Yesterday I attended Eat LACMA. (Details in previous post.) It was a madhouse, a zoo, a carnival. The majority of the participants had pretty clearly been selected more for entertainment and weirdness value than for being great artists, which I must say I'm fine with.

The museum is usually pretty packed on weekends, but this festival brought out the crowds, including many very happy small children. Some art project involved sticking colored dots on people, and as the day wore on more and more people became covered in dots. A kid stealthily stuck some on me as we sat watching a dance. I pretended not to notice.

Upon exiting the elevator, I noticed six people marching past, dressed as a pink cable car, and followed by two kids dressed as ghosts. I'm not sure whether or not the kids were part of the cable car.

A very large marching band was marching around. Most of the men were sedately dressed in black, and most of the women were less sedately dressed in black loligoth outfits, but some were in random street clothes. All of them had their faces painted in vaguely kabuki-esque red, black, and white makeup.

There was a giant white wall with doughnuts, some with bite-marks, hanging from nails. People were wandering up and eating the doughnuts, or (like me) looking suspiciously and then backing off.

A woman sat at a table with stacks of zines and questionnaires, brown-painted styrofoam, and a giant mound of fudge.

"What's this about?" asked a passerby.

The woman smiled seraphically. "Poop. Want to fill out a questionnaire?"

"What's it about?"

"Poop."

Another passerby poked the styrofoam. "What's this for?"

Poop Woman, deadpan. "It's meant to be... suggestive. Want some fudge?"

After that, I did not want any fudge. I filled out the questionnaire: "Do any foods remind you of poop?" Me: "As of right now, FUDGE."

A dominatrix in a red, white, and blue gown, Miss Barbie-Q, held a watermelon-eating contest, with participants encased in trash bags to confine their arms, and strolled around with a megaphone, commanding, "EAT IT! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT IT!"

Marionettes ate "peas" for an enthralled audience of small kids and their parents. People were inveigled into dressing in biohazard suits "On order of M.O.L.D" to investigate a plastic-tarped shack with mold inside. An artist ground up a piece of LACMA's interior wall, baked it into sugar candy, and fed it to passersby. Kids were digging up potatoes. Boom Boom, a huge guy with heavy eye makeup wearing nothing but black spandex shorts, strolled around with an attendant shading him with a teeny Japanese parasol, and then sat down on the steps, where a large meal and a copy of Food and Wine magazine were placed, to "eat for your amusement." An elevator I innocently stepped into contained an extremely creepy ancient mummified autumn queen eating... something... as spooky music played.

I was admiring a woman's avant-garde black and white dress with a train of cloth dots when I realized that the train was composed of separate strands. "Tim Gunn would say it looks like octopus tentacles," I thought. The woman noticed me staring and beckoned me after her, into the Korean Gallery. It turned out that she was doing a dance/performance piece, "Know the Taste of Korean Pan-Fried Octopus?"

My favorite piece involves 12 participants in street clothes and safety goggles, stadium seating, a three-sided (and floored) white enclosure with twelve-foot walls but no ceiling, and 10,000 canned stewed tomatoes. This attracted a giant crowd. I was wedged in with two small children.

Small child: "I'm six. She's five. How old... wait... are you a grown-up?"

Me, regretful: "Yes."

Small child, disappointed: "Oh."

The tomato-throwers, assisted by three people madly opening cans of tomatoes backstage and rushing in and out to take away empty tomato buckets and replace them with full ones, began hurling tomatoes at each other.

This was clearly a classic Happening: put the ingredients and simple instructions together, then go at it. Like all good Happenings, it was enthralling. Stanislavsky created the Method when he saw how audiences were always fascinated by real things happening onstage, even normal ordinary things like someone frying an egg. Put people on a stage or in front of a camera, and suddenly everything they do is interesting. It focuses the audience's attention on individual and group dynamics. Of course it helps if you're also hurling tomatoes.

The safety goggles were lost almost instantly. Teams formed, then broke up. Tomatoes flew into the audience and were flung back. The backstage crew began tossing tomatoes from backstage. The people onstage began randomly chucking tomatoes back over the wall. So many tomatoes accumulated that people began doing the backstroke. The people onstage turned on the assistants and attacked them with tomatoes. They became exhausted and collapsed to the floor, still flinging tomatoes from kneeling positions.

At the end, they bowed and we applauded. Then an evil woman in the audience began stomping on the bleachers, yelling "Encore!"

The tomato people staggered to their feet and began hurling tomatoes once more, with no aim whatsoever. Tomatoes were flying straight up in the air. The audience fled for their lives.
My poem Light in Venice was published in the online magazine joyful!, as the Editor's Choice for November.
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