Here in New York, we've all seen our share of kooky performers in
the subway and on the street. While we've come to expect all manner of
singing, dancing, drumming, and sermonizing, some of the most
captivating public performances consist of artists doing, well, nothing
at all. John Del Signore's The Mercury Menifesto illuminates
the world of stationary artists, also commonly known as living statues.
Framed as a workshop seminar for wannabe Mercury Men, the production
combines video footage and puppetry with dramatic re-enactments and
improvisation to present a glimpse of life "inside the unitard." With
tongue planted firmly in silver cheek, The Mercury Menifesto
visually entertains while offering sharp, acidic commentary on the
collision of art, commerce, and law enforcement in New York City.
Clad and painted entirely in silver, Del Signore spent years
performing as a Mercury Man in New York's subways. Standing motionless
for hours at a time, he would only move to thank passersby who dropped
money in his bucket. His unusual act attracted crowds of people, a fair
amount of cash, and, inevitably, New York's Finest working hard to shut
down his performance. The Mercury Menifesto uses the
motivational seminar format to present sardonic sketches and scenarios
examining the rewards and pitfalls of a career as a renegade street
Throughout the performance, Del Signore and his "seminar helper guy"
co-star, Jeff Seal, coax the audience into manufactured excitement with
flashing lights, applause cues, and silver coins tossed to participants
who display sufficient enthusiasm. While presenting the philosophical
components of being a successful stationary artist, they recount the
tale of Del Signore's journey into the genre.
The Mercury Men were born when Del Signore was fired from playing a
wandering, candy-cane toting Santa at Saks Fifth Avenue shortly after
an unfortunate drunken encounter with Rudy Giuliani. Inspired by a bum
in the subway, Del Signore decided he could embark on a new career as a
self-made man. The production recreates his early experiences in subway
performance with the help of a half-dozen puppets, cleverly designed by
Mary Kate Rix to represent the diversity of New York's subway riders.
Del Signore repeatedly asserts his status as the original Mercury Man,
despite the contrary claims of the nefarious Victor Wilde, Del
Signore's former performing partner, who appears on video, "live via
satellite from L.A.," in an attempt to destroy Del Signore's
credibility. It soon becomes apparent that the men in unitards are less
than unified in their desire to "stand for change."
Del Signore's writing is clever and incisive, and his turns of
phrase are frequently laugh-out-loud funny (I particularly enjoyed the
idea of his Santa "proffering cane" to Giuliani). The physical
performances are hilariously precise. Seal, in particular, embodies a
mélange of bumbling characters with great aplomb. Occasionally, the
actors stumble with some uninspired line readings, but oddly, the
performance comes to life most vividly when things go a little awry.
Both Seal, who is a trained clown, and Del Signore are adept
improvisers, and when they are caught off-guard by an audience response
or a technical glitch, they ride the wave of uncertainty with energy
The performance begins and ends with a droll voiceover offering a
meta-narrative commentary on the play, describing it as a "fatuous
crowd-pleaser." While the device is amusing, and certainly appropriate
for the stated intentions of the Pretentious Festival, it feels
somewhat extraneous to the show itself. The self-mockery is fun, but
even without it, The Mercury Manifesto presents barbed, witty insights about the struggle to make a living as an artist in our fair city.
This was a social experiment in the way that I conceived the idea and
laid direction. Ren did all the video magic and called it for the two
to undress each other. But it was the models and the people at the
event that did all the work. I did not touch the models whatsoever. I
chose these models because I had worked with Heather before and she is
just a great personality. I wanted two people I knew that had some
chemistry. They were to represent to me the Jungian ideals of the Anima
and Animus. The male and female counterparts to our subconscious etc.
I didn't catch it at the time, but in the video I notice a few kisses
between the two models. This was exhilarating for them. In fact I know
it was because later that night at the infamous Wendy's house the two
could be heard in the guest bedroom ahh.. consummating the evening. My job was done here. VW
Here are some pics from Wilde's 31 gun salute. We all made it out alive. I think I created a few monsters out of all this. People who never fired a weapon before get turned into gun nuts quick. Speaking of nuts the guy that runs the range said he had to stop two people this month from commiting suicide. Fun stuff. I had no idea I knew so much about guns until I had to help everyone when their gun jammed. Who knew learning could be this much fun. They should teach this in school. More pics coming...
Its Been a while since my last post. It goes in cycles. My birthday month is in full swing and it has been one for the books so far and theres still ten days left. Not going to list everything as yet, but Ill give you a clue, guns, sex, drugs, amazing art, friends, gambling, sex, and great music. I do have to mention seeing Roger Waters at the rose bowl in box seats sitting next to Cheech Marin was interesting. Yes the Cheech in Cheech in Chong. It was Pretty funny when the ushers tried to bust me and my pals for smoking a joint. I mean its a Pink Floyd concert for Christs sakes and besides I am sitting next to Cheech. That guy smoked enough weed that he still smells like a pot forest caught fire. Happy to say The video for Living Dolls is done. Check it out. VW
here are a three of my short films from my days at NCSA and one from 2000 in brooklyn. Soulfire Smith was the film that got me kicked out of film school. But I am damn proud of it . Period cars and costumes, car chases, foot chases, karate, drug deals on the wing of an airplane, etc
ANytown USA is my take on commercialism and the family unit as a whole in american society
I am what I am is an intimate conversation with Sunny Balzano. A Brooklyn native with deep roots and an amazing talent as a painter and even a philosopher
Nuema is my experimental piece that explores how we are not truely free in the land of the..