June 25, 2009

Absurd Arts (performance art peice in leiu of paper on the Body Artist spring 2003)

Absurd Arts

j. edgar mihelic*

Seeing how we as a group have focused on the performance art1 aspect of Don DeLillo’s book The Body Artist, I though that that instead of more trite staccato talk about themes and characters, we should explore this theme more in-depth, and I have put together a performance art work of my own. I would consider it an interpretative dance of the novel as a whole, but I am more interested in the relationship between the novel’s protagonist, Lauren Hartke, and the semi-imagined ephemeral being that she dubs “Mr. Tuttle.” I see the Mr. Tuttle character as the realization of grief over Rey’s suicide, and whether or not he is a phantasm is highly debatable.
I would like to think that he is a physically coherent being, but I have no concrete proof on which to base this assumption. For me, it allows for an easier time in the suspension of disbelief area, which is hard to do, knowing the main character presumably makes her living by shifting her shape.
In trying to overcome the difficulty that is the relationship, I focus on three passages that are key to me, and stick out for some reason on the second reading. The first such passage is found on page 45, at the beginning of chapter three and very son after the reader is introduced to Mr. Tuttle. “There was something so strange about him that she heard her words hang in the room, predictable and trite.”
The second one is on page 67, “She though that maybe he lived in a time that had no narrative quality. What else did she think?” I have a gained a distaste for rhetorical questions over the years. (Haven’t we all)? I still think that this is an important passage, as it deals explicitly with the metaphysical time relationship that is found all over the book, starting with the first sentence.
The last one that I would like to examine is the passage on page 79, which also reflects the amorphous time that DeLillo has set up in this novel, “There is nothing he can do to imagine time existing in reassuring sequence, passing, flowing, happening—the world happens, its has to, we feel it—with names and dates and distinctions.”
As a request from the audience, I would hope for silence, as the verbal portion is recorded on a handheld tape recorder, and composed of scenes and dialogue from the novel. This tape recorder is much like the one I imagine being a central figure as representative of memory in the book. However, the speaker is not loud, and quiet is quite appreciated.