“The Covenant of The Shithole” is an interactive, multi-media, sculptural performance piece. It was designed for the #1 Underground Art Space in Chicago, according to The Chicago Reader – “The Shithole.”
The piece was developed as a reaction to an increase in disrespectful behavior durring shows at The Shithole. By exploring alternative forms of spirituality, ritual, and audience participation, The Covenant brings the room together under a shared vision of creation and support while setting the tone for the show to come. Religion is a very powerful method for bringing a community together under a shared belief and goal. Regardless of your opinions or your beliefs, there is a certain beauty and power behind religious stories and rituals which can’t be denied. “The Covenant of The Shithole” used these religious rites as a template to create a more secular, if not Satanic, form of ritual as a way to bring together a predominantly non-religious crowd, as well as a way to create a new church of creation and support that is bound by no God.
Michael opened the weekly Shithole shows for 6 weeks. Borrowing from Christian liturgy, he would change the opening “sermon” to comment on community and creation in a secular, if not satanic, manner.
The covenant itself is an interactive sculptural piece, designed to mimic a medieval relic. Garnered with wood-burned designs on the outside, brass adornments, painted symbols on the inside, and a scroll with the commandments of The Shithole. The interactive elements are controlled by an Arduino microcontroller, hidden inside the box. When a visitor first encounters the box, it appears to be an innocuous, inanimate object, with no latch, and seems to be permanently locked. It is not until the visitor interacts with the box, holding it by it’s corners, that the lid pops open, and light spills out to reveal the commandments within. It was important to Michael to create a piece that forced the audience to engage with it, rather than be passive subjects. This functions to further bridge the gap between audience and artist generating a mutual respect between the two.
The performance was also accompanied by custom lighting cues controlled by a separate Arduino rigged to control a series of DMX dimmer packs.
Michael’s performance was mentioned in The Chicago Reader’s article on “The Shithole” – “The New School of Chicago Comedy.”
The scroll on the inside reads:
This Covenant Is An Eternal Commitment Between The Shit Hole And Its Patrons. So Long As Its Patrons Abide By This Seal They Shall Be Apart Of “It”, The Shit Hole. In Return “It” Shall Eternally Provide A Safe Space To Explore, Experiment With, and View Art.
•Thou Shalt Be Respectful – To One Another if Ye Be Performer, Artist, Patron, Or Otherwise. To The Space. And To Thyself.
•Thou Shalt Be Supportive – Remain Positive and Constructive. Negativity And Apathy Are Not Welcome.
•Thou Shalt Contribute – Sacrifice or Donate. Art, Time, and Coin.
•Thou Shalt Message For Details.
To Break This Covenant Is To Invoke Banishment And Lose All Privileges Herein.