I was invited by my good friends Cara Megan Lewis and Alejandro Figueredo Díaz-Perera to participate in Cantos Comunes, a day of Fluxus and Fluxus-inspired happenings at the Blockhouse in Havana, Cuba during the 13th Havana Biennial.
The day included performances of known Fluxus scores, including June Nam Paik’s One Violin Solo (performed by Yasmany Guerrero), Alison Knowles’ An Homage to Every Red Thing, and a number of new Fluxus-inspired scores, including works by the performance collaborative Research for the Bermuda Triangle (Regina Mamou and Lara Salmon), two works by Balas and Wax (Susy Bielak and Fred Schmalz), solo works by Alejandro Figueredo Díaz-Perera, Benjamin Del Castillo, Carmina Escobar, and Alberto Aguilar, and my day-long performance, Franz Kafka’s 15-Minute Workout.
Just weeks before I was invited to participate, I’d read about how Kafka had been an adherent to an early 20th-century fitness craze, “My System,” developed by Danish athlete, JP Muller, that consisted of daily calisthenics, a method for proper bathing, and a series of post-bathing skin-rubbing exercises.
Through conversation with Alejandro and Cara, we decided it would be interesting if rather than simply performing Kafka’s 15-minute calisthenic workout, I “performed” my normal day in the house, with adding in my attempt to learn Kafka’s workout, as if I were in my home. I spent the day in the Blockhouse while the other events were happening, doing what I normally do: eating breakfast, washing dishes, meditating, working on art, doing some exercise (in this case, following the instructions in Muller’s book, just as Kafka would have done), and bathing. I stayed present to what was happening around me in the house, but did not engage with it. It was as if I were at a silent meditation retreat — not ignoring anyone around me, but simply being silent. It was as if the house were mine and it was any day of the week. The art that I made was to embroider “Motion is life” and “Save your progress!” on the ends of a red bath towel, a towel that I used throughout the day for the workout and for drying myself after the bath. Muller stresses in his book that “Motion is life,” and it felt appropriate to write that on the towel with silk embroidery thread. After I finished the day, I went into the courtyard of the house and placed the embroidered towel in one of the squares of Knowles’ An Homage to Every Red Thing to complete the piece.