Not funny, too expensive:
An adaptation of a couple cancellations
Artist, collaborator of BUB
Artist, collaborator of ANG
Artist, friend of ANG, BUB and JET
Artist, friend of ANG, BUB and LEE
The date is March 21 in any year you like. ANG and BUB are hanging out in their “windowless” (there is a window but it opens to reveal the exterior of the neighbouring building) studio. It is lit with numerous incandescent light sources, so it feels vaguely cozy. ANG is cross-legged on the floor hunched over a laptop. BUB is swivelling around ANG in an office chair. A low frequency building hum occurs throughout this scene.
Uh, wait, I wrote, “hey”, too informal? Should it say “hi” or “dear”?
(agast) Dear? They’re not royalty, ANG. How about, a good old fashion, nice, neutral, “hello”?
Just sussing the tone.
(ignoring ANG, repeating “hello” in different intonations to test out non-neutral ways it could come across)
K, hello it is.
[rapid deleting and retyping]
Alright, it’s sent!
Nice, I feel good...
Yeah, me too, I guess.
What are you thinking?
Sure, if you’re going to invite people over to the studio to eat it with you.
Right, so who should we call?
I’m going home, dude.
Alright, whatever you want!
You’re on top of my tote bag.
Excuse me! (wheels office chair off of ANG’s tote bag)
March 23. Late afternoon. ANG is waiting to receive her order at Chatime with her friend LEE, who recently returned from a prestigious artist residency on a sour note. It’s noisy, and orders are being shouted. (A low volume field recording at Chatime would serve well).
For every exhibition, there must be a whole bunch dead in the institution’s backwater. Email threads, meetings that went nowhere because of alleged freedoms and surprise limitations, egos bubbling and bursting, shifts in human resources. I’m not interested in “WHYYYYYYY” speculation, or gossip about capacities, or conflicts of interest, or entitlement, or whatever. It’s just a failure to communicate expectations. They fail to communicate, our energies get wasted and do you think they’re going to reconstitute under better circumstances?
(pauses to get a straw, unwrap it, toss the straw wrapper, pierce the surface of the bbt * distinct sound * and take a sip)
I didn’t know what to do, they wasted so much of my time, I had to come back to Toronto to do other shit. I had to cancel the show.
(takes another long sip)
[tinny, sharp text tone]
It sounds like they just didn’t want to say no to you, or were hoping you would change the project, or take a hint, or, I don’t know, they probably didn’t think you would cancel the whole thing though.
I was there, like, the whole residency, getting studio visits and consulting with techs and stuff on what I wanted to make and the whole time they were just wishing, hoping, praying that I would change my mind right before when I was supposed to start making it?
Hm, it’s kind of stylish to just walk out on a big institution like that, and I guess you got paid to waste your time — most of us pay streaming companies, or give up our personal data to do that.
ANG, they’re a publicly funded institution ANG. It’s dirty mismanaged money, ANG! What a sad, fucked way to waste my time — all just because they don’t know how to say no!!!
Ah, ok, just trying to make you feel cool for it, but I get what you’re saying. You can pay for drinks tomorrow then. Consider it a tax refund.
You’re pretty charming, and a little scary when you’re not.
You know, I get “no” all the time, you think I can’t take no for an answer?
[tinny, sharp text tone]
(playfully yells) I HAVE TO CHARM TO SURVIVE!
(laughs) You’ll be fine.
Ugh, I mean if they’re going to waste my time at least waste my time somewhere warm.
[2-3 seconds of Chatime soundscape]
ANG, that guy just took your order!
(was previously zoned out, but snaps back)
(cranes neck over)
No, that was 36. Mine is... (looks at chit) 34???
Hey, that guy is BUB!
Oh weird, yeah it is. (shouts) HEY BUB! That’s my drink!
ANG, don’t shout, he’s right there for fuck’s sake.
BUB doesn’t respond even though he is clearly within earshot and starts to exit the Chatime.
(laughs) He thinks I’m an angry person who thinks he took their drink.
What? You called him by his name.
Huh, maybe he didn’t hear me. Oh my god, he’s making a run for it! (laughs, impressed, follows after BUB)
ANG exits the Chatime to go after BUB who turns around after a few paces and looks relieved.
Oh my god, I thought you were an angry person who thought I took their drink.
So, you just left?!
Well, I thought you said, “Bud, that’s my drink” which is like, really aggressive.
What? To address someone as bud?
Yeah, you know, like, “Hey bud, is that your car?”
(apologetic, but laughing) Did I scare you?
(hyperventilating a little) YES, YES YOU DID.
(laughs) Ok, I’m sorry but you shouldn’t try and make off with a stranger’s order at Chatime.
But it’s mine. (points to drink) It’s my drink.
I know, BUB, but it sure looked like you were trying to take someone’s drink.
LEE catches up to them with ANG’s drink.
(to BUB) How did you get your drink before ANG? (hands the drink and a straw to ANG)
(takes the drink and pierces the top with a straw)
I saw them mess up the drink ahead of mine and they had to make it again.
This is way too sweet. You heard me ask for 30% sugar, right?
Well I didn’t know it was YOUR drink, I just saw them re-making what appeared to be MY drink, but then they called my number, so guess it was yours. Hey, so ANG, what time is it?
(gives him a weird face, looks at her phone and eyebrows raise) WHAT?!
Oh, I see you got my text, ANG.
Oh, I understand. You stress-drinking Chatime?
OK, I can’t handle this conversation. I’ll see you guys (pause) later. ANG, I’ll pick you up at 7 tomorrow.
The next day, March 24, approaching 7PM. ANG and BUB are back in their “windowless” studio, jointly authoring an email. This time, ANG is rolling around in the office chair and BUB is hunched over the laptop.
I know — put headings in the email, so they don’t get confused.
If they’re confused and we’re not confused, then maybe… we actually are confused.
Like, about what? About what we’re supposed to be doing?
Like, about what they want us to be doing.
Yeah, I am confused because they said we could do whatever we want.
But we’re submitting a public art proposal, we can’t just DO WHATEVER WE WANT.
Then, they’re confused about what they’re asking us to do because they said, we could DO WHATEVER WE WANT.
Whatever we want, but they can’t necessarily make whatever we want happen.
They can’t just throw that around, “Whatever we want.”
You know, you keep saying that like it’s some kind of binding contract but I think we have to move on from that as an idea that’s going to help us at this point. If they want something specific, then they haven’t told us what, and we need them to tell us.
What they want.
Ok, I thought this was about what we wanted.
Clearly not, so let’s revisit the prompts.
Race, and tech.
Simple, but not.
Do you think...they just don’t like it?
Well you can’t just ask two racialized people to make something about race and then send them back to the drawing board. It’s not like ordering a pepperoni pizza and sending it back because there’s pepperoni on it and then act all confused because you actually wanted a different pizza in the first place.
OK. This is what I think, one, I can tell you’ve been hanging out LEE, and two, our idea is great, it’s subtle!
More subtle than they think, too subtle? Maybe theydon’t get it?
What? Not get it?
Assuming we’re all adults here, if they don’t like it, they can say they don’t like it. If they don’t get it, they should just say that they don’t get it. But that neither of those things have been said, so we can only operate on the assumption that they don’t hate it and that they... let’s just write them back and be...really thorough, in the description, as possible.
[sound of laptop turning on, gentle tapping of trackpad]
K, then so, de-tail-ed, pro-po-sal.
[sounds of typing at varied speeds, continuously]
[rapid typing with long dramatic pauses, un-typing, and typing continuously]
If we asked them what they wanted, do you think they would know, or would they only know what they didn’t want once we’ve told them what WE want?
[sounds of typing at varied speeds, continuously]
[gentle sarcasm with overtures of relief]
Too philosophical. [keeps typing]
Can’t wait to graduate after we submit our dissertation.
[long stretch of typing]
[tinny, sharp text tone]
Ok, alright, lets just send in that dissertation on systemic racism and public art. LEE’s outside.
You go. Do you want me to forward it to you first before I send?
Nyah, I trust you. See ya.
The next day, March 24, approaching 7PM. ANG and BUB are back in their “windowless” studio, working on a joint email. This time, ANG is rolling around in the office chair and BUB is hunched over the laptop.
It’s just irresponsible to tell people they can do whatever they want without any regard for the consequences of what people might actually do.
(gesticulating heavily) You guys are too caught up in whether they like it, or get it. If they don’t like it, if they don’t get it, how is art supposed to happen like this?!
LEE, you think you could maybe keep your hands on the wheel?
I just don’t trust people who tell me I can do whatever I want. People have to just own up to the fact that they have expectations, agendas, baby.
I swear to god, I never should have stopped making social realism. There’s a real program to it. You just depict the pain of the working class as a means to demonize capitalism. Sure! It’s propaganda, but at least you know who your master is. These people, they can’t say no, they don’t know what they want, they’re afraid of leadership. They’re never going to make anything good until they stop pretending to be advocates for the arts and just admit that they don’t know shit all and they should just give us the money and let us do what we actually want with it.
LEE, you have never made anything social realist in your entire life. We are in a Honda Civic. You are so full of shit.
I know, I’m just saying nonsense to try and make you feel better. I mean, I feel better, even though I’m full of shit — at least I know I am. I am fully aware of the lies I am living and the ones I produce to live.
Driving while philosophical is not a bad look for you.
No ANG, philosophical is a bad look for me, too pensive. I need to be like HOT and EMPTY LIES.
(laughing) Ay, eyes on the road, hands on the wheel!
Sorry, nothing I’m saying makes any sense because I’m focused on obeying “the laws of the road.” How is art supposed to happen like this.
Audio. Scene introduced by the sound of someone chopping vegetables, a blender, or a YouTube clip of a smoothie instructional video.
LEE, BUB, and ANG are sitting at a table in a bar. A performance hosted in the back has just concluded. BUB has sent the email to the PROGRAMMING COMMITTEE and has joined them at the bar in the midst of the performance. They are waiting for their friend JET, who is late, and has missed the show.
You don’t think he meant to have a sharper knife for that performance? He seemed to be really struggling to chop up those vegetables.
I feel readjusted after witnessing a nonsensical sequence of human impulses.
I’ve heard that he’s done this performance a few times and each time he uses a better blender.
Now that guy, (pause) is doing whatever he wants.
JET spots them and apologises profusely for being late.
That is such mythology. He just gets one at a thrift store, washes it out, and brings it back the next day.
There’s JET. I don’t think he sees us.
(deadpan) Hey guys, sorry I’m late.
You made BUB seem less late.
EXCUSE ME, I was writing a very, very, long email on our behalf.
You were writing an email?
Yeah, basically a dissertation on our public art proposal.
I was writing an email, too!
(zoned out) I just imagined you guys getting really stoked and fist bumping. (takes a sip of her drink)
They said it’s not what they expected.
Oh, my, god, what.
Well, what happened?
Well, it just wasn’t what they wanted.
Did they tell you could do whatever you want?
Oh, my god, I get you...a drink (flutters off to buy JET a drink)
Really? Why? Did something happen?
JET, what happened?
LEE! Yeah, I’ll take a drink! (turns back to ANG and BUB) So I send them the work I made for the space...
The laundromat, the poems
The laundromat, the poems. And then they were like,
(takes out phone and opens email app)
just a sec, they said,
[in recorded text-to-speech voice]
“It’s not what we expected.”
And you know what this is?
(audibly pokes his phone to open an attachment, * pause * shows to ANG and BUB)
Is that (pause) your Instagram feed?
It’s a screenshot of it.
(returns to the table, to JET) Here’s your drink, so what happened?
Thank you, what is it?
(curtly) It’s a drink.
I don’t know, it’s a...beer. So, then what happened? What did you say? (sees ANG getting up from the table)
ANG, where are you going?
(raises glass and looks at it) What kind of beer?
Show LEE. (flutters away)
Show me what? Show me what?
What kind of beer?
(to LEE) The curators of the laundromat space sent JET a screenshot of his own Instagram profile after rejecting the work he made for their space.
(laughs, intrigued) What? Why?
(takes a sip) LEE, I think this is a cider.
Ah, sorry. It’s...
Just not what you were expecting
(comes back to the group) You guys, I could hear you shouting each others names from the bathroom.
Jet was just telling us what it’s like to have his own Instagram feed reflected back at him.
(fake injured) Saaad, right?
But you just post pictures of us and stuff you buy.
I know, ANG, I know.
Did you use headers in your email?
Headers? No, what are you on about? K, you guys, (enters passcode) I said,
[excerpts of email (italicized) are recorded in text-to-speech voice]
“I understand the work I produced doesn’t match your expectations.” and “The way I approach working with photography is really about making objects where the framing, the printing, and the scale are very very important (as much as the ‘image’ itself). None of these factors can be taken into account in the current context, that’s why I gladly worked around it and had fun in trying to make something that is, I think, suited to the space and to its interesting constraints. I worked hard, despite time constraints, to create a piece specifically for you. This is, to say the least, a rather disconcerting and disappointing response to recieve.”
And it kind of just goes on like this and then I justsaid, “Overall I find myself at odds with your approach tocurating and in this regard I prefer to cancel the show.”
(silent, waiting for everyone else’s reaction)
(quick and breathy) Yeah. (sips cider)
Wow, that’s really... (impressed, bright) direct!
Yeah, but it took me like two hours to write it.That’s why I was so late. Honestly, I just didn’t want to drag it out. We were on the wrong path.
Oh my god.
LEE cancelled her show too.
(to ANG) Do you think I overdid it with the headers?
No, I think the headers were a good call.
March 29, 11pm. Four days later, BUB and ANG’s re-submitted proposal (with headers) has been reviewed and was rejected.
“Windowless” studio. ANG and BUB have been fired from the public art commission they have been emailing about these past few days. LEE is at the studio, and JET is enroute.
How are we still here?
What do you mean, “here”?
I mean, here, in the studio — we should have left hours ago. Gone somewhere, ate something, did something.
We had to wait for LEE and now we’re waiting for JET.
We could have asked them to meet us somewhere.
Yeah, but LEE was already on her way, how was I supposed to know she was going to take forever?
Guys, I didn’t take forever, I (pause) got pulled over for speeding.
You did not.
I know, but it seems like I rushed over and got punished in the process of trying to perform valiant friendship.
At least you brought snacks. (sounds of packages being opened)
Have some snacks.
I need real food.
Could order a pizza.
LEE will pay for it.
Sure, why not.
(bit of a brief pause while that conversation peters off, and ANG changes the subject)
It’s kind of a combination of what happened to LEE and JET. They’re asking if we want to do a performance at their opening, which is the exact same as saying “it’s not what we expected” and then asking to reproduce your social media presence. It’s like, neither of these groups seem to understand that these are astronomically different things, even though we’ve been focused on doing what we wanted throughout this entire thing. It’s bold.
I hate to say it, but maybe we should cancel?
(mocking tone) “We appreciate the time and energy you have invested in this project.”
I got something like that too, like almost an identical line. (mocking tone) “The time and energy you have put into the project is admirable...”
They didn’t even give us a reason, we basically got fired from a job in the process of applying for it. Remember, they were frowning the whole time we were pitching the idea. They hated it even before we sent them the email with headers.
K, it hasn’t got anything to do with the headers. They’ve just got worms for brains. So do we. We all have worms.
I don’t have worms, speak for yourself.
Ok, I have worms.
Nobody has worms.
K, then what do you think they were expecting?
I don’t know, something funny and inexpensive?
Yeah, if you’re funny once...
(three gentle knocks on the door, then the door opens to reveal Jet all sweaty and standing in the threshold)
Hey guys, you ok? Sorry, late again. Took awhile to...
Oh my god.
You beautiful amazing, wonderful...
Ah, yeah right, sorry I’m late again, but at least I brought you guys a pizza!!!
What kind of pizza?
Ah shut up, LEE.
No genuinely curious, what kind of pizza is it?
It’s a Hawaiian pizza.
Ok, alright, it’s really for me, but it’s a large, so you guys are welcome to have some if you want.
I respect this man, he knows how to look after himself— his needs, his desires — all while simultaneously attempting to appear generous.
Yes, and comfortable admitting the selfish factor. Bold.
Guys, stop talking about me like a cheap cologne and eat some of this pizza.
I will eat some to confirm your generosity.
Well, this level of transparency is uplifting.
I like Hawaiian pizza.
(opens the pizza box) Jet, this is a pepperoni pizza.
Really? No way, they messed up my order?
No just kidding, it’s right, it’s right, it’s Hawaiian.
(laughs to herself)
- END -