a performance work by James Nares

First performances since 1978

Two shows:

Friday, April 13, 2012
continuous performance beginning at 7:00 pm
at Elliott Street Pub

Wednesday, May 23, 2012
continuous performance beginning at 8:00 pm
at The Goat Farm



Contact: Andy Ditzler,

In the performance work Desirium Probe (1977), artist James Nares stood on a stage, facing a television mounted from the ceiling. He wore headphones and held a remote control and a microphone. Changing channels at random, he reinterpreted the content of the programs for the audience in real time. The audience could neither see nor hear the television; they could only experience the content through Nares’ performance. Acting out TV characters, news anchors, explosions, chase scenes, soap operas, Nares became a medium through which the vast cultural landscape of American television could be presented. Desirium = desire plus delirium: a probe of the human psyche via live performance and television technology.

Nares performed Desirium Probe only twice, in late 1977 and early 1978. The piece has not been seen since then, and a single photograph is the only surviving documentation of the original performances. Writing thirty years later in Artforum, critic Amy Taubin described it as “one of the most memorable performances of the decade.” Performer and Film Love curator Andy Ditzler will present the first performances of Desirium Probe in thirty-four years.

The first performance takes place at the Elliott Street Pub in Castleberry Hill on April 13, 2012, as part of the monthly 2nd Friday Art Stroll. A second performance follows on May 23 at The Goat Farm.

Ditzler’s extensive research into the piece includes interviews with Nares and attendees at the original programs, and reviewing the artist’s archival materials. Accompanying the performances is a screening of James Nares’ film and video works, curated by Ditzler as part of the Film Love series. (The date and venue will be announced on the website, Ditzler says, “Nares is now well-known as a painter, but he is a significant artist in many different disciplines and genres. His films, installations and performances are a richly interconnected body of work that are only beginning to be discovered.” In addition to his own artistic work, Nares collaborated with such luminaries of the New York scene as Lydia Lunch, Jim Jarmusch and John Lurie, and even played guitar in the legendary No Wave band The Contortions. Nares’ New York gallery recently mounted a solo show consisting of historic works by him solely from the year 1976.

The revival of Desirium Probe three and a half decades later is a timely addition to the art world’s current preoccupation with the re-performance of classic 1970s works. Since Desirium Probe itself involves the instant re-performance of television, it speaks to this issue in a unique way. While Ditzler is approaching the piece with respect for its original context, his revival is not a reconstruction of Nares’ original performance but a reinterpretation for our own time. “One good reason for revisiting this piece is its potential for revealing things about our current cultural climate as reflected through TV,” he says.

Desirium Probe has a freedom for the performer that is liberating, exciting, and a little scary all at once,” says Ditzler. “The piece changes every time it’s done. It can be funny, emotional, and occasionally quite intense, all depending on the performer, the audience, and what comes across the television in the moment. It’s a work of performance art, but because it comes from TV it can also be entertainment, and I like exploring the tension between the two.” Film Love is proud to present this new interpretation of a neglected work from an important era of New York art.

Andy Ditzler is a performer and the curator of the Film Love series, which promotes awareness of the history of avant-garde and experimental moviemaking. His performance experience ranges widely through music, theater, and performance art. His song Solstice features a music video directed by underground film legend George Kuchar. Ditzler released Closet Studies, his latest collection of songs, in 2011. He is a founding member of the Atlanta art collective John Q.


Elliott Street Pub
51 Elliott Street
Atlanta, GA 30313
(404) 523-2174

The Goat Farm
1200 Foster St.
Atlanta, GA 30318

DESIRIUM PROBE is a Film Love event, programmed and hosted by Andy Ditzler for Frequent Small Meals. Film Love promotes awareness of the rich history of experimental and avant-garde film. Through public screenings and events, Film Love preserves the communal viewing experience, provides space for the discussion of film as art, and explores alternative forms of moving image projection and viewing. Film Love was voted Best Film Series in Atlanta by the critics of Creative Loafing in 2006, and was featured in Atlanta Magazine's Best of Atlanta 2009.

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