Description by Jeffrey Greenberg

We must not build on the good old things but on the bad new ones.
 — Bertolt Brecht to Walter Benjamin
Mercer Runway is the third of Chwat's series of "runways" or "WorkProjects". (WorkProject — or simply work — is what Chwat has taken to calling his work rather than pieces or projects … ) One lasted a week; one nearly a month; and this one, aside from its preparation, less than two hours. In "Mercer Runway", there was no false camaraderie, no false brotherhood, no false intimacy, no false moves. Participants were asked to bring something to share either with one of the others or with the group, and were told that they could bring a musical instrument as well.

Sunday, January 27, 1985.

Jacques arrives at five in the afternoon to prepare the space: clearing it; cleaning it; washing the floor (three hours). As darkness falls he checks to see if the space is dark enough, whether windows need to be covered? The wood stove is lit, then the candles which Jacques finally places leaving one a few feet off the center of the space. Participants begin to arrive around eight o'clock — over the next half hour - besides Jacques they are Charles Allcroft, Chris Gallagher, Jeffrey Greenberg and William Pope.L.

As each arrives Jacques asks, "Please remove your shoes and socks, and find your place." Some sit upright, others lay flat, fairly isolated, at least five feet from the other. Few speak: the firelight and darkness urge silence. Jacques sits leaning against a wall, then asks us to try to shed our previous outside existence and simply be here fully. Now Jacques rises and walks slowly, with his hands behind his back, to Charles (the last to arrive). He offers his hand to Charles to help him rise, and together they walk to the wall where Jacques sat. A large sheet of blank paper - off-white - has been tacked against the wall, hanging from floor to ceiling. To the right is a pencil sharpener to which is fastened a bundle of pencils. Jacques asks Charles to stand with his back against the paper and proceeds to trace Charles' outline onto the paper: first the head, then right shoulder, left shoulder, right arm, left arm, torso, right leg, left leg - while the others watch this little dance or stare into the fire. Jacques leads Charles back to his place and he returns to his. They sit looking at each other, staring into space and into the fire.

Jacques rises again and walks slowly with his hands behind his back (as before) toward William, the next to last to arrive, and leads him to the paper and traces his outline(s) as with Charles; then leads him back to his place. Jacques returns to his place and we continue to sit. Jacques repeats this leading, tracing, returning with the two remaining men, Chris and Jeffrey.

All sit quietly. Finally Jacques approaches Jeffrey and whispers, asking him either to work with the musical instrument that he has brought or with one of the objects he may want to share. Jeffrey opens a broken, taped portfolio and shows its contents: they appear to be an architectural project for a would-be fast food joint called "Philly Mignon" - drawings, watercolors, felt papers, colored sheets, cut-outs and remnants. He passes them around, then when they have been returned to him announces that he had found the portfolio in the street, ostensibly left there by a Willard Chang. They sit in silence looking to Jacques … until he rises and whispers in Chris' ear. Chris stands, smiles, walks over to Jeffrey to offer him a Lifesaver, offers everyone a Lifesaver, then sits.

Jacques rises pulling the string of a child's musical toy. The faster it rolls, the faster and harder its arms beat on the bars of a four-bar marimba, and as it turns different bars are brought under the beating arms. Walking back and forth he makes his music - a music for a challenge. Most taken by this challenge is Jeffrey, grabbing at the string, trying to take control of the instrument; however, he is not certain of the challenge or perhaps not up to it…his actions seem weak and Jacques finally withdraws the toy from his reach. Jeffrey remains in his spot, fixed.

Jacques quietly asks William what he has brought. William rises and whispers to Jeffrey. They walk into the adjoining room. Moments later the window opens and William yells out, "Hey you guys, why don't you come up here? We're having a party! Come on!" The window shuts and they return. They all sit.

Jacques approaches Charles, who is lying flat on his back. Charles gets up and asks each one whether they have gloves. Everyone does. Then, crouching by the wood stove, he begins to play with a metal bowl which has a small, metal chain in it. Swirling the chain, he grabs a 1arge cardboard tube and places the bowl on top of it, beginning a sort of balancing act. Whistling with a clown's siren whistle, he pulls the chain from the bowl, causing the bowl to teeter. On his hands and knees he pushes the tube and whistles until it falls with a startling (but expected) crash and pushes the remains under the wood stove, then crawls behind it picking up the cinder shovel along the way. Now on his back, he slowly scrapes the shovel up and down the rising exhaust column, a series of hollow, metallic sounds muffled by soot. Charles stops, picks up the bowl, tube, and chain, and, whistling, pushes them slowly across the floor, now on his hands and knees, now on his back, now on his stomach. By the time he reaches the other end of the room (nearly thirty feet away) he collides the tumbling, teetering mass into a stand of ladders which he climbs, dragging his objects with him and taking, as well, a sheet of cardboard lying against the wall. He, together with his cache, almost falls; he fights for his balance; finally perching his sculpted mass on the top rung, and, as a final gesture, attaches a red light bulb to the mass. Descending warily, he finds a new place for himself far from the others.

All continue to sit quietly until invited by Jacques to share some bread, cheese, fruit and tea.