Performance art troupe Pocket Universe a door through which anything goes

When submitting a request to a performance art troupe, be careful what you wish for.

Pocket Universe, which will be performing at Art’s Birthday, the big bohemian performance art “happening” taking place Saturday night at the Ortona Armory (9733 102 Street), once performed at a function put on by a kink organization in Victoria, B.C. Their instructions: “Mindfuck the audience.”

These were the promoter’s exact words as recalled by Pocket Universe member Moonfyre – yes, that’s her name – who practically blushes over the phone to repeat it. It’s hard to imagine this sweet young mother being capable of doing some of the things she and her husband-partner Mykel came up with. That may be part of the impact.

Their idea was to do a scene about all the things you’re not supposed to do. The set-up was “how one would interact with a handicapped person in a romantic situation.”

Moonfyre says, “So I go up on stage with my friend who’s in a wheelchair and start being romantic with him. The audience thinks it’s Flirting 101 or something. But we had Mykel planted in the audience, and he stands up and yells, “I didn’t agree to this!” He comes storming up on stage and gets into a fight with the guy in the wheelchair … and ends up flipping his wheelchair over. It went on from there. We had a couple of other guys come up and shove me against to the wall. They slapped me and said, “You need to listen to your husband like a woman should!” One of the guys is a friend of ours who is very, very gay and well know in that community, so I said, “Get your hands off me, you fucking faggot!” We just kept going. The point was, what will people accept for entertainment? We called in racism, gender, abuse. Then we had a guy come out of the audience to start berating the audience, “Stop this right now! What’s the matter with you people?!” He was a plant, too.”

They were going to have the handicapped guy fake a seizure, but felt that might have been going too far. Anyway, their instructions had been fulfilled. Even after they revealed the gag, the mind-sore audience apparently needed some “aftercare” in the wake of Pocket Universe.

“We caused a deep reaction,” says Moonfyre. “The question was: Why do you allow yourself to be entertained by things that aren’t acceptable in society?”

Good question. But is it acceptable to watch a show that depicts unacceptable things in order to deplore them and thus itself becomes unacceptable? Whoa, that’s enough. Give the mind a rest.

Anyway, way to set the bar, Pocket Universe. The question now is if these folks can equal or top that memorable gig when they perform in Edmonton. Moonfyre says they have an hour to fill on Saturday and at the time of our interview actually had no idea what they were going to do beyond playing their original music, which shows another side to their talent. She says she may pull out a routine that was done once before, a dance-spoken-word piece that so disturbed an Edmonton journalist who saw a rehearsal of the piece that she had to be consoled afterwards.

So beware! This is, after all, “performance art,” the very phrase a gaping door through which anything goes. The only sure thing beyond the mixing of music, theatre, dance, poetry, art and the potential hurling of meat by-products is that the work is “going to push the audience into interpreting stuff in a different way,” Moonfyre says.

Asked if she’ll do anything to get a reaction, she pauses before answering, “I think as long as it can be artistically expressed, I will challenge any idea.”

Pocket Universe isn’t the only husband-and-wife performance art team operating out of Edmonton, believe it or not. Consider Ryan Stock and AmberLynn, who regularly wow and disgust crowds with feats of challenging self-abuse, Jim Rose-style.

Says Moonfyre, “I’m not that crazy.”

Also performing at Art’s Birthday – commemorating the invention of “art” one million years ago on Jan. 14 – will be the Boreal Electro-Acoustic Music Society (BEAMS), “laptop composer” Gene Kosowan, eclectic musicians Bill Damur and Don Ross, a burlesque troupe named “Zombies” and more acts that fall into the category of “anything goes.” Don’t claim you haven’t been warned. Tickets are $5 at the door.