We Are All in This Together

On a campus that has seen its share of the weird and the wonderful, they were still an exceptional sight: a man in a suit of wings; a man wearing huge ears and a Dixie cup hat, and acting like a monkey; a man in a fool's hat of bells pushing a shopping cart full of props; a gushy woman with a camera and black Magic Marker signatures all over her body; about 50 others, most less flashily outfitted but clearly aligned with them; and their leader, a fearless woman in dog ears and nose. Around 2pm on Thursday, December 10, they gathered at the West Mall Fountain on the UT campus and for three-and-a-half hours they made themselves seen and heard by the students, administrators, and assorted employees who regularly toil away on the 40 Acres, inserting part of their lives ó their art ó into the life of this large, sometimes oppressively sober university.

Believe it or not, they were doing schoolwork. Several members of this group were students in a fall semester performance art class taught by amazing writer-performer Terry Galloway (Out All Night and Lost My Shoes, Esther's Follies), and Galloway ó the dog-woman ó was conducting a cross-campus tour along which students would perform class projects. The pieces, as described by Galloway, were a varied lot: a woman singing an "anti-ode" to Barnes & Noble; the massed tour group "taking over" the Cactus Cafe; a "slap dance confessional"; two men fighting with inflatable boxing gloves; a man carrying out assorted tasks while a tape of the word "work" chanted for 10 minutes plays in the background; two men presenting acts of violence ó including decapitation of a stuffed rabbit with a hatchet ó as stylized ritual; a woman writing her life in chalk on the sidewalk down the wheelchair ramp outside the art building; a man in longjohns and umbrella who splashed through a fountain, then came out, was hit on the back and wrapped in a blanket while the group sang "Happy Birthday" to him, then ate birthday cake with the group.

When have so many university facilities been co-opted so subversively for art? In addition to outdoor spaces which became "stages," a few staid indoor spaces were transformed into sets. One women's restroom in the Art building had a wreath hair and hay hung on its door, hay strewn all over the floor inside, and a bail of hay set in a stall, while in another stall, the door had been replaced by a plastic sheet coated with Vaseline so you could see two people, nude and also covered in Vaseline, embracing.

Not the sort of thing you'd expect state workers to be too supportive of, but Galloway says that the University employees she encountered were just fine with their art tour. When she sought to project the words of one student on the wall of the Perry-Castañeda Library, university workers in Jester Center were very helpful. And when 40 tour members, men and women, crowded into another women's restroom ó this one in Jester ó to see a piece, a staffer there waved it off with a laugh.

Would that the weather had been so genial. The day was cold and rainy, about as unappealing as you could hope for when you're committed to an afternoon of tromping across campus outdoors. But Galloway and company didn't let it faze them, and neither did the folks who joined the tour just to watch. By the time they reached the PCL and the end of the tour, some three dozen folks were still along for the ride. They seemed to take to heart the words of Matt Black being projected two stories high on this monument to learning: "We Are All in This Together." Amen, Mr. Black. Amen, Terry.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Articulations
The Harry Ransom Center has acquired all the professional and personal materials of profoundly influential acting teacher Stella Adler

Robert Faires, April 30, 2004

It's the end of an era for the city of Austin's Art in Public Places Program as Martha Peters, administrator of the program for 11 of its 18 years, departs to direct a public art program in Fort Worth.

Robert Faires, July 18, 2003


Visual Art, Performing Art, Theatre, Dance

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle