First Encounters: A Brief Interview with Performers of Through and Through and Through
Written by James Knowlton

In a passage from OVER-BELIEFS, the book of essays and interviews published on the occasion of Gordon Hall’s Through and Through and Through at PICA (June 8 – August 10, 2019), Hall states,

“the space between, where the furniture meets your body, that little gap that closes when you sit down or touch something– that’s what I get excited about. With this object, I didn’t go out searching for a bench. It’s like having a crush on someone or the way you can imagine exactly what the body of someone you’ve slept with feels like even when they’re not there.”

The sculptural pieces serve as active participants that encourage movement and dialogue in relation to them, as well as potential future and past memories. The experience of wandering through sculptures that are indicative of thresholds, rest spaces, moments of encounter with an object before the entry and exit of a space– all these points of contact help us question how the materiality of our daily lives impacts us.

This passage–and the anticipation of a water fountain’s offering right before it hits your lips in mind–made me think it would be interesting to conduct an interview of sorts about a performers “first date” with one of the sculptures. It is with an understanding of the anxieties that come with a first meeting; the hope, desire, and anticipation that can be found in the moment before the encounter that Gordon hopes also can reveal an opportunity for care. Gordon often speaks about care, and how it “is an articulation of an ethos for encountering one another.” The interview questions are meant to be silly, didactic, and ultimately utilize a contemporary sense of dating to get to a deeper understanding of the work. As a performer with some of the works, I’ll also engage these questions.

An image of Gordon Hall sculpture at Portland Institute for Contemporary Art Opening Reception

Gordon Hall Opening Reception, Photo by Tojo Andrianarivo

First Date with Takahiro Yamamoto, Maggie Heath, James Knowlton and Anonymous

Why were you drawn to (SCULPTURE) initially? What were the physical, mental, or emotional attributes that drew you towards wanting to meet them?

T: Parallelogram Bench (for Dennis) looked familiar. Probably because I’ve seen a similar structure from past projects [of Hall’s]. I was curious about the [previous iteration of a similar sculpture] past project, so it was making me want to get to know more.

M: My first encounter with Facing Ls was after a long night on a red eye to New York. I was sleep deprived and over stimulated by being in the city. We had extremely large sandwiches that we brought into the building that Gordon had been staging his sculptures in. I was overwhelmed ordering the sandwich and was trying to appear professional and friendly. The building was a disaster, but Gordon’s room was peaceful. It was some mixture of cemetery and sanctuary. The room must have had lights, but I feel like when we first walked in it was more cathedral like. Though maybe I was too tired to really remember. Everything in the room looked like it had been asleep and covered in dust.

J: I saw Stoop Ornament from afar first, I wasn’t sure if they could see me, but I certainly saw them. There was something about their height that drew me to them. I really appreciated the circle top, the curly hair upon their head.

A: I tap on everyone I wanna fuck, but I knew after seeing their [Floor Door (For Freds)] photos and reading their profile that I really wanted to meet them. They seemed like a fun person to hang out with, not just bang and go.

What were the thoughts and emotions that arose when you first saw them?

T: Geometric is a very peculiar way. I could not place any logic, spatial logic to it.

M: I immediately saw Facing Ls. They seemed so tender together. I thought they were pale blue. Gordon explained they were painted two shades of grey. They really looked blue.

J: I was nervous to talk to them, I always am to meet a new Stoop. I felt uncertain how they would respond to me. I felt shy about engaging because they seemed so put together, held, and astute.

A: I think the usual – how do they look so cute? Do they like Tim Hecker? Who’s topping?

How did you work through any initial anxieties, in order to approach and introduce yourself? If you didn’t feel nervous to meet them, how did you find that confidence?

M: They sat on the opposite side of the room from us. We on the empty canvas “rug”, the Facing Ls with the rest of their sculpture friends on their canvas “rug”. I didn’t take off my shoes and saw footprints I left from the dirty warehouse on the linen and immediately tried to brush them off. I was still holding a giant sandwich. I kept looking over at the Facing Ls which felt as though they were in forever suspension of wanting to nestle in with one another. Lovers in anticipation? Or of anticipation?

J: I realized that although they looked pretty stationary, life is so fleeting and I didn’t want to miss the chance to communicate with them. It helped that I knew they were leaving town in a month and this would be my only chance.

A: Chatting on an app helps with that awkward anxiety about chatting with someone initially. It also helps to gauge someone before you agree to meet them. I don’t think I can truly feel 100% confident about meeting someone, especially when you have internalized so many expectations about how to appeal to someone or get their attention. You kinda just have to dive into it and see what happens. That’s what it’s all about, right? Just figuring it out as you go along.

What did it feel like to first talk with (SCULPTURE)? Who spoke first? Did they seem interested in the things you said? Were you interested in what they had to share?

T: The piece spoke first, telling me how the size is not what it seems from outside. Also, it spoke to me how fragile and precarious it is. That’s when I realized that my involvement (the involvement of my body) is more of a conversation than one-way approach.

M: They looked so sleek… but when I went over to inspect them I was pleased to see they had so many hints of a human touch on them. Not in fingerprints, or obvious markings. But in … ugh… I don’t know how to say it. The way you try to sculpt something out of… say… clay. And you try to make it smooth with your hand, but maybe there is a little bulbous moment that happens? Which lets you know it was made from human not from machine. It strives towards that machine finish, only it will always show its human-ness by that one bulbous moment. Does that make sense?

J: I approached first. They were so still, I didn’t know who would speak first. I decided to introduce myself. They didn’t seem particularly interested in what I had to say, it seemed more they wanted to be close with me in silent ways. I was interested in their fortitude and I learned that they had held so many people before through this exchange.

A: Kinda like before, there’s always anxieties about initially chatting with someone. There’s a big difference between messaging someone and chatting with someone in person. It’s nice though when it moves from being more formal and proper to us just sharing memes.

Did you have physical contact? What did that contact look, feel, taste, sound like?

M: We ate our sandwiches.

Afterwards, we began to pack up the sculptures. Moving them from the secret warehouse into the truck that felt like some sort of hibernation chamber once they all were strapped in. I expected the Facing Ls to be lighter than they were — they seemed to defy gravity. But of course they are made from concrete, so really, what was I thinking? I didn’t pack them, though I felt I wanted to protect them more than the person who was packing them did. I really didn’t trust that they were secure. I was too tired to put up a fight that wasn’t worth it, plus, worrying when no one else is, is a sure sign you might care a little too much. They seemed to travel fine.

Packed up, they sat next to one another, L next to L. No longer Facing. No longer holding that tenderness they once held as they sat in that apprehension, that tension, that suspension, with that space, that gap, that slit between them. Their tenderness turned into something else. Less like lovers and more like companions. How fast a relationship can change, just by how we stand opposed to one another.

J: Consent is vital. I learned that they wanted me to delicately touch their head. I slowly let my hand graze the spirals and curves of their body. They responded by showing me their shape and materiality.

A: Yeah we did. Don’t feel comfy going into it but we did listen to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”

Would you say that this contact was driven by desire? If yes, please explain. If not, what drove the physical element of your relationship?

T: It’s always a negotiation. I was nervous every single time I got in contact with it; however, I also knew that the costume, the socks, looks great with it, which motivated me more to be in contact with it.

J: I would be lying if I did not want to touch them from the moment I saw them. There was something about their shape and their ornateness of face, while having a minimal and strong body that really compelled me toward them.

A: Define desire.

How often do you think about this first date?

T: It reminded me of the first date every single time I was in contact with. Quite lovely.

A: Pretty often. I enjoy a fun fuck.

Would you go on more dates? If yes, what would you like to do with them? If no, was this a matter of chemistry? Or simply, why not?

T: Yes sure. I would be careful, as much as I can. :)

M: Though I came into direct contact with them in installation and though I desired to know them, and perhaps even do know them with a different type of intimately than some, now that they sleep in PICA’s warehouse they feel more off-limits. As though, it’s better to look from afar, always in relation to, orbiting around, adjacent from the Facing Ls and never with.

J: I appreciated what we shared in those moments, but I feel that the more they’re experienced in this way– the duller they potentially get.

A: Probably not, since they kept saying “spirit animal” during the date.