Performance Art by the Woman

Kristi has made a lot of different kinds of work. The first big production was two hours long and happened three times during a week in April 1994 at Bard College. It was called Open Up Yer Face and Singand it was a multi-media project exploring the development of self and other through a culture of sexual oppression.

The Program:

Counting the Holes
Mettle (Metal)
Partita No. 1 in Bb major: Prelude, Allemande, Sarabande - J. S. Bach
grieving improv
I Said Yes
tickling monologue
I Become You
Walking Women
The Maiden and Her Master
Me in Four Voices
I Cover the Waterfront
Sweet Song
The Little Suite for Christmas: 3. The Shepherd's Noel 4. Adoration of the Magi 6. Canticle of the Holy Night - George Crumb
Silence and Voice
I Said No
When Outside Gets Inside Through the Skin
Turcotte's Voice
As They Come
Ummm Uh-huh
See You Sweet

The Cast:
Kristi Martel (production, direction, engineering, writing, composition, choreography, concept, vocals, piano, movement)
Anne Palmer (movement)
Jen Cooke (choreography and movement)
Akire Bubar (vocals and movement)
Aisha DaCosta (vocals and movement)
Elissa Kammer (vocals and movement)
Gilda Lyons (vocals and movement)
Carmel Holt (vocals)
Brett Schaerer (drums)
Andrew Hill (lighting designer)
Piali Mukherjee (stage manager)

The second production
wasn't so big. It was on Easter Sunday in New York City's Lesbian and Gay Community Center in 1995. It was called Black-Eyed Susanand was an eighty-five minute original solo piece telling stories which problematize popular constructions of loveand lover. It was less big because I was no longer in school and I couldn't get people to work for free anymore...

The Program:

Mettle (Metal)
When Outside Gets Inside Through the Skin
The Mule
The Maiden and Her Master
Turcotte's Voice
Black-eyed Susans
Susan Walks
Autumn Nightwork
As They Come
See You Sweet

With Mouth and Hands
was the third production (or fourth, if you count the very first production, Intimacies...), a kind of retrospective of my piano and voice songs done as one of my two thesis concerts for my mfa at Mills College. These songs tend to explore the bounds of relationships and identities - interior, romantic, social, public. They trace my partners' imprints on me, each in succession. Often, after the song is itself, my mother appears flashing in the outline. Every relationship seems to be affected by her marks on me.
These are not "art songs" or "chamber music" or even really "electronic music." They are pop songs, or more likely folk or blues songs. Part of what I went to Mills to do was to write more songs, even though you're not supposed to need the academy to do so -- or, even though the academy doesn't want you to do that there. I keep insisting that songs are valid, complicated, necessary, theoretically challenging work, work that is needed inside of any study of music, work that more people listen to, learn from, connect with, enjoy and pay money for, than most other musics. I think that what people like is an important thing to notice when you're creating art, especially since that includes me and what I like. I like folk songs and funk.
It was held in the Mills College Concert Hall on March 19, 1998.

My voice and piano were processed live by Bob Boster, more than your average sound board operator.

The Program:

A Grieving
Turcotte's Voice
The Mule
Autumn Nightwork
My Torn in Two
Motherless Child

began on 5 May 1995 when I landed in the emergency room for what acted like but was not toxic shock syndrome. That hospital visit made quite clear that I had been very sick for a long time. I was enraged by my experience of the doctors and began writing that story and all the stories I could think of that informed my rage. Two months later I wrote Borderlands, a piece for my live speaking and singing and a tape of voices and percussion that tells the hospital story. I called it the beginning of a new work about medicine and the female body that I was sometimes calling Toxic Shock. I thought I would collect women¹s hospital stories and create a long show.

But as I learned more about the piece and it became itself, I realized that a feeling of insanity about what is real in my life -- the emotional incest and eating disorders that brought me to a place of illness -- is what drives the work and holds it together. Flood is about the internal workings of such stories, the body memories and my mother. It grew to include my mother¹s voice in me and to more clearly relate my experience of myself that is her as well as my experience of her.

Throughout the next three years, through workshops and graduate school, I wrote, recorded, engineered, rehearsed and performed in bits and pieces what later became Flood.

As a finished piece, Flood included many pieces within pieces:

Laughter (Spring 1996) is a set of short theatre pieces. It is about how women often see themselves: timed, too fat, too old, unhealthy, injured, sick, crazy. It's about the state of always being watched, about what happens to the mind and to the body.

Records: Witnesses, Selves, Guardians & Thieves (Autumn 1996 - Spring 1998) is my attempt to trace my family's history of eating and body image disorders alongside the emotional incest I survived. I see these as symptoms of our society's misogyny as it manifests itself in my own family and of my family's working class history. I have found that I can not write one story without the other. I have tried to reproduce the sound environment I grew up within by collaging the voices that I most remember.

The following is a list of pieces and interviews that are the sources of this tape music. The pieces were written as part of a set of pieces I wrote each on its own day over the course of a year between my 24th and 25th birthdays, called Daily Pieces. Each one is spoken by me and listed with the date it was written. The interviews are listed by who is speaking with the dates of recording. My mother has not asked to remain anonymous, but has called my memories slander, so I have not identified who is who. Some people heard are not listed because they didn't know I'd use their answering machine message, or they were only coincidentally recorded while recording one of the people listed. The people heard are my mother, my grandmother, each of my two grandfathers, my high school best friend, my cousin, my half sister and me. The tape also includes two texts I wrote much earlier; four short pieces I wrote in Csound; brief samples of Prince; excerpts of the song Three Little Fishies by Kay Kyser and His Orchestra; excerpts of the song Joyful Girl by Ani DiFranco; and excerpts from a recording I did while walking through Manhattan, called Walking North.

This taped piece is only one part of Records; a dance duet and voice piece are performed simultaneously. The dance duet was originally a trio. I taught my choreography to Allison Orr and Dawn Frank. Together we expanded these movements into a loosely structured improvisation which has since become a duet.

Story #1 (1 February 1996)
Story #2 (exorcism) (17 May 1996)
4 Instrument Piece (September 1996)
Buzz #2 (October 1996)
Gliss Piece (October 1996)
Modulation Piece (November 1996)
Walking North (20 December 1996)
Kristi (23 December 1996)
Nancy (27 December 1996)
And the Lights Go Out (29 January 1997)
Mother¹s Desire (9 March 1997)
Dreams #1 (27 March 1997)
Selling Silverware (28 March 1997)
Stats (9 December 1997)
Birthday-Present Piano (11 December 1997)
Denise (19 December 1997)
Kate (2 January 1998)
Shirley (3 January 1998)
Heather (22 March 1998)
Implied Opposites (and the warp in between) (October 1996)

Bulimia (Spring - Autumn 1997) is a piece I scored for five women's voices to a poem by Denise Duhamel. Denise is my cousin, the only other artist in my working class family, and the author of nine books of poetry. Her fourth book, Smile! tells many stories that overlap with my own. Bulimia is the second of her poems that I have set as five voices. I plan to do three more.

Falling (Winter 1997) is a set of pieces that represent what it sometimes feels like to be a woman in our culture.

The Program:
1. Laughter
set up
mirror check
old woman
(get yourself together)
the gift
story scrap #1
story scrap #2 (hold me better)
The Letter
2. Records: Witnesses, Selves, Guardians & Thieves
3. part of Laughter
story scrap #3
4. Panic (3/18/97)
5. Safe (3/22/97)
6. Bulimia
7. part of Laughter
story scrap #4
8. Falling
Will You Catch Me? (3/16/97)
Motherless Child
my frame
Walking & Falling (2/11/97)
9. When Outside...

Flood was performed in its entirety four times: at Mills College's Bender Room on April 17, 1998; at Luna Sea Women's Performance Project on July 31 and August 1 1998, and at the University of California at Santa Cruz on February 25, 1999.

The Mills cast consisted of Allison Orr, Dawn Frank, A. L. Dentel, Alex O'Malley, Grace Renaud, Juliet Shepherd, April Taylor, & Renée Benmeleh.
The Luna Sea cast consisted of Dawn Frank, A. L. Dentel, Alex O'Malley, Grace Renaud, Michael Chandler, & Renée Benmeleh.
The UCSC cast was just me.