waited patiently by the foot of her bed. At noon, artist Elana Katz entered the performance space of Defibrillator wearing a perfectly pressed pair of white pajamas and proceeded to take the two blue sleep-inducing pills. For the duration of the eight-hour piece “They Said It Was Dry”, Katz remained bedridden, a prisoner to white sheets and white walls. And, despite the minimal mise en scène—three large, white, rectangular tarp covered panels and a bed (also white)—the petite brunette was enveloped by her sterile surroundings. By the performance’s end, all that was originally white and dry was transparent and wet—a light but steady water mist showered Katz for the entirety of the piece.
The allegorical performance “They Said It Was Dry” presents the artist believing “it” is dry because “they” said it was so. The initial act of swallowing whole indeed lends itself to this larger allegorical narrative, a performance that deals with authority, endurance, and obedience. Katz is alone and, held captive by a blind faith in authority, instead experiences the opposite of what “they” said to be true. The pills, literal catalysts for bodily desensitization, can be seen as metaphorical catalysts for social obedience and submission as well.
A durational piece such as this is no small feat, and the pathos of Katz’s performance made the eight hours just as much of an endurance test for audience members. (Note: The force of the piece reached a climax when, about mid-way through, Katz could be seen physically shaking. Thanks to the necessary addition of a down comforter, Katz powered through what may have very well been hypothermia.) The amplified sound of the ticking clock heightened the intensity of Katz’s containment, calling attention to the sensation of time and its passing. With little to watch other than the sedated artist—who shifted and rearranged her body and sheets only occasionally—the solemn immobility of the piece was difficult to escape. Diminutive but by no means weak, Katz performed with insurmountable discipline, dedication, and fortitude.
Photo by Myra Rodriguez
Hailing from Los Angeles, California, Elisabeth Smith is a dual-degree M.A. candidate in Modern Art History, Theory, and Criticism & Arts Administration and Policy at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Before attending SAIC, Elisabeth earned her B.A. in Art History from the University of California, Berkeley in 2011. Interested in curatorial work and community engagement at the museum level, Elisabeth has gained experience working at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, The Hammer Museum, and The Art Institute of Chicago. She currently works as a Distribution Assistant at the Video Data Bank.