Dodge & Burn: Andy Ditzler Performs Desirium Probe

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Dodge & Burn is a series of photo essays documenting local culture with a focus on artful imagery, movement, and light.
Have you ever watched someone watch TV? It can be entertaining, if the person you are watching is a talented artist like Andy Ditzler. Ditzler, a performer, songwriter, and curator of the Film Love series, recreated the original 1978 performance of Desirium Probe by painter and filmmaker James Nares at the Goat Farm this past weekend. Some of Nares’s experimental film shorts were playing in a loop in other parts of the artist complex throughout the evening. After the performance, Nares appeared via Skype to praise Ditzler’s rendition and to take questions from the audience.

Ditzler energetically interpreted live TV for nearly two hours, constantly changing channels. What was truly engaging was watching Ditzler change quickly from one mood to another as he deftly transitioned from intense drama to light comedy to bland infomercial. One minute he was singing a dramatic song about Jesus while watching a religious channel, and only to suddenly begin discussing apps you could buy for your iPhone, Blackberry, or Android.

The performance ranged from intensely emotional to downright hilarious. Audience members appeared to laugh the hardest during the religious channels and commercials, but also enjoyed being able to figure out what TV show he was watching. Most recognized dialog from Law & Order, for example.

What struck me the most was how alone Ditzler was on stage. All eyes were on him, working in the glow of the large-screen TV suspended from the ceiling. The stage and wall behind him were bare. Stand-up comedians performed alone too, but they were working from a well-rehearsed script. Ditzler was responding to whatever appeared on TV instantly. Hence, Ditzler said, “The piece changes every time it’s done.”

Ditzler is ultimately a reflection of us, here and now. What shows are on TV, what products are sold, and who is featured on ‘reality’ shows are a reflection of our values—what we watch and what we buy. Ditzler‘s audience laughed the loudest at the nuttier aspects of human nature, from the extremes of religious platitudes to the shallowness of Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
Photographing this performance was tricky. There was not much light to work with, just the glow from the TV. I had to max out the ISO to 6400 or 12,800 and manually focus the lens. For other shots I used flash with a diffuser to clearly light the scene to capture Ditzler’s expressions.
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