Alone again, I set a sheet of plate glass about my length against the bare, whitewashed wall at a 45-degree angle. I set a clock to midnight. I scoot into the triangle-shaped opening between the glass and the wall and lie flat on my back, a new home. I close my eyes. Itâ€™s like the version of a structure you make in the woods for the night by draping a tarp over a wayward branch.
â€œA lean-to,â€ I say to myself, momentarily contented with my knowledge of this terminology, as if, in some entirely separate life, I might be a woodsman or a gatherer, someone who uses his hands and wits as a replacement for technology, with full body hair and shapely calves.
â€œI was prepared to lie in this position indefinitely,â€ the body artist said later, after the project had ended and he was speaking again. It was an experiment in interference, more than anything; over the span of two days, thousands of spectators passed through the gallery in the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, like pilgrims to a shrine, singing songs and throwing their underwear. All the while, the artist kept still beneath the glass and ceaseless clock.
I lie, and I wait.
I honestly did not consider how annoying the clock would be. I strain my ears to try to pick up on curious sounds from outside the roomâ€”footsteps in the barren halls, voices through the cavernous garage-like doors on the
buildingâ€™s scarred edifice, foot traffic in the desolate streets, explorersâ€”but anything I might potentially hear is overwhelmed, drowned out by the clock.
Forty-five hours into the original, a concerned museum guard placed a pitcher of water near Burdenâ€™s head, within reach. This was the interference. Burden stood up immediately, walked to the next room, and returned with a hammer and an envelope. He smashed the clock, stopping time. The performance ended.
In another classic Burden display of bystander bait, heâ€™d lived for three weeks on a platform mounted so high on the gallery wall that no one could see him, could confirm that he was actually above, surveying from afar. I am an extra layer removed. No one knew I was here to begin with.
I tuck myself into ever-smaller places, the sarcophagus for the pyramid, probably the grandest help-me gesture Iâ€™ve yet attempted. My breath fogs the tilting glass to one side of my face.
True to form, Iâ€™ve left an envelope in the room next door, explaining everything. It uses words like â€œaudienceâ€ and â€œintent.â€
I have no idea what Iâ€™m waiting for. Noâ€”of course I do.
Out of nowhere, a human hand plants itself on one side of the glass, right where my breath has made it cloudy, rescue in five simple fingers. The hand drags across the glass and leaves behind a dewy, ghostly print. My body shivers in the anticipation of movement, of smashing time; I feel unstoppable, like my solitary project has proven a resounding, unqualified success.
The hand draws back, inside the glassâ€”itâ€™s just mine. Soon, even that moves off on its own.