gonna get you good.”
You looked down shaking but I gazed directly into his eyes, grinning. “Witch smile,” he whispered to me. We realized at that moment the unwritten consent of this experience, the trusted collaboration we had begun.
William Kaminski is asking us to unlearn what we know about performance, about fear about trauma, and about ownership. He is asking us to trust the untrusted, trust our own individual experience as the thing itself. The creator Kaminski stood outside with a blond wig, a can of beer, a cigarette and his smile. He crafted every room to perfection, every detail was thought through, every line was rehearsed, every move was practiced. Even the glow-in-the-dark dildos were crafted by him. He created the space for interaction and exchange and then had to stand outside, unable to see.
For three hours a night & three nights straight, the performers were inside the dark hellish maze, inside their roles, inside the heads of people that self-abuse in order to forget. Every single person who walked through the rooms had a unique experience of their own. It depended on who you were with, what pace you chose, how many people were in there with you, what demons you were battling and how scared you were to confront them.
How do we blend the traumatic experiences of a pop idol with our own? How do we know if it’s a healthy fight-or-flight response or a PTSD response? Is the adrenaline real or fake, can we trust our bodies?
I trusted you. You decided to be in front of me because you were scared to walk in and I wasn’t. You wanted me to protect you from behind, ward off what you couldn’t see. In turn, you protected me, becoming my shield, checking every dark corner with your hands spread out like sensors. All I had to do was hold you as you saw the trouble coming first; you became the leader, I became the follower. We moved through teenaged Kurt quickly to find Kurt and Courtney happily dancing with a baby doll in their arms. The next two rooms felt like nightmares coming to life – Courtney was lying on a bed as men circled around her, while nearby performers wearing glowing dildos in the dark whispered in our ears, “You’re a pussy.”
There was one more room after that but I can only remember two performers singing.
I think my mind was too preoccupied with the room before to make a memorable impression of the last one. I do not know what those last rooms held. Perhaps my psyche had already managed to protect me from what I’m not ready to remember.
When we emerged outside under the red light, we were finally able to let go and become two bodies. All of a sudden, we were separately controlling our limbs. Coming down from the high, we realized the experience managed to erase our own ghosts for the duration of the maze. Now, when they were slowly coming back to our consciousness we became aware that we were able to forget.
A community of invisible experiences is left behind in the dark and we move on, transformed.
Images provided by the artist.
More from William Kaminski http://www.williamkaminski.com/