“NO SAFE ZONE: Dino Dinco,” Artillery Magazine, April/May 2012. Vol. 6 Issue 2. 2012
When it comes to understanding the LA performance art scene, there are few people more knowledgeable than Dino Dinco. As someone who grew up seeing legends like Ron Athey and Vaginal Davis perform at LACE, and seeking out impromptu and illegal performance spaces in downtown LA back in the ’80s, Dinco’s roots run deep. Recently, Dinco’s interest came full circle when he made his way back to LACE as the venerable art institution’s Performance Art Curator in Residence. I was able to catch up with him recently over a pot of tea, and talk with him about this residency, and what he thinks about performance art today.
One of the highlights of Dinco’s residency was his “3x6x3” series, which allowed for groups of six viewers to experience three works by three performance artists in each of LACE’s cavernous rooms. Skeptical of the spectacle that comes with mass viewership, Dinco describes this series as, “an experiment in spectatorship, changing the way people experience performance. I wanted to prevent the opportunity for someone to feel safe or anonymous in a big crowd.” So, when an artist like Samuel White rides a mechanical bull while reminiscing about anonymous sexual encounters with men vomits, then gets back on the bull— the audience is right there; it’s hard to maintain a distance. Dinco observes, “One of the things that attracts me to performance is how the corporeal bodily component shifts how we feel about ourselves when we watch it.”
Performance art lends itself to collaboration, something Dinco encourages in his curatorial endeavors. One of these, A Composite Field, paired up the installation and sound artist Yann Novak and dancer/performance artist Taisha Paggett to create a site-specific installation in a modernist box atop the Mackey Apartments’ garage. After nearly a year of conceptualization, the resulting performances feature Paggett employing impenetrably slow butoh-like movements that break down and build up her body. Novak’s improvised acoustic soundscape, created from recordings made in situ, accompanies Paggett with textural renderings that are imperceptible, yet, once heard, unavoidable. A solid chromatic projection illuminates the ceiling, changing glacially over time, casting a glow on everyone in the room. This paring was meditative, almost transcendent, and when it was over I couldn’t tell if 10 minutes or an hour had passed. The experience made me aware of my living body in time and space.
This, in the end, may be the heart of performance art, no matter its actors or venue: to rejoin you with yourself and make you aware of the bodies around you, to remind you of life with all its pains and pleasures, boredoms and excitements. But none of this matters if you’re not there in the first place. Fortunately, L.A. has people like Dino Dinco to help make experiences like this possible.