Zeesy Powers is a performance and video artist based in Toronto. At The Power Plant’s annual fundraising party, the Power Ball, Powers was invited to perform “I Will Tell You Exactly What I Think of You”. Participants signed up and were called on stage to join Powers, who strategically sat with her back to the audience. Powers told the participant precisely what she thought of her or him, and taped their reactions. She spoke to us about her experience performing at the Power Ball.
I thought the Power Ball would be an interesting place to try ‘I Will Tell You Exactly What I Think of You’ because it’s an event where people are dressed up. Regardless of the official theme, it’s usually about stepping out. It’s like art prom. It’s really silly. It’s also a really fun party. That’s why it’s so popular, and why accountants and lawyers and investment bankers and consultants continue to show up. Of course it’s a fundraiser, and you get a tax write-off, but it’s also a crazy party. Obviously, the free booze helps a lot.
People really put a lot of effort into their outfits. There was a Kim Kardashian look-a-like, who I thought was really cool. I said something to her that I think a lot people would have taken offense at, but she gave it some consideration and she was like, ‘Oh, yah!’ I said that she spends her money really conspicuously. It’s true, she does. But she was cool with that.
The first time I did it was at a zine fair. I thought it would be a very funny joke to put up a sign that said ‘I will tell you exactly what I think of you. Five dollars’. It’s kind of a ludicrous amount of money, but it’s still money. Five bucks is like, a snack or a thing. People can spend five bucks. It’s nominal but it’s not a dollar or ten cents. To my surprise, people actually wanted to know what I thought of them.
It’s really scary to have a stranger say things to you that might feel real. It’s very similar to a psychic or an astrologer in that way. If you’re listening to what I’m saying, for the most part it’s actually pretty vague. If you want to believe it, it might sound really true. Giving just enough information that people feel like they can attach meaning to it.
At it’s real bare level, this whole project has nothing to do with anyone who comes up on stage. It’s all an exercise in my judgement, my prejudices, my opinions, my point of view on the world. Yesterday, I went to a funeral and I was looking at all the young men’s shoes. You know that classic chestnut: ‘You can tell how much money a man has by his shoes.’ I was looking at these shoes and I was like, ‘Wow, all these young men have really nice shoes, but I know that not everyone here is rich’. At the Power Ball, I used shoes as a gauge for who might have money. But I realized that no, actually when men are dressing for an event, unless they are absolutely poor, they’re not going to put on black running shoes.
People wear costumes all the time. It’s not just at a fancy, expensive party. I guess the costumes are more of day-to-day costumes. Power Ball is an interesting situation because people could be like, ‘Well, she really doesn’t get me. I don’t normally dress like this.’ It’s easier to be acknowledge wearing a costume when you spent the past three days thinking about your costume. It’s a lot harder to acknowledge wearing a costume when you wear that costume every day.
–Zeesy Powers, as told to Studio Beat
Photos by katebackdrops
Check out this great video of Zeesy Powers’ “I Will Tell You Exactly What I Think Of You” from the Power Ball below and go to the project’s YouTube channel for more.