Sleepwalk By Brian Feldman
Winter Park Outsider Art Fair
at Frames Forever & Art Gallery
March 20, 2009 to March 22, 2009
Winter Park FL</strong>
If Surrealism is Dream reduced to Art, Brian Feldman is Surrealism reduced to Theater. In an ever-expanding effort to get the world to stare at him while he stares back, Mr. Feldman has now commandeered a few feet of sidewalk and arranged to take a heavily marketed and supervised nap. The Winter Park Art Festival is running not more than a mile or so up the road, and while his efforts are neither in fabric, clay, glass, or collage, he still acheives a form of art. It’s facile to say “Oh, anyone could do that”, but the point is no one did. You certainly didn’t, and these days we call it art. So there.
Winter Park is a classier area than Downtown Orlando and knows free parking draws more people than aggressive towing compaies, and I suppose sleeping on the sidewalk here would normally get you the bums rush to Church Street. However, Mr. Feldman doesn’t smell bad, it’s particulariliy psycotic and is wearing a nice set of blue flannel PJ’s covered with contented Wisconsin cows. He’s surrounded by a small coterie of support personal, has extensive lighting and advertising, and perhaps even some sort of permit. Time will tell, other recent Feldman projects have drawn police intervention.
How is sleeping for 50 hours art? We all know of DJ’s staying awake for 100+ hours, including a well publicized failure over at WPRK. (Their guy was beat out by an Australian they didn’t know about and could have beat.) What makes this art on a slightly higher plane is the walking feature of “Sleepwalk.” The public is invited to walk over a Plexiglas and metal scaffolding while Brian dozes away. He got off to a late start, but when I left the event he was lying still and may not have nodded off. But like a child sent to bed early, it’s the silence and the posture that matters.
Midnight, March 20/21.
Things are quiet. Perhaps too quiet. About 20 people have “walked the walk.” Smoke from a Florida brush fire hangs in the air, and “Sleepwalk” by Santo & Johnny plays over and over. After a while you tune it out, or so they say. Brian sleeps soundly as his attendants text furiously in folding chairs. His producer, Katie Windish, runs a framing shop and when Winter Park refused his application to perform on city property, he approached her. She reports Brian’s presence is more effective advertising than a large glossy monthly magazine, so no matter how weird the event may seem, he is accomplishing something. If only he could fulfill his parent’s dream of monetizing his knack for self promotion…
Of all the Feldman projects, this one seems the most disconnected from his audience. Mr. Feldman can hold your attention with his personality, but frankly, he’s sleeping right through this performance. I can’t even say he’s phoning in his lines. Out of respect we keep the noise down and the party atmosphere of Leap Day or the techno- bonding of “txt” is missing. He’s been motionless for 7 hours, and I’ll give him this – he has excellent bladder control.
Three p.m. March 21, 2009
It’s mid afternoon on a breezy, partly cloudy day. Although a bit chilly by Florida standards there’s no rain and pollen fills the air making breathing difficult. The Outsider Art Festival is rolling along; about a dozen artists are hanging out, chatting, and painting. A few things sell, but over all it’s quiet. Mr. Feldman was reported to have gotten up briefly around 7 a.m. but soon returned to his public bed. He now lies on his side in a semi-fetal curl. At the point, 84 people have sleep walked with him, but an umbrella blocks the walkway, shading him from the intermittent sun. Close to the half way point the event is running smoothly although the volunteer list was lost. The work load is light; staying awake is the main issue. At this point in the show I’m fairly sure Mr. Feldman remains uninjured and relaxed. I wonder what his post show plans are – he should be well rested and ready to tackle just about anything – roofing, mowing, helping friends move. We shall see.
One a.m. March 22
It’s a nice night sitting out on Orange Avenue 33 hours into this marathon. One hundred fifty four people have walked over Mr. Feldman and we’re waiting for last call at the bars up the street. He has taken two short breaks, and maintains his repose.
Curiously, this event now feels like a low keyed wake. Sleepwalk is all about Brian Feldman, Brian Feldman is right here in front of us, and yet Brian Feldman is not part of the society of “Sleepwalk.” It’s the feeling I had at a recent memorial service: the principle person is not with us anymore, and now its time to talk nice about them. Not that there much negative to say about Mr. Feldman…well, he IS a bit of a nudge on spelling and grammar, but really that’s not all that evil.
Mr. Feldman is present, yet missing in some metaphysical sense. It’s the sort of relation the wealthy have to their posthumous philanthropic foundations. Henry Ford created the Ford Foundation, but he’s been gone so long that no one in the foundation has any memory of meeting him. Their actions are largely disconnected from his desires. The action is no longer under the control of the spark that started it, and it takes on a form unpredictable form the initial conditions. Here’s the genius of “Sleepwalk,” and more than few of the Feldman Project projects – you can riff BS off his work indefinitely. He’s a godsend to the art critic with writers block.
Six p.m. March 22.
Dropped by one last time. Mr. Feldman is getting up at 6:25 pm, and I have another event to visit. A cold rain is starting, it’s been promised all weekend but luckily it held off until the very end of the event. A total of 215 people took the walk, including some 4 a.m. drunks. The crowd is small, the support staff folding chairs and cleaning up what can be cleaned up.
What does is all mean, anyway? I’ve philosophized about a few interpretations, but what remains in my mind is Hunter Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” This is the American Dream, all right – the right to do any eccentric thing you want so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, maybe make a buck or two, and get on TV. Now it’s time to make that flat-out low speed burn down Orange Avenue past Demming and Clay and King and Rollins. Then on to I-4 and on into frantic oblivion. Safety. Obscurity. Just another freak, in the freak kingdom. But living your dream…
For more information on Brian Feldman Projects, please visit