Philip Fryer


Philip Fryer, APOCRYPHA, Performance at LUMEN Festival (Staten Island, NY),
Photo by Ryan Hawk, 2012

A new body of work is revealing itself. It’s doing so one action at a time. Mortality has long been the focus of my performances, and it’s still present. Previously, my work explored the concept of a body: what constitutes one and what its limitations are. The focus has now shifted towards its micro-elements, the smaller circuits within the big one.

This process began in 2011 when I performed “Wall Melody” at Time Body Space Object, an exhibition of 12 artists each performing for 1 hour consecutively. The theme of the exhibition was Commitment, and I had recently been deeply impacted by reading about John Cage’s experience in the anechoic chamber in which he experienced hearing his own blood flow. I decided the performance would commit itself to one sound, a single note held for an hour on a keyboard. In doing so, I dedicated the performance to the omnipresence of sound.

My recent work has the common element of a long, tube-like piece of black fabric. These performances have focused on this object as a portal, and its possibilities between both the artist and the audience. In the first version of “TREE/POOL/SKY” the fabric became an extension of my body by sewing it around the edge of the hood of my sweatshirt. My face is erased and extended, it is on the ground even as I stand up. In “APOCRYPHA”, I simply stood wearing this extension for 3 hours, experiencing sensory deprivation. In the next version of “TREE/POOL/SKY”, the extension took on a new meaning when I started the performance by engaging individual audience members through the fabric. I approached them and held the fabric up. We peered at each other through the hole and shared a brief, intimate, moment that felt like hours. This altering of the senses, taking a moment and making it feel extended, harkens back to the meditative approach to “Wall Melody” and is the same route which lead Cage to his realization in the anechoic chamber.


Philip Fryer, TREE/POOL/SKY, Performance at the Darling Foundry (Montreal, QC), 2012

The most recent element introduced into this work has been the use of a red nightgown. It acts in a similar way to the black extension, I view the audience through it, however it also has new and different facets. In my most recent performance, “WHAT NOW”, the closing action consists of myself wearing the gown, laying on the floor, projecting the image of a bed into my mouth.  It’s hard to say exactly how it fits with the greater body of work and where it will take me. However, I’ve learned to not question these action as they come. I’ve learned to trust them and embrace them.

* * *

I first took notice of Phil Fryer as a tech-geek at SMFA before I became familiar with his practice (ok, he was also wearing some hardcore band shirt). When I  finally experienced his work, I picked out a strong sensibility that allows him to mediate and extend elements of human experience through technology and strange, but familiar, objects. As a member of the performance community, he has made important contributions through the Contaminate Festival, MEME Gallery, and as a member (with Sandrine Schaefer) of the Present Tense. If you’re lucky, you might catch him in a basement near you as a member of the ambient noise project TOOMS.


Philip Fryer, WHAT NOW, Performance at SUPERNOVA Festival (Rosslyn, VA),
Photo by Sandrine Schaefer, 2013

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