The processual dance-opera Any Size Mirror is a Dictator continues, with guest artist David Ian Griess (also check out his videography of the project HERE and more images/art he made HERE). Photos by PPL.

Images from the second week of dance-opera-installation ‘Any Size Mirror is a Dictator’ as it evolves. Photos by Robert Zott.

Photos by Hrag Vartanian for Hyperallergic


Within a situation that intentionally performs the shifting of frames and reflections, witnessing/participating is arbitration between conflicting dialectical images. Meanings can only be read by individually self-authorized interpretants; you will be a dictating mirror in the room, facing sets of ir-rational constructions performed into ad-hoc [1] repetition by a collaboration of nonrepresentative yet rigorously-rehearsed and methodologically-driven performers.


The totalitarian implications of reflective schemas for “reality” and “meaning” must be taken for granted (we have suffered the arrays of western imperialism long enough to know them as ourselves) but we struggle to put anything in place of these schemas or even see anything as other than they are: hegemonic discourses dictating a constant methodological agenda towards universality, understanding, and power-seeking within mythic paradigms of the politic, the personal, the rhetoric, the economic. The smell of the corpses laid in the wake of such schemas make every nourishment our bodies need taste bad.


Any Size Mirror is a Dictator forces us to wade down into the graves; we don’t “transcend” anything. We are not an elite few, we are pro-fessional culture workers. Holding our breaths, we focus on the acts themselves, taking as a principle of performance [2] that isolation of actions [3] are (at best) “interesting” attempts at ______ [4] becoming-states.


Unfortunately here, there are more complications. Acts are so various in mode, and so complex as modes, that performance focusing on the acts themselves must choose what kinds of acts to focus on. Via a long period of rehearsal, debate, and public performance, we become interested in how our focus alters what it focuses on, how it is dictating formality and constructing via its definition of acts and through formalization and definition as acts.


The process of acting as, and some actions, having been chosen via previous processes (remembering is also acting), is and looks like dancing. It also is and sounds like making music, and is and reads like speaking, building, socializing. Perhaps tragically, what we’re doing here is just an opera. It becomes more and more an opera the more consistent our ways of doing become (see: Kaprow): operations (making sounds, saying words, making movements, doing actions, touching things, becoming, becoming) formed into a work means “opera.” At last, as we approach 7-weeks of working it out via our operations, framed as an opera-dance-installation-art-thing by an art gallery, we surface back into the totalitarian air, aiming these (now seemingly absurd) “modal consistencies” or “systems,” or “scores,” into repetition in the face of your interpretation.


And we imagine that you will interpret our actions as opera. A star is easily recognizable by your eye as a star by the time it gets exactly to this point in time and space, somewhere else (or long ago) it was/is a molten mass of energies and everything. In western traditional dance, music, and theater, the most common modes are ways of doing something which are rehearsed to produce the same action every time, irrelevant to whether or not that is even possible: this is how you make a star, this is a star. Modern performance then is most dominantly “research”-based, seeking empiric answers to problems, or just reflecting problems themselves: what is the essence of star-ness? Can the most star-like star be made? Post-modern (or hyper-modern) performance shatters into myriad modes, but even here, ways of doing are often “reduced” to very small sized mirrors in performance-as-art so that a “somethingness” can emerge that is detached from any direct cause-and-effect, see Abramovic, see Rainer, see Cage: ★

“Post-modern” projects contain antitheses and reimaginations of Modernism’s reductive processes (primarily sight-based though also existing across sensorially-dilineated artforms) and are used to identify modal consistencies. Processes of reaction, reflection, reduction, reproduction, representation (and any other “re” which positions itself in relationship with something) can become objects in and of themselves; while actions focus on the way of doing rather than on what is done, the ways of doing themselves must be totally governed, simple, clear, essential, in order to apply to more than what they are, in service variously of “value” of acts as such. Even when processes are aleatoric/relational, they are parsable containers for bodies, operations which signify/represent consistent ways in which things can be done in projection of the things these ways of doing potentially produce. Objectives of many current modes of performance (among many others, any and all that have objectives) are those which might be described as becoming-objects. Objects/objectives act as particles/components in other systems (such as juxtapositional semiotic phrases and art markets) not as agents (lubricant or otherwise). For many reasons, the deathsmell is here too.


It is another assumptive principle of this work that un-reduction (i.e. synthesis, or “confusion” [5]) in terms of technique and in service of “virtuosity” (intentionality of the utmost utterance), is helpful in attempts to act complex actions such as thinking and other forms of resisting. In order to think about this, we have to draw diagrams, or move, or make noise; cognitive exercises prove embodiment just as somatic exercises do and Cartesian dualism finally doesn’t even feel right anymore. Because of this, performance-as-art has become deeply invested in subject-object relationships and so we have many examples of modal consistencies navigating different objectives and actions, as irreducible processes to steal and stitch together. We are now in the anythingplace, putting into repetition larger and larger mirrors that open exponentially in attempts to define each action. Any Size Mirror is a Dictator first attempted to find andprocess acts which were not possibly something, following perceived edges around artistic attempts and researching arguments throughout political science, cognitive science, social psychology, anthropology, phenomenology, and the annals of YouTube for acts which constructively act, but not consistently. All of this soon became re-cognizable as labyrinthine catacomb, reproduced almost automatically [6] as anything at all. The rooms get smaller and smaller, Aristotle haunts our nonexistent breakfasts. We explain ourselves to invisible aliens, startle at rabbit-shaped shadows. We find ourselves collecting attempts (mostly failed) into scores for action, forever mise-en-abymically making smaller and smaller attempts to resist objectivity and reflection until the attempts themselves are erased by what we can’t actually describe via all that which is indicated above, and is probably the “engine itself.”


We move as if each action of ours is another layer of matryoshka [7], size in both directions unlimited. Optimistically though, we might desire this feeling of big something else to prove that a.) there are subaltern [8] ways of becoming meaningful, that b.) simultaneity can be cognized, and c.) everything will be OK.

Otherwise, we might find that our selves (if such things exist) are Totally pinned inside regimes of “existing” meaning, or worse, ground into nothing by the nihilism of capitalism, systemic oppressions, and epistemological theology, all operations never failing to serve as reflections constructing that grand reflection itself, a fascism inherent to any historic/political/social “body” [9] itself.


We rest in repetition of materials, practicing social learning and cognitive parsing, procedural slowings of sense-based decision-makings, performance of sense-making/interpretation. What is and isn’t a part of this? How do I do? (see: Stein)


Sometime at the beginning of the project, we split into two teams fighting inside different sorts of cultural game-prisons: the Rehearsive team is lead by two dictators, a composer and a choreographer. These dictators build an experiential paradox (deathtrap) of rules and laws enforcing the idea that “any size mirror is a dictator” on the performers, and joining the work as performers themselves. Pushed away from the good-feeling ecstatic dancing and singing body by technical difficulty, all acts must be acted as acts, chosen immediately and performed as such for and in the moment. Reflecting opera as a relational aesthetic, a performance of performance, a structure about structures, labor is performed inside a holodeck programmed to simulate what it will be like, the materiality of material can be molecularly pulled apart by the hubris of attempts to “accurately reflect” what is not, in any sense of facts, there. This is, in a handful of ways, a negative reinforcement, but it has attempted the “self-destruct from the inside” approach with excruciating sincerity: the rules and laws are impossible to follow and open to interpretation, they contradict each other in exactly the ways we think we see that conceptual models must (our very problems with them).


The second team, a Recursive team, is lead by third dictator, a writer/theater director. We interpret “any size mirror is a dictator” from an “outside” position, working mostly alone to develop methodologies for making sense. These methodologies are subjective, beginning from the place of instability of significance, confusion of conceptual metaphor, and anti-naturalist “postmodern condition.” Our optimistic expectations are to create a situation like some “grand prehistoric time of tasting” wherein anything could potentially be food the moment we put it in our mouths, but hubris is in any attempt to start from scratch with all of the ingredients already baked into the dough of ourselves.


You are invited to this humble utopian feast of failures, it exists only as an index of the hunger that is interest, as meaninglessfull as you decide.


[1] “ad-hoc” means “for a specific purpose, non-generalizable”

[2] art itself is a semantic and capital-based construction operating though modes of production. This project does have a mode of production, existing weakly in relationship to itself via an “institutional critique” consisting of transparencies, written analyses, and embedded (content-based) reflections, see “Accepting Proposals,” Score #2, for example. Conflicts between artistic modes of production and “how art becomes” are our primary interest here. Antonio Gramsci writes that art is that which defines art: thus, art (even if it has, as an objective to become art, see process philosophy) must begin from a position (where?) that is “not” art. To an extent, this “non-art” remains to tied to becoming art as a product of its own co-constructive resistance of art: it is always art, but its conception of itself defines art as something itself/else/that is.

[3] extrapolate special relativity (see: Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen/Bohm experiment) first as a poetic proof for empirical inadequacy and next as a replacement of attempts at empirical adequacy with action-based diagrams: causes and effects can become equations but each equation relates with every other, infinitely and non totally.

[4] insert positive word

[5] see score #1 “confuse means to pour together”

[6] see scores #22, #23, #24, “artists and all individuals are products/conduits/producers”)

[7] a matryoshka is a nesting doll

[8]“subaltern” in PHILOSOPHICAL LOGIC may mean: “(of a proposition) implied by another proposition (e.g., as a particular affirmative is by a universal one), but not implying it in return” (Dictionary of Philosophy)

“subaltern” in POST-COLONIALISM may mean: “the social group who are socially, politically, and geographically outside of the hegemonic power structure of the colony and of the colonial homeland” (our friend Wikipedia)

[9] conceptual metaphors: “social body,” “world as stage,” our acts process in pursuit of alternatives to these, most constructively



ASMIAD_PRIMARYPRESSPPL has been processing the processes of a dance-opera called Any Size Mirror is a Dictator in collaboration with Lindsey Drury and a shifting collaborative comprising Jessica Bathurst, Lorene Bouboushian, Lindsey Drury, Paige Fredlund, Matthew Gantt, Kaia Gilje, Rene Kladzyk, Thea Little, Brian McCorkle, Sarah McSherry, Butch Merigoni, Esther Neff, Ellen O’Meara, and Matthew Stephen Smith for years. We are now but one week from the opening party for a 7-weekend exhibition of the work at Momenta Art and our guts are all in a tangle with total excitement! Please join us:

Opening Party: Friday, September 5, 6pm
Momenta Art
56 Bogart Street, 1st floor
Brooklyn, NY, 11206
(L to Morgan Ave, right across the street from the Bogart St. station)

–Friday Sept 5th: Opening Party, 6pm, dictator scores, and roundtable discussion.
–Saturday Sept 6th: 6pm: Lectures by Michael Newton and Joanna Spitzner on “acceptable objectives for art” and dance-opera performance
–Sunday Sept 7th: recursive lecture by Igor Rodriguez and dance-opera performance

3-9pm dance opera performance

3-9pm dance opera performance

3-9pm dance opera performance

3-9pm dance opera performance

3-9pm dance opera performance

WEEK 6 oct 16-19: AGENCY
3-9pm dance opera performance

free and open to the public at all times, come and go as you wish

Many words can be made to resemble our reasons for pursuing these practices. You can find some of them by clicking links HERE and HERE and finding press release language written to appeal within various artistic-discipline dialectics (dance, theater, music, visual arts) and perhaps you can get a sense of what this thing is. Most simply though, it is a series of durational performances (6 hours each open day) that first rehearse and assemble material (i.e. choreographic systems, music and text, objects, ideas, realizations, ideations, etc) and then perform and recurse these.  Never have we been so rigorously excited and dizzy.  Never has an opera been so bestial, burdensome, and bent on self-destruction. This is a structure about structuring, structuralism, and structures which enforce via their existence. It is all very loud and tragic, the best we can do. Fascism, colonialism, capitalism, western civilization, conceptions of self, these we process systematically, looking for flaws where agency might realize a performative (perform-able) constructivity (constructive activity). 

Facebook Event


Institute_Institut is the last piece in the Transformational Grammar of the Institutional Glorybowl trilogy, three works exploring relationships between institutions and embodied selves.


In December of 2008, PPL co-directors Esther Neff and Brian McCorkle began a process along “documentary” lines, using texts, ideas, and opinions explicitly written/stated by a de-hierarchized body of other humans as scores for attempts to directly perform/act out/embody epistemic currents. We began the trilogy with Schooled and Unschooled (Dixon Place and The West End Theater, 2008), followed in 2009 by Workforce/Forced Work (LMCC 14 Wall Street and chashama’s 42nd St. space, 2009).

By 2010, the research had swallowed us and the work became “operatic” in attempts to reconcile “sensible” institutional schemas with the all-consuming chaos and intersubjectivity of human engagement, participation, and construction, in and of institutions. Beginning to both formalize and destroy our own perspectives and methods (we currently maintain that these are simultaneous and inseparable intentions), for Institute_Institut we conducted a series of “Focus Workshops,” happening-type performances that were open to the public and used theater and movement therapy exercises to reenact emotional and psychological relationships between individuals and institutions. Interviews, in different forms, were also conducted with participants (off the street, invited, and as part of institutional and non-institutional gatherings).

Primary Focus Workshops were held at Surreal Estate in Bushwick, Judson Church in Greenwich Village (during the Anarchist Book Fair), Studio Maya in Prospect Heights, during FIGMENT on Governer’s Island, at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, and Force and Flow Studio in Crown Heights (and elsewhere). Moving through institutional constructs like “the theater industry” and organizations including schools, workplaces, hospitals, churches, government offices and stations (police), and of course our own “nation-state,” debating social institutions like marriage, kinship, religion, language, media, and pursuing “information about” many other areas of semantically tricky institutionality, we began to break down a matrix of considerations and communications which eventually resulted in the opera libretto and music. We then cast and rehearsed the opera over the course of 8 months. Public rehearsals and performances at BOB the Pavilion at Columbia University, during Superfront’s Public Summer at Industry City, LPAC, and incubation and a run of the opera (fully staged) at the cell concluded the project. PPL collaborators on this project included: Megan Cooper, Natasha Missick, Katie Johnston, Matthew Stephen Smith, Brian Rady, Hyatt Michaels, Michael Newton, Kristin Elliot, Ellen O’Meara, Adrian Owen, Andrew Whipple, Dave Ruder, Greg Loewer Jr. and Marie Weigl. Here is a video clip from documentation of that production:

Here is a video: 

Last year, Dave Ruder approached us about making a recording of this opera (operetta really). Thus began a process of individually recording each vocal and instrumental part. This took a few months. And then mixing took a few months. Finally, the recording is completed. You can listen to it by clicking:

SALLY: Jessica Jelliffe
MOMMY 1: Gelsey Bell
MOMMY 2: Lisa Clair
MOMMY 3: Brian McCorkle
GEORGE 1: Paul Pinto
GEORGE 2: Matthew Stephen Smith
GEORGE 3: Brian Rady
ANIMALS: Baxton Alexander, Jason Craig (documentary voiceover), Kristin Elliot, Ellen O’Meara, Esther Neff, Dave Ruder
GODBRAIN: Adrian Owen
VIOLIN: Daniella Fischetti
DRUMS: Cory Bracken

We are also participating in the launch party for this batch of Gold Bolus recordings! Join us next Saturday night, July 26 @ JACK. 


Celebrating the second batch of sonic realities being dispatched by the wee Brooklyn label Gold Bolus Recordings ( Featuring sets from four acts who’ve just put out new albums and one with an album on the way, as well as booze, and of course, tin foil. Admission $10 at the door. Performances by:

goldbolusposterellen o
Backed up by her horn section, Ellen O’Meara plays tunes from her just released synth pop instant classic, Sparrows and Doves

Why Lie?
Aliza Simons & Dave Ruder + some guests playing a wide range of songs from their freshly unveiled album Osoitos

Panoply Performance Laboratory
Two acts from Esther Neff & Brian McCorkle’s 2011 opera Institute_Institut, performed by a stable of the finest singers around

Woody Leslie
Premiering a live interpretation of his ambitious sonic and visual mapping of each state in the USA

Invisible Circle
Dave Kadden delivers heavy synth, voice, & oboe tunes from his record, coming this Fall

Thank you for reading, and for listening!!!!!


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