For all of the spectators at the BMA and online who got a glimpse of last Saturday’s Areas for Action event with artist Oliver Herring, here is an interview with two of the participants, Lulu Bao and Kel Millionie, who share what the experience was like for them:
What inspired you to participate in this art event?
LULU: It was the email I received from BMA Volunteer Coordinator Rachel Sanchez mentioning the wall painting with Oliver Herring. The image of being part of the art project came in to my mind suddenly, then I thought I couldn’t miss the chance to have this unique life experience. I wanted to step a bit out of my comfort zone and embrace something I have never done before.
KEL: I’ve been an admirer of Oliver Herring’s work since before we acquired his Areas forAction portfolio of videos and portraits in 2011. I wanted to experience his art from the perspective of a participant vs. a spectator or viewer.
Were you surprised by how often you were directed to spit on each other? How would you describe that experience?
LULU: I was not very surprised because I watched some videos of Areas for Action on YouTube before the event. I think the experience created an intimate connection between us as volunteers, as well as with the artist and the audience. Some key words in my mind to describe my experience would be: excited, open-minded, and emotional.
KEL: I was not surprised at how many times I was spat upon or spat onto others.
I’ve watched many of Oliver Herring’s videos and they show this as part of the process. Regarding being spat upon: at first it is quite jarring, cold, and shocking to be spat upon so forcefully. Many people have said they find it “gross” or “unsanitary,” but I did not feel it was either.
How has participating in the event as a volunteer change the experience for you?
LULU: Becoming part of the art performance gave me a chance to understand the artist’s thoughts from a different angle. By transferring my identity from an art viewer to a member in the performance, I felt more involved. I asked the artist about his thinking of controlling and losing control during the process because for most of the time we were trying to do the things as he wanted, but at some points we were able to choose colors or areas that we wanted to spray. There was some certainty and some uncertainty of this event outcome and I don’t think I would have considered that if I hadn’t been part of the experience.
KEL: I find his process of directing volunteers to create his art familiar because I am a theater director and designer and often tell performers how to move and behave in controlled spaces.
What was your favorite moment?
LULU: I love the moment when I was asked to climb to someone’s shoulder, because at that moment I had to trust someone I just met. I memorized the feeling of holding his hands and trusting the artist and my partner so well even several days after the event.
KEL: Looking in the mirror after the four-hour experience was over.
Do you have any advice for future Areas for Action volunteers?
LULU: I would suggest future volunteers to go to restrooms right before the performance and get ready for not going there for hours (like a half-day). Also, it is necessary to get used to bare feet because wet socks won’t feel good if you have to step into the colored water. Trying not to laugh while having water in your mouth is important, otherwise, you may choke, which can be a bit unpleasant.
KEL: Give in!