works

North College Lawn Clean-In (2016)

restaging Hi Red Center's Street Cleaning Event
Performed by: Omar Guzman Fraire, Dave Scanlon, Jordan Dykstra, Warren Enström
All photos by Lucero Alonso (Dush)

The North College Lawn Clean-In was a restaging of the Japanese performance art collective Hi Red Center's Street Cleaning Event, first staged in Tokyo in 1964. I encountered this work as part of the Fluxus Performance Workbook (PDF alert!), which includes the score as written:

"Perfomers are dressed in white coats like laboratory technicians. They go to a selected location in the city. An area of a sidewalk is designated for the event. This area of sidewalk is cleaned very thoroughly with various devices not usually used in street cleaning, such as: dental tools, toothbrushes, steel wool, cotton balls with alcohol, cotton swabs, surgeon's sponges, tooth picks, linen napkins, etc."

-- The Fluxus Performance Workbook, p. 49

This score was likely written after the first performance in 1964 in Tokyo, because in 1966, a restaging of this event occurred at the Grand Army Plaza in New York City during that year's Fluxfest. The original event had been staged using linen napkins, toothbrushes, and other implements. This second performance took a decidedly more caustic approach, using industrial-grade cleaners directly on the sidewalk. The original event was created in response to the Japanese government's call to "clean up the city" in preparation for the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, which were widely seen to be Japan's opportunity to return to the international stage following the post-WWII reconstruction of the country. The performers arrived on the street and meticulously cleaned the sidewalks, streetlamps, curbs, and streets using ridiculously unsuitable materials, creating a humorous demonstration of supposed governmental micromanagement.

For my restaging, I decided to stick with personal beauty care products: cotton pads, tweezers, eyebrow scissors, hairbrushes, toothpaste, nail clippers, etc. As in the original event, I designed a flyer that claimed we had institutional support of the Wesleyan Green Fund and the Office of Sustainability. The event was called the North College Lawn Clean-In, a reference to the common practice of teach-ins as a form of protest and community education. Below you will find the flyer used for the event, as well as documentation by Lucero Alonso (Dush).

A light-green flyer reading 'Wesleyan Student Groundskeeping Clubpresents the Clean Campus Initiative in partnership with the Sustainability Office and the Wesleyan Green Fund. North College Lawn Clean-In, 1:30 PM, Wednesday, November 2, 2016. No leaf unturned, no blade misplaced, no pebble unbothered to clean our green space! -- Henry David Thoreau, Poems of Nature'. There is a black and white picture of a tree, the logo for Wesleyan University, and the logo for the Wesleyan Green Fund. Warren, a bearded person with glasses, wears white painter's coveralls that cover his entire body. He stands in front of two other coveralls-wearing people, holding hairbrushes and toothbrushes in one hand, and a rolled-up pair of coveralls in the other. He stands on the green North Lawn of Wesleyan University. It is autumn.
Omar, in white coveralls, applies toothpaste to a pebble in the sidewalk using an eyebrow brush. Warren, in white coveralls, is kneeling on the ground, using tweezers to remove tiny pebbles from the sidewalk. A stack of flyers sits by his knee. A group of white coveralls-wearing people using tiny tools, not visible to the camera, to clean the North Lawn of Wesleyan University, in front of the dark tan sandstone North College building. A large tree stands in the background, its leaves yellow in autumn. In the foreground is the green grass, with fallen leaves here and there.