Anti-Houdini, San Francisco, CA, August, 2011

On Sunday 08/21/11 from 9AM-5PM for the Pieces of Utopia exhibition at The Lab in San Francisco I constructed a wooden framed “safe” with two-way mirrored panels. I then performed the Anti-Harry-Houdini routine. Houdini used gimmicked locks, slight of hand, and hidden manipulation to perform his masterful escape acts. I did the opposite. After completing the construction of the safe I was handcuffed and locked inside. Instead of quietly manipulating the locks of my handcuffs (as Houdini would) I used a loud power tool to cut the chains. Once free of the chains I used a hand held, power surface planer to slowly, loudly and methodically destroy the safe from the inside out and to escape to freedom. The safe had a very bright light inside of it that activated only when a power tools were turned on. Because of the two-way mirrors the audience saw a reflection of themselves when the interior light of this safe was off and was able to see directly inside the safe when the light was on. The idea was to make the process of detention (building the safe) and emancipation (escaping the safe) to be an exposed, diligent, and tedious process as opposed to a guarded, miraculous, and exclusionary process. While building the safe I was dressed in a formal suit and my eyes, ears, and mouth were unprotected from the perils of woodworking. While destroying the safe my entire head was isolated with protective gear and the rest of my body was nude and vulnerable to the experience. Several people have asked me about the full protective gear that I have worn on my head in some of my recent pieces. Cabinet factories are loud places. Though you might have many coworkers there are there few opportunities to communicate with people because of the noise and also because most of a workers day will be spent wearing hearing protection and/or a respirator. For this reason, my associations with being a worker are ones of intense personal solitude and isolation that come from separating most of ones organs of perception (eyes, ears, mouth, nose) from the world with protective gear. To this day, when I need to rest and think, I reach for my noise canceling head phones and instantly the world vanishes. Special thanks to Sasha Petrenko for curating the show, Chris Sollars for editing the video, and Tristan Crane for shooting the photos!

Anti-Houdini, 08/11 @ The Lab, SF, CA | 2012 | Safety Specialist