“I’ve been fasting, so I can stay up there for 72 hours without worrying about solid waste.”
He had a “Texas catheter” set up for his urine, which is good, because if he was a person of normal urinary resolve, he’d be pissing himself a lot: Mr. Blaine was preparing to stand on a platform with 1,000,000 volts of electricity coursing into and around his body.
But you probably already know this. This thing went down this weekend and was surrounded by degrees of hullabaloo rarely afforded to Tesla coils. Blaine stood atop a platform of some sort, donned a bit of chain mail, and had several tesla coils surrounding him shoot bolts of electricity at his body, electricity that was kept away from his flesh by the chain mail.
It is performance art at its most commercial. Years ago, an extreme performance artist might hang hooks from their flesh, be in a carnival freak show, or make a living as a flatulist (like the late great Joseph Pujol, or Henry the II’s court jester Roland the Farter.) David Blaine, modern day jester and endurance performance artist, does absurd stunts for Intel, which he, in press conference, called “the greatest company in the world.”
The press conference itself was weird, and this article is based on observations made at the conference, not the actual event. Various journos sat feet from a giant metal ball atop a pillar, looking like something out of Dr. Frankenstein’s lab. A reporter for WNYC milled around, asking journalists why they were there, he was reporting the “story of the story,” wondering what brings people to write about a stunt like this. The collective mind of all blogging persons there thought, “Damn, he stole my angle.”
Why were we there? What brings someone to go watch someone maybe-risk-their-lives-but-maybe-its-a-magic-trick? “Because it’s awesome” is the obvious answer, but lots of things are awesome: you don’t see reporters going to report on the northern lights, sea lion migration, or the dew dripping from a Subaru’s rear-view mirror on a winter’s morn.
“Because it’s awesome” turned out to be a pretty good answer. It was awesome. Blaine did a smaller scale version of the trick for the tent-ful of reporters, and we got to hear from his doctor who responded to our question about the electricity effecting Blaine on a neurological level with “we’re not sure, no one has done this before.”
And we got to see mistakes get made: the stage caught on fire at one point, causing much ruckus among the reporters, attempting to get the attention of the safety staff, one of whom finally nonchalantly put out the fire with a fire extinguisher.
After a Blaine-free demonstration, the coils were turned on while Blaine was still in his trailer, and most of the bolts were shot at a nearby music stand, Blaine came out and talked a little about the performance, giving us the information about his waste that we so dearly desired (no sarcasm, really. Curiosity was had.) He then stood upon the coil, looked like a supervillain for awhile, then stepped down and got interviewed by Entertainment Tonight.
David Blaine’s performance was a great reminder of the odd things the human body can do, and the odd ways they can turn that into a career. Watching someone else go through physical duress is fascinating, and David Blaine is really good at being duressed.
The real performance went down without a hitch (in this case without a hitch means Blaine didn’t die) this weekend, and it was pretty popular. And hey, us reporters and other onlookers may have gotten O-zone poisoning so maybe we’re the real endurance artists, eh?
As spectacles go, this thing was spectacular thanks to logistics and events management run by VICE Magazine. Like a Broadway musical, or a freak show (in Borscht Belt comedian voice, ‘what’s the difference, amiright?’) Blaine’s performance was a pure entertainment production, and a successful one.
[lead image via design you trust]