When I ran into Berkeley performance artist Frank Moore’s site – Eroplay.com – I was struck by a sense of familiarity that went back a vast stretch of years.
I jagged at my noggin to recall just where and when I had seen this guy, and the poster art kept ringing bells with a lot of far-back-in-time reverb resonating from them. It took some digging down the complex tangled pathways of my memory to come up with the connection: but I finally managed to recall it…
It turns out that I saw one of Frank Moore’s very first performances. It was way back in 1985, when I was 20 years old and going to school at Cal Berkeley. The performance had been held in someone’s living room, at a house about two blocks from Barrington Hall–the wild co-op house I lived in while attending school at Cal.
I’d gone with two or three of my friends from Barrington to see that performance because the flyer for it had looked very psychotrippically suggestive.
I remember the show as having been a wee bit off-putting at first…although I might have had my take on things become influenced by the reactions of my friends with me. I remember that they’d been turned off enough to have left the show about 20 minutes early. One of them later opined that evening, “…that show wasn’t anything to do with art…it was just an excuse for a paraplegic dude to ogle naked chicks and get to touch them.”
When they’d left, I had basically just shrugged. I hadn’t left with them, because this sort of thing didn’t shock or offend me. However, I do recall that I had felt a little bit disappointed: I’d come looking for psychedelia–but I felt that it lacked in the “sights and sounds” element – which is a component that’s quite necessary for anything to have a “psychedelic” element.
That show, like Frank Moore shows in general, had primarily been all about the sense of touch. But touch alone didn’t seem to carry an “experience” far enough for me to truly get off on it.
These humble beginnings have since been developed upon and from what I can see, perhaps I would want to check out the next event that they put on. From what I can gather from the Eroplay site, the past 25 years have seen them develop upon the basic premise explored in 1985, but they seem to have taken it a lot further. That audiovisual component which I’d missed in 1985 seems to have been added to the mix. I notice on the posters for various events in the past 15 years or so that various industrial and experimental music acts (including Instagon and the Haters, among many others) have been billed along with Frank Moore, and also Frank himself seems to now be leading some sort of band, too.
I’m definitely curious about how he’d manage to do this. Frank Moore is a paraplegic with some sort of neurological disability which keeps him from being able to speak. He uses a rather ingenious kludge-hack to communicate with the outside world: a sort of keyless alphanumeric keyboard, which he jabs at with a stick mounted on his head for a pointer. (I can’t help but wonder if he might’ve gotten a chance to make use of the vastly improved technologies created in the current century for persons with such disabilities…which seem to have been designed with exactly Frank Moore’s particular situation in mind.)
He’s always been able to write, though, and he’s been creating a magazine that has both print and web presence. (The content on the site is dated 2003, so I can’t really tell if this act has been dead for the past 7 years or not…)
There’s a fantastic archive here, of art and videos by Frank and his friends…including a gallery of flyers spanning the past 20 years created by Michael LaBash – who was the artist that designed the original 1985 flyer that had gotten my psychedelically-attuned attention.
Frank Moore is assisted by his devoted (and quite lovely) wife Linda, who is the emcee and diva.
At the 1985 performance, her role had been that of concocting and announcing the various elabourate roleplay scenarios, requiring the fifteen or so audience members in the room to doff various articles of clothing, and then engage in complicated forms of “Twister” gameplay. “Play with the hair of the person on your left…”
None of it got too sexy, really–it was just about bringing down the initial walls between people that define their norms of “personal space”…She never let it get too pornographic.
There seems to be a more “sacred” feel to the performances this act has put on in the 21st century, rather than the undeveloped spontaneity I’d witnessed 25 years ago.
The basic message, however, is still the same: Adults have forgotten how to play like children, who will interact together without their accumulated hangups causing them to be uptight, suspicious, scared and generally unfun.
The neologistic word “chero” that appears on the flyers and other propaganda means “playful life energy” – it’s a meshing of the concepts of <i>chi</i> and <i>eros</i>.