Performances, Essays, and Travels
Publication Year: 2006
Here we have the most complete Miller yet—a raucous collection of his performance scripts, essays, interviews, journal entries, and photographs, as well as his most recent stage piece Us. This volume brings together the personal, communal, and national political strands that interweave through his work from its beginnings and ultimately define Miller's place as a contemporary artist, activist, and gay man.
Published by: University of Wisconsin Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
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Tim Miller had an ambiguous place in The American Century, a huge installation of “Art and Culture” that filled New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art during 1999 and 2000. The exhibition’s curators recognized the importance of the solo performance art of the century’s final decades, but they registered ambivalence about...
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Memory and Facing the Future
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As someone who has spent my whole adult life writing and performing stories from my experience, the gnarly terrain of memoir is both a favorite comfy chair and a particularly scary attic room. I have bounced between both the exquisite pleasures and pitfalls that are inevitably part of the encounter with one’s life and memory. I...
Part 1. New York Years
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Today I wrote a nice song called the Hamburger Song. I can’t sing it now but it’s a very good song, about keeping going even after the big bombs fall and you’ve got no more teeth and we have to cling to the simple things. I love hamburgers. I had one tonight at the Polish...
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here we are on the floor. i’m going to tell you a few things about this floor for whose benefit we are gathered here tonight. i know a lot about this floor. a lot of my life has taken place on this floor. along these boards from one side to the other. tongue in groove. year after year....
Stories from Democracy in America
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Ever since I was a little kid I was always trying to figure out all this America stuff. How it all works. What it all means. How I fit in. What I’m supposed to do. I guess a lot of people think about this stuff. My mom says to me, “Tim, be proud. You come from good farmer stock.” The other thing she says to me is, “Tim, just because...
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Tim Miller’s pioneering festival of gay men’s performance inspired his first collaboration with John Bernd, We Had Tea We Ate Cashew Chicken, performed at PS 122 in November 1980. True to the festival’s title,“MenTogether,” Tim and John focused on the development of their relationship as lovers in a...
Buddy Systems: Two Excerpts
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Buddy Systems was created during a period of transition, when Tim Miller was rethinking his art and, with the writer Douglas Sadownick and their black labrador mutt Buddy, planning a move from New York to Los Angeles. In form, Buddy Systems is a hybrid of the autobiographical solo works from Tim Miller’s...
Coda: John in the dream realm
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I dreamed I was performing at Hallwalls Performance Space in Buffalo. . . . I did Live Boys there with John in 1981. I went outside of the space and suddenly I was on the roof of John’s building on East Sixth. John is alive. But it’s almost like we’re in the future.We are talking together like we can talk about...
Part 2. Activism
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Part of the reason I came back to L.A. is that performance here is work that is connected with social context, coming from cultural communities: Asian or Latino or lesbian or gay or whatever. Which is different from another idea: of visual spectacle, which is a calling card of the elegance and technical virtuosity of much highly visible,...
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As Tim Miller notes in his interview with Steven Durland that appears in Part 3, ACT UP has been “the single most influential thing in my life, . . . as a model, as a worldview, as a kind of cultural practice.” The journal entries printed here recount his initial contact with ACT UP as well as several...
Civil Disobedience Weekend
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“Civil Disobedience Weekend” is an “artfag fantasy” based on the March 1, 1990, “Art Attack” protest in Los Angeles, when five hundred artists “arrested” the U.S. Federal Building for crimes against art. Tim Miller and others organized the protest in response to mounting pressure on the arts by the radical Right...
“The artist becomes really woven into the community as a worker”: Interview with Linda Frye Burnham
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Linda Frye Burnham, founder of High Performance magazine and co-founder with Tim Miller of Highways Performance Space, conducted this interview in 1990. The excerpt printed here contains Miller’s fullest discussion of how the ethos of ACT UP affected his work....
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Tim Miller’s account of awaiting the results of a test for HIV, a nearly universal experience for gay men of his generation, comes from his journal for 1990. Though he is always aware of the complex effects his HIV status can have on his art and his career, this account also provides a glimpse behind the assertive...
Coda: A circle headed towards the future
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A strange thing happened. It was a big party, a hundred or so folks. Some energy was humming among the boys, and the strong energies and attractions that exist among this art performance gang came to the surface. The physicality and genuine love I feel for my friends found a funny form. I had...
Part 3. Culture War
The NEA Four Case
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Along with the photographers Robert Mapplethorpe (who was dead and beyond direct reach) and Andres Serrano, the “NEA Four” performance artists (Karen Finley, John Fleck, Holly Hughes, and Tim Miller) became poster children for the “culture war” of the early 1990s. The episode played out in two acts: the 1990 rejection under Bush administration pressure of...
An Anarchic, Subversive, Erotic Soul: Interview with Steven Durland
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In 1991, in the immediate aftermath of the NEA Four defunding, The Drama Review published this interview along with the full text of Tim Miller’s Stretch Marks as part of a special segment labeled “Offensive Plays.” Durland, editor-in-chief of High Performance, focused the interview on questions of how newfound notoriety...
The Battle of Chattanooga
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Apernicious effect of the “culture war” has been the media-stoked “controversies” that result when performances by Tim Miller are scheduled, particularly in smaller cities. “The Battle of Chattanooga” recounts a 1999 episode in Tennessee—hardly unique, as discussed in his lawsuit deposition and shown by similar...
Coda: Notorious me
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I dreamed a coupla nights ago that I was having sex with Bill Clinton. It was very sweet and romantic. I kept trying to tell him that we shouldn’t be doing this, that it might keep him from being elected. He quieted my words of self-oppression with kisses (WOW!). I think this means that he will be elected...
Part 4. The Teacher
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Much of my work as a teacher and a performer is an exploration of the body as a site of memory, self and creativity. I am particularly drawn to a discourse of the body as the primary battleground on which our identities are marked by race, gender, ability, age, sexual orientation, class, and the commodity of “looks.” The awareness of...
Suck, Spit, Chew, Swallow: A Performative Exploration of Men’s Bodies
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I was invited to the United Kingdom in 1999 to work with a group of gay men toward the creation of an original ensemble performance. Mark Ball, the director of Birmingham’s Queerfest, an internationally significant festival of lesbian and gay culture, wanted me to work intensively with a group of men toward the creation of a performance...
Jesus and the Queer Performance Artist
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Tim Miller wrote this essay for a collection of “stories of lesbian and gay faith.” It incorporates materials from the performance art sermons he prepared and delivered with an Episcopal priest, Malcolm Boyd, in 1989 and 1990, as well as from journal entries discussing Miller’s re-encounter with religion. The sermons...
Coda: The maw of Hollywood
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Into the looming maw of Hollywood. I got a call from this casting agent at Columbia Pictures. She had seen my picture in the L.A. Times; she wanted to meet with me. I drove to Burbank and found my way to Trailer 36, walked past the Western town, New York tenement, ivy-covered college...
Part 5. Us
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As I watched the Tony Awards broadcast a while back, savoring the folks singing and dancing their way through the numbers from the nominated musicals, I was struck by how cheerfully utopian it all felt. I never take for granted the sheer miracle of all these performers managing to cooperate and pull off something like the big final...
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Carnal Garage, which ends with a symbolic marriage ritual, is Tim Miller’s third collaboration with a lover. A happier, less conflicted work than Live Boys and Buddy Systems (both printed earlier in this volume), in tone it resembles the sunniest of Miller’s solo performances, Fruit Cocktail (1996), which he...
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During the period when he was composing Us, Tim Miller traveled to Japan for the 2002 Dokkyo University Performance Conference, where he gave his first performance in Asia. For the Tokyo appearance he compiled segments from several previous works—including, as he reports here, his walk into the audience...
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“I don’t want to be forced to leave my country,” Tim Miller says at the end of his 1999 performance Glory Box, facing exile from the United States due to his partner Alistair McCartney’s lack of American citizenship and the refusal of U.S. law and immigration policy to recognize their relationship. The prospect...
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Us was a work in progress when Tim Miller was interviewed by John Gentile, a member of the editorial board of Text and Performance Quarterly (TPQ ), during performances in Atlanta early in 2003. Typically, Miller continues to shape his works...
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Travel is work. I mean that statement literally, because I am one of those grunts who make their living out on the road performing. My life as an artist and activist is built around constant travel, twentyfive to thirty weeks a year doing gigs all over the world. Tokyo one week. Cincinnati the next. Glasgow right after. My life is that of the...
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Tim’s collaborators in the pieces collected here: Rev. Malcolm Boyd, Linda Frye Burnham, Steven Durland, John S. Gentile, Thomas Leabhart, Dona Ann McAdams, Alistair McCartney, and Douglas Sadownick. We are particularly grateful to the mother and sisters of John Bernd: Mrs. Dorothy Williams, Sarah...
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Gay and Lesbian Autobiographies
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Publication Year: 2006