I SLEPT WITH LINDA MONTANO: PAUL COUILLARD
I Slept with Linda Montano
Paul Couillard 
PC: Given your history in performance, I wanted to start by asking whether you see a distinction between performance or art and life?
Linda Montano: Until I wrote a recipe that indicated that every minute was performance, there was a distinction. In 1984 I appropriated all time as performance time or art, meaning every minute of my life was an opportunity for that kind of higher–not higher–but that kind of consciousness, a kind of awareness or–sacredness is a word that is laden–but that kind of sacredness. Before 1984 I made attempts, but they were for a week or a month or for shorter periods of time. In ’84 I designed it so that the rest of my life will be in a work of art.
PC: So, everything you do is art because you’ve consciously identified it as that?
PC: Are there other things wrapped up in that, like a sense of discipline or a certain kind of awareness you try to bring to things?
LM: It’s almost like… There’s a massage form called Reiki, and in Reiki, there’s a little bit of study, maybe a weekend workshop and three levels. Then there’s this so-called initiation, and it’s really an initiation into nothingness. It’s so simple; it’s just a laying on of hands. It’s not as if it’s a complicated massage form. And for me it was just a matter of consciously setting up the parameters that allowed me to incorporate, appropriate, grab all time as art.
PC: I was wondering about discipline.
LM: In the beginning it was about discipline. I had to do this, this, this and this for numbers of hours and days and weeks and months. Then I found that the overall intentionality worked to incorporate my needs, and the disciplines were really my own ego struggling, pushing. So when I lightened up and stopped pushing so much and creating boundaries and formulas, the permission to live in the state of art loosened me up. I started making more things that looked like traditional art because I was free. Before, it was always this sort of guilt of not being in the studio, not producing enough, not working — which comes out of an art school training or a western model of abundance and consumerism. How can you say you’re something if there’s no product? When I took that away, I actually started producing, which is always an interesting kind of contrast. But given my philosophy, there’s no need for production, because I am in the state of art, so to speak, at all times.
PC: Why was it important for you to identify what you were doing as art?
LM: Art gave me the same kinds of pleasures and aesthetic ecstasy as the Church used to give me. And because a woman is denied priesthood in Roman Catholicism, I knew instinctively that I would never be able to be a ritual-maker.
PC: Do you make distinctions? For example, when I contacted you about TIME TIME TIME, I told you I was looking at durational performance and I wanted to present a series of pieces that were at least 12 hours long. You could have said, “well, I’m doing that right now” or “I’ll come to Toronto and just be Linda Montano”, but instead you organized a specific event with an audience component to it that could be published or announced. Is there a distinction to be made between performing a piece called Appreciating the Chakras and being in your kitchen making dinner?
LM: Sometimes you eat chocolate cake with raspberries on it, and sometimes you have a rice cake. Doing a performance like Appreciating the Chakras is the chocolate cake with raspberry sauce. It’s a luxury, not necessary, but certainly something fun that I am still interested in. I see it as a night out.
PC: In calling everything you do art, and thinking of what you do as being an artist, do you think an artist necessarily has an audience? Is there a relationship between artist and audience?
LM: I think it’s changing with computers and websites and so on. It’s becoming a virtual audience — a non-visible, non-visual, non-physical audience. Then there’s the audience of rumor, the audience of legend and gossip–“oh isn’t that the person that, you know…” being known for one piece. There is a hunger now for community, for bodily closeness, for performance. But there’s also a plethora of taste. Things have gotten so specific to the person, that the people who will come to see a particular piece are drawn chemically by the taste of that person. The flavor of the piece coincides with the flavor of the audience members. I think there are a lot of different levels of audience, unless it’s a person or a piece that has such a following or such a need to be seen. Other than that, I think that as performance artists we draw the audience with the taste that corresponds with ours.
PC: In an interview you did before the Toronto show, you mentioned that one of the aspects of maturing as artists — I wasn’t sure whether you meant specifically in performance art or just for yourself as an individual — was accepting or recognizing that not all audiences are going to love what you do, or have to like what you do.
LM: I think that’s an important lesson to learn, not getting attached to numbers of people in the audience, not getting attached to being loved, so that you can really do the work for the right motivation. Hopefully the timing of the work is right. I really think a lot of it is about the presenter. If the presenter is coming from the right place and is well loved in the community and does a good job of making the artist comfortable, the audience can feel that and they respond. I think it’s a real collaboration, because you can do something in the right place with the wrong kind of treatment or atmosphere, and it’s not a good time for anyone. Sometimes it’s not the artist so much that’s drawing the crowd, but the presenter.
PC: When you do a piece, what are you hoping the audience will get? Or does that matter?
LM: Community — that they’ll have a place where they can wash their subconscious of ideas or fears or taboos, and a place where they can touch a kind of magical sacredness, have a spiritual high. Moving through matter and the dirt and detritus of matter as a jumping-off place to this ecstasy.
PC: Do you have any thoughts about the element of time in your work? I chose you for TIME TIME TIME because I was familiar with the fact that you had done a seven-year project of exploring the chakras, where every moment of every day for quite a substantial length of time was devoted to or charged with the intent of the particular project you were working on.
LM: Working with time allows for a timelessness. You almost have to grab time to go out of time. Focus and concentration and discipline and spaciousness all happen at the same time when you work with endurance and time. It inhibits scatteredness. It inhibits shallowness. It helps us to go to places that change brain waves, literally. If something’s done for a long period of time, then brain chemistry changes. All of those things interest me.
PC: I was very intrigued by the way you chose to structure what we called the ‘piece’ Appreciating the Chakras. Essentially, there were two parts. The first part of 3 1/2 hours was a soundscape that people could enter or leave as they wished, just soaking in the energy of it. The second part required a different level of commitment on the part of the people who were involved. They were no longer participating spectators; they were being what they were being. You asked us, in a sense, to sleep together.
LM: “I’ve slept with Linda Montano.”
PC: (Laughing) I’ll bet you have! In the morning, when we were ending the performance, one of the things you spoke about was that there was a sense of community created in our being together, just in doing a simple action together like sleeping. But people had to commit to be there for that 7-hour period and not leave in the middle, whereas the first part was set up so that anyone could come and go.
LM: A lot of that was just practical safety, in terms of doors opening and closing, people coming in, and protecting the space. Because people were sleeping, the space had to be different, so the parameters were different. But time is energy. We are energy. And energy needs a lot of attention. If we’re busy, if there’s a divorce from energy, then it’s like not being nurtured, not getting enough food. All of these actions are vehicles. They’re designed to produce the effect of feeling aliveness and energy — and maybe, if there is such a thing, a chemical shift in the brain where it’s touching bliss or sacredness.
PC: Is it fair to say that what’s involved is a commitment to acknowledging and working with the particular energy of time?
LM: When you translate time, the next word you get after time is death — because time is so mysterious and it’s all about the race against time, or time out, or time is over, or time is up, etc. Time is a real piece of the puzzle that nature holds and has control of. When artists play with time, they’re playing with God’s toy, nature’s toy. It wasn’t designed for us to play with, but artists never play with anything that isn’t sacred. Or, it’s the artist’s prerogative to go into that playground. Time brings up issues of dying and of death. And of impermanence and of change and of flux and of loss. “Time marches on.” “I don’t have enough time for that.” It seems to dog us and nip at our heels and run after us. We don’t have enough of it, but when the focus changes, when the artist uses time as a material — a clay to mold — the artist can use that material to reach timelessness — no-time. And no-time is bliss or ecstasy or energy, pure energy.
 Paul Couillard is the director of FADO, an alternative space in Toronto, Canada. This interview took place in conjunction with a festival entitled TIME TIME TIME, a twelve month series of durational performances by artists from the US, UK, and Canada curated by Couillard. Montano’s contribution Appreciating the Chakras took place from January 30-31 in the Canadia dell’Arte Theater Troupe Studio Space. The title, I Slept With Linda Montano, refers to the 7- hour endurance, Chakra Sleepover/Workshop, Montano offered as part of the event. The unedited interview can be found at http://www.performanceart.ca/.