FRINGE: Q&A With ‘The Man Without Any Will’


“Starting at City Hall at 9:00 AM, I will wander around Philadelphia for eight hours. Everything after the initial starting spot is undetermined, as I will use a Magic 8-Ball to make all my decisions during that time period. Essentially, I will give up my free will.” — Chad Wanzek, aka The Man Without Any Will


Over the course of four days Wanzek abandoned his free will and put all decisions in the hands of a Magic 8 Ball as he wandered around Philadelphia. On his first day, the ball was kind, and led Wanzek to Reading Terminal?s Little Thai Market. He recited the menu to the omniscient globe. When asked about the red curry chicken the ball replied, ?It is certain,? and Wanzek, who rarely eats meat, chowed down. Later that day Wanzek ended up at a Center City ice cream shop where he was directed to order a scoop of chocolate batter. ?Is that all?? asked the server. ?No,? replied the ball, and Wanzek was commanded to add a raisin scone and sugar-free Red Bull to his order.

On Sunday the ball was less benevolent, repeatedly denying Wanzek the opportunity to eat or drink. Permissible activities included climbing a tree, giving away all his money, proposing marriage to a stranger (she said yes) and shaking a businessman?s hand in 30th Street Station (he declined). Desperate, Wanzek inhaled a tuna sandwich during one of his ?bodily function breaks.? Twelve miles and eight hours of walking later, he found himself exhausted and dehydrated. —Mara Zepeda PHILADELPHIA WEEKLY


(1) What was your stimulus for “The Man Without Any Will”?

I was reading Robert Musil’s “The Man Without Qualities” when the idea of making decisions by a magiceightball2.thumbnail.jpg 8-ball popped into my head. It wasn’t really linear, so I can’t place a specific spot that it happened. I dismissed the idea at first, but it kept popping up, and I kept working through the intrinsic beauty of the system of chance that I was trying to set up. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the copy of my book in front of me when I wrote the title in my fringe application, so my homage title went from ” The Man Without Will, to The Man Without Any Will”. For some reason, the title of the book was transformed in my mind.
Of course, I also have to mention the performances of Marina Abramovic.

(2) Was this piece (4 days/8 hrs per) your longest and most intense (physically/mentally)?
This piece was definitely the longest, and probably the most intense mentally. But a fifteen minute I did called “The Culture of My Land” was probably the most physically intense. In that piece, I had my chest pierced above both nipples and had rods inserted. I then connected the rods to ropes that were attached to the gallery ceiling. I then did a ghost dance TYPE circle where I pressed myself backwards against the ropes and at times let all of my weight pull on the rope. I stress that it was not an actual Ghost Dance though. The title came from a combination of the only cultures that were apparant in my home state of North Dakota; Native american (specifically Lakota-where the name of the state comes from) and generic white consumerism. My clothing was all purchased from Wal-mart. While the piece only lasted 15 minutes, my body started to go into shock by the end of the day, because of the size of the rods. They could only be in for under 24 hours, so I had to travel to the St. Louis area (I was in Graduate School at southern illinois university carbondale at the time) which was two hours away and have the piercing done and then return for the show. That was my one and only foray into true “Body Art”.

eightball2.thumbnail.jpg (3) Do you keep your “props,” i.e., the 8-ball and t-shirt from your recent piece (including documentation) so you can also participate in “gallery shows” that showing “art objects”?
I do not show my props, which I try to limit in my performances, but I do try to document the work so that people who were not there can experience it in some way. However the performance and the documentation are never the same thing. The documentation can give you an idea of the piece, but it is its own separate art form. I do not think this cheapens the performance, as I see them as separate. I do not like showing the props like Mathew Barney does his for the cremaster films. However, I actually like his props more than his films, so I don’t know what that says about that.
(4) Do you think that is valid, besides the need to keep a written/visual history of your performance pieces, or does it lessen the integrity of what you feel a performance artist is about?
I do think it is valid, which I answered above.
(5) What has been your biggest hinderance as a performance artist?
Explaining what performance art (in terms of the Abramovic/Vito Acconci mode) to the general public. It can be frustrating have to give history lessons every time I have a discussion about it.
(6) Do you find applying for grants very difficult?
I have only applied for one fellowship when I was living in Minnesota. I have been meaning to writeeightball2.thumbnail.jpg grants for specific projects, but I put that off until I moved/settled here. So I will have to get back to you on that.

(7) Who are some of your “heros” or persons you personally think are doing “strong” work, whether in the “visual/performance arts” or even literary?
I tend to be more Literary in my idol worship. Milan Kundera is definitely one of my heros as he is able to capture the human condition while furthering his particular art mode, the novel. I love the humor in Umberto Eco’s essays. Anselm Kiefer is still a hero of mine from my painting days. But I think the people that influence me the most are artist friends of mine.
(8) Have you found Philadelphia receptive to the type of art you do as opposed to other cities that you have either lived in or performed in?
I lived in Minneapolis for a few years and they have one of the best art institutions in the world, The Walker Art Center, which is very conducive to cross disciplinary work. Plus a few other places like Intermedia Arts and The Soap Factory. But the climate there was very cliquish and noninviting. I haven’t been here long enough to make a judgement about the art scene yet, but I have been really surprised and gratified by the support and acceptance my piece has gotten at the fringe festival this year, so I am very optomistic.
eightball2.thumbnail.jpg(9) Can you give any specifics moments during the “Man Without Any Will” piece where you might have had an insight and said to yourself, “This is why I do what I!” ?
At the end of the first day, when these college kids were trying to give me back my money and restored my free will to do it. The exchange just seemed like a perfect end for the day, It was more the cumulative effects of what happened before it, but still. Of course, it may have just been relief to have my will back.
(10) What is next on your art agenda? I have some things I am working on, but no set times or places where they will be shown. Unfortunately, I am very secretive about my projects at the early stages. However, my main focus right now is documenting my performance while it is fresh in my mind.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.