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Billy X. Curmano: Journal

“Water Week”, Salt Lake City - April 28, 2009

For Immediate Release:

Billy X. Curmano launches his latest work with an appearance at “Water Week” in Salt Lake City on May 3rd. The award winning artist is known for eccentric performances like being buried alive and swimming the length of the Mississippi River. He brings his water based environmental art trilogy to Brewvies Cinema Pub, 677 S. 200 W. #D, with video-screenings culled from “Swimming the Mississippi”, “Death Valley Desert Classic” and “66º 33’ North” followed by a live art performance.

The 2,367.4-mile Mississippi River swim was a performance, environmental statement and vision quest through the “Father of Waters” during drought, abundance and over-abundance. The resultant documentary won the “ 2002 Henry Hampton Award for Excellence in Film & Digital Media”. He greeted the Millennium in Death Valley with a 40-day desert fast that took him from the abundance of water to its absence. The third leg of the trilogy was as witness to water in changing states with an Arctic Circle odyssey entirely on public transportation.

Billy X. will arrive in Salt Lake City several days before the screenings to begin an as-yet unnamed work in the Salt Lake Eco-system. He will gather “Ambassadors for Clean Water” as collaborators. The salty team will develop a fresh work in and about the area’s unique environmental issues with an eye to next year’s festival. Progress will be reported on the Internet through out the year with frequent updates in the journal at and on twitter at
“Hmmm… I’m wondering, now that everybody is green, am I still a tree hugger?” - Billy XC, Tweet on Twitter, April 21, 2009

And What About God? - April 20, 2009

I am an artist and an agnostic. I have often said, " Well, I just don't know." But as an artist indebted to science, I've realized that I do know.
Science cannot prove the existence of a Creator, but then again, science cannot disprove the existence of a Creator.
Therefore, I do know - that I just don't know.

Portrait of the Artist as Someone Else - March 14, 2009

I’ve posted my painting “Portrait of the Artist as Someone Else” in images. It will be included in “The 50th Midwestern Invitational Exhibition” at the Rourke Art Gallery Museum in Moorhead, MN for most of the summer. Here are a few thoughts on it.

“Portrait of the Artist as Someone Else”

As children, we often played make-believe. We were cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, soldiers against soldiers – it was good over evil. First ones to call out, “Good guys”, were just that. But as we got the drop on each other (sometimes with only pistol pointed fingers) we called, “You’re dead!” After an Oscar worthy death scene, “I’m a new man!” was the common response. “Portrait of the Artist as Someone Else” is my new man.

Orange Alert Review - February 22, 2009

Orange Alert got a nice review in Milwaukee's alternative paper, The Shepherd Express.

Threat Level 3 Orange Alert
Neither the name of the band nor the album connotes any danger from Homeland Security. Instead, Threat level 3 turns their Orange Alert into electro-acoustic free jazz meditations on world music. Ex-Milwaukeeans Billy X. Curmano and John Pendergast pluck, strum and bow their stringed instruments as Minnesota Steve Smith blows tenor sax and didgeridoo. The inclusion of ocean harp and Zimbabwean Mbira and trippy electric dulcimer makes for textures harsh enough for intentional listening yet unobtrusive enough for background ambience or avant-garde soundtracks.

One piece accompanied by a spoken-word love poem of ambiguous sincerity makes for a dry-humor hoot. Even more engaging, however, are the rickety samba grooves appearing on a couple of pieces. This album is not for smooth-fusion fans by a long stretch, but for those with ears to hear, Threat Level 3 make advanced music theory and dissonance fun. - Jamie Lee Rake

Flying - January 3, 2009

I once flew in to Minneapolis from New York City.

First thing, I went to a monitor to see if my flight had arrived.

Off With Their Heads! - December 31, 2008

As I review the year, I wonder who will be going to jail for upsetting the world economy? The scandal of golden parachutes and the big bucks those fat cats carry seems to divert attention from the real deal.
Okay, so I’m not a big capital punishment fan, but I want to see anyone that has caused so much suffering and pain to go to jail – and not those country club pseudo jails for the rich. The greedy CEO’s and what not have you are simply economic terrorists and should be treated as such.

Here's to Solstice - December 21, 2008

Winter always comes to Minnesota and often before the Solstice. I stood casually in my tuxedo, brandy snifter in hand, overlooking the world headquarters and command center of Art Works USA, when the telly rang. It was Dr. Bob. The snow was swirling every which way with North Westerly well below zero winds. The roast was cancelled, but I wasn’t off the proverbial hook. The Billy Roast will be rescheduled. I’ll let you know.

Billy Roast WARNING - December 9, 2008

The following is an unauthorized journal entry hacked in by those pesky east side robots. I haven’t figured out how to delete it, but luckily I’ve been able to add this disclaimer. I’m begging you. Don’t support this attack on my good character:

~~~~East Side Robots Hack Attack~~~~Hacked in~~~~Resistance is Futile~~~~
Dr. Bob and the East Side Robots present “Billy Roasting on an Open Fire”
Robotic dance party and human roast of the legendary performance artist Billy X. Curmano with the East Side Robots, members of the New X Art Ensemble and DJ Rhumpshaker. Come as a robot, Win a prize.

Ed’s (No Name) Bar~~~Third & Franklin~~Winona, MN~~~Dec. 20, 2008~~~9 p.m.

A High End Ruduction in conjunction with Rubber Room Records, Hardcorn and Torn Curtain
~~~~East Side Robots Hack Attack~~~~Hacked in~~~~Resistance is Futile~~~~

Incidental Front Man - December 4, 2008

The incidental front man: Last night, was my first solo “Incidental Music” at Ed’s laid-back-bar in Winona. Sure, I’m often solo on the road, but that’s usually a show with expectations. I approached Ed with the idea of a no “show” atmospheric background sound night. It’s a style I’ve grown more and more into with an annual gig at the Minneapolis Art Institute, but I didn’t know if it would translate well to a bar. It’s free jazz atmospheric, ambient and I guess entertaining. It worked at Ed’s.

Here’s my bonus: Playing incidentally, I allow myself to drift in and out of sound patterns and explore instruments. This first night out included vibraphone, ocean harp and an amped up dulcimer with bow, digital delay and a new capo. I’m sometimes delighted if I discover a new tone or two that I didn’t even know was in or out there.

And here’s the thing, I’m honored to play with the New X Art Ensemble. I often even wonder how I became the front man for a band of superb and seasoned musicians. Being out front has more responsibility than any irresponsible rapscallion may care to undertake, so incidentally, there’s more incidental music on the way.

In Case I should ever be Murdered - November 29, 2008

Last night, I awoke from a dream and realized I could be murdered. I quickly ran the likely suspects through my mind and decided to take action. I announced my latest project that evening at my cousin Cathy’s home in Milwaukee. Incidentally, it was also my boyhood home where a few friends and family were gathered. After several glasses of wine, I was able to convince each of them to donate a single strand of hair: “In case I should ever be murdered.”
The strands were labeled, dated and entered into my sketchbook for eventual transfer to a presentation case that will be made available to the police for DNA examination after my demise.
Original Participants included: Margarita Baumann, Catherine Healey, Susan Russell and John Pankau

Fandango Vol. 32 - November 21, 2008

The latest issue of the newsletter, that feminist art historian Lucy Lippard has referred to as "hokey fan club press", is just out. "The Fandango" is archived at the Museum of Modern Art Library (NYC), so if you want to join that discriminating crowd you'll have to send a snail mail address and let us know you want to be in. One hard copy sample is always free, but that's as long as we'll carry you.
After that, you'll have to join. But Beware, "Warning and disclaimer: Joining the Billy Curmano Fan Club leaves an indelible mark on your person. You can't always see it, but believe you me, it's there, buddy. See: "The Fandango", Vol. 17 1-2, 1998, for removal information."

Performance for an Unknown Space with Lemons - November 8, 2008

I was proof-reading material for the next "Fandango" do out shortly. It reminded me of the exhibition I participated in at the Rourke Museum, Moorhead, MN last summer. I decided to re-create an older piece for their Neo-Dada theme.
"Performance for an Unknown Space with Lemons" was born again in the 49th Midwestern Invitational in the form of a handcrafted artist's book complete with steel hinged binding.
From the title page:
"One day, a note from an artist previously unknown to me arrived by mail. It was from a Hungarian born Canadian artist and founder of the Lyrical Conceptualist Society, Paul Hartal. He had come across my work and found it of interest. He suggested we collaborate.
I prepared a detailed plan for a farcical performance placing sound, music, movement, poetry, sights and scents together in an unfamiliar space. The space and participants were unknown to me. Arrangements were made entirely by mail and the performance strictly adhered to my 16-page instruction booklet.
Performance for an Unknown Space with Lemons was first performed by the Lyrical Conceptualist Society at Atelier 2101, Montreal, and Quebec, Canada in 1980. The performers have remained unknown to me.

Billy's Tiny Card Co. Goes Public - November 3, 2008

Okay, so we aren't selling stock - but we are making our first Tiny Xmas Card available to the public.
For several years, we've been sending out postage stamp size greeting cards with "The Fandango". This year, we're putting that first ever card on the market.
The cards are "Far Less bother! No room for that lengthy personal note. No Muss; No Fuss!"
They come twelve to a package with a dozen standard mailing rate envelopes nicely imprinted on the obverse with: Billy's Tiny Card Co. A tiny subsidiary of Art Works USA. Care enough - Not to make a big Deal®.
The image on the card is a Crayola sketch of a Christmas Tree from my mother's refrigerator collection. I believe I was about 4 years old when I made it. The interior message reads "Merry Li'l Xmas" and there's not much room for anything else.
Click on objects if you'd like to see samples. If you want the limited run cards, they're $15.00 a dozen. Add $5.00 for postage/handling and send a check payable "Art Works USA", 27979 County Road 17, Winona, MN 55987. We'll send a pack out ASAP, but remember supplies are limited. Hurry!

Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program - October 27, 2008

I have had the great pleasure to work with the Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program (MAEP) at the Minneapolis Institute of Art as both an artist and panelist. For about 30-years, artists have been invited to an annual meeting at the Minneapolis Institute of Art where they nominate and elect a seven-member artists panel. This panel reviews proposals from Minnesota artists and selects five exhibitions each year that are mounted in the institute’s dedicated galleries. It is a very democratized process entirely curated by artists, for artists and very likely the only program of its kind in a major museum in the United States.
Recently, there was an upheaval in the program as the newly expanded museum adopted a more corporate approach to their administrative structure. In fact, the program lost its long-time coordinator and came close to self-destructing. Meetings were called within the artist community; a “Save the MAEP” committee formed and negotiations went back and forth between the museum and art workers.
Surprise, Surprise! At the annual meeting last Saturday, I was nominated and then elected to the artists’ panel. I hope to help keep the program running as smoothly as possible through this transitional time. I’m Billy X. and I approved this message.

Pain - October 24, 2008

I was just thinking about when I was a young boy - maybe even a young man. I liked to rough house, wrestle, play sports, bang into my friends and so on. I think the pain helped me realize I was alive. As an older man, I don't have to do all those things. The pain just comes and goes on its own.

"66º 33' North" at You Tube - October 17, 2008

There is a video short up at You Tube from my Arctic Adventure. Go see it. The back story from "The Fandango" (Vol. 29; 2005-06) follows:
Live Art: 66º 33' North is the third installment of a water based environmental art trilogy that includes the 2,367.4 mile Mississippi River swim in the abundance of water and a 40 day Death Valley Desert Fast in the absence of water. Water is a source of life that solidifies, flows or evaporates with its seasons and takes shape according to its container - whether a vase, stream, fjord or glacier. This third work follows water through the changing conditions of the arctic.
With the "Swim" video at the Baltic and the "Fast" at the Side Cinema, England proved an ideal launching site for "Live Art: 66º 33' North". On Sept. 5th - Billy and his old friend and patron, Dr. David Christenson, formed an Expeditionary Art Adventure Team and departed Newcastle on board the Princess of Scandinavia bound for the Arctic Circle.
An all night North Sea crossing brought them to Kristiansand, Norway where they boarded a series of trains - 5 hours to Oslo, then another overnight to Trondheim and still another 12 hours north to Bodo - and - the Arctic Circle. Mike Fabian joined the crew as they crossed the Arctic Sea to the Lofoten Islands. After 4 days of travel, they took a minibus to the village of A on Moskene for a good night's sleep and then:
Sept. 9, 2005: "We have to be very careful making our way over the slippery rocks. It rains so much the rocks - even back from the sea - take on a bit of sheen.
We set the flag (a blue t-shirt with transfer)
over the ocean harp carrier. Dave took the camera and Mike picked up a GPS reading, Latitude: 67º 52.761' North and Longitude: 012º 59.249' East.
I was in a loud blue rain suit and worked my way to the edge of the rocks. The waves crashed about me soaking my shoes. I bent down and caught some of the sea as it crashed against my uniform.
The ocean harp joined me for the salt water bath. I could taste it as it dripped from my moustache. The vial of Mississippi almost leapt from my pocket to join the adventure. Vial #46 of 110 collected at Lake Itasca, MN on July 8, 1987 - the first day of my 2,000 plus mile swim. Now, the waters from the Mississippi would join the waters of the Arctic Ocean in the vessel that is an ocean harp and I would have the honor of bringing their song to life.
I began percussively with the mallet and words of greeting. The waves clapped against this rocky barrier with a thunderous glee. When I switched to my bow, the waters dripped from its tail. I had hopes it would still sound - and sound it did - until the waters overpowered the artificial cat gut screams. I played on for a time with sound that could not compete with the day.
I was exuberant and excited and all was right with the world. I called out for coordinates and Mike called them back. I doubt they are audible - but I know they are there. I've decided, this singular act needs no enhancement. I've simply journeyed - on public transport - thousands of miles for a symbolic moment bringing the "Father of Waters" together with the Arctic Sea - even though I already knew - he was already here." - The Arctic Journal
This Arctic Odyssey and DVD emphasize the interconnectedness of systems within our biosphere and how parasitic practices and misuse of the planet's resources impact people worlds away. The journey as performance documents the use of efficient public transportation, even in seemingly remote areas, while entertaining people, creatures and the environment with "live art". The video will be brought home to a culture addicted to excess and show how environmental consequences come back to haunt us all.
No where on the planet are the affects of global warming and depletion of ozone more prominent than in the Arctic. In only 30 years between 1960 and 1990, the Arctic ice-floe has decreased in thickness by 40%. (Avg. thickness 3.12 m. 1960; 1.8 m 1990) 1. Pests, like mosquitoes, enjoy the more favorable conditions, while caribou herds and other wildlife decline.
This is by no means a new problem, but the continued exploitation of resources, fight for oil and talk - turned to drilling - in the fragile arctic emphasize its timeliness. It's long been known that even the most isolated areas impact the rest of the planet. As far back as 1987, a Laval University study attempted to measure the contaminants in the breast milk of women living in highly industrialized areas. Scientists selected 200 Inuit women as a control group. They lived in small isolated communities on the Eastern Hudson Bay Coastline with sled dogs more common than gasoline engines.
Their communities were without industry, yet surprisingly, the women's milk had toxic chemicals five times higher than average. Some levels were the highest recorded anywhere in the world. The pristine Canadian North is at the center of a vortex of poisons discarded by the rest of the world. Its creatures and people suffer as waste repositories for the industrial world without receiving any of the benefits. 2.
Pollution from around the globe affects living organisms from the smallest lichens to the noble polar bear. It leads to genetic defects, metabolic changes, reduced fertility, and cancer. It threatens all the people of the Arctic, perhaps even creating an endangered human species. Like the canary in the mine shaft, their health is an indicator for sustainable development. In Arctic Russia, the Mansi don't even reach retirement age and life expectancy for the indigenous people is 20 years lower than that of average Russians. That poses a great moral dilemma. The Arctic's less than 4 million indigenous population is spread over vast distances and has only a small political voice to disuade our greed.
When the ice melts, where will the waters go? Deterioration of the Arctic environment creates severe consequences for us all. Sea levels are rising and major ocean currents may change their paths - affecting not only the coasts, but the entire world climate.
(1. Yann Arthus-Bertrand, "Earth from the Air; Diary 2005", Wecommunic8 Ltd., 2005.
2. Anita Gordon and David Suzuki, "It's a Matter of Survival", Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1991.)

Live Art: 66º 33' North is a call to action; a call for each of us to become responsible and conserve resources. Dependence on oil is an addiction. We're all addicts. Join the oil anonymous X step program.
1. Reduce; re-use, recycle or die.
2. Turn off lights, electronics and TVs. Don't use standby. Get energy efficient appliances/light bulbs.
3. Conserve water. Use short bursts at the sink. Seal leaks. Full washer loads and front loading machines; landscape with indigenous plants; water wisely.
4. Heating/cooling. Insulate. Check energy suppliers for green plans. Use tax incentives to add solar, wind or other renewables. Return excess energy to the grid. Plant deciduous trees: summer shade; winter sun.
5. Use local, seasonal, organic foods: Cut food travel miles, chemicals and pollution. The same goes for other products. Support locals. Bring bags to shop. Complain about and avoid over packaging.
6. Use public transit; car pool, ride bicycles and walk. Buy greener cars: hybrid, low mileage/No gas guzzlers.
7. Ethical investment. Retirement plans, mortgages, insurance, credit cards and bank accounts are all investments. Invest in green companies. Divest from polluters, arms merchants etc. - Tell them why.
8.Volunteer. Support environmental and charitable groups. Get involved with school boards; local issues.
9. Sustainable tourism. Travel lightly; buy local; be aware: An Average tourist uses a 3rd worlder's 100-day water supply in 24 hours.

Video Link "The Greyhound Tour" - October 14, 2008

The first video on the Links Page is from a solo performance in Brooklyn that was part of a much larger project. Here's a back story from "The Fandango" (Vol. 28; 2005):
The Greyhound Tour was a slice of Americana and a comment on mass transit - with a sense of history and parody thrown in for good measure. History in the tradition of the great blues and rock-a-billy players that traveled by bus (or anyway they could) and a parody of the lavish rock n' roll, country and hip-hop tours and buses of today.
Unbeknownst to Greyhound (Read that: no support), they provided public transport (in an age of solo SUV's) with a driver and built in posse that covered 21 "performances" and 6,293 miles in 45 days - just for the price of a pass.
Just another project way ahead of the curve. Almost immediately after the tour, Greyhound closed 260 bus stations between Seattle and Chicago. It primarily impacts the poor, infirm and elderly, especially in rural America.
The Greyhound Pass expired at midnight along with the last notes of his live radio concert on KFAI, Minneapolis.

Local Lure 2 & Swim Finale - October 8, 2008

I finally saw a copy of "The Lure of the Local" by Lucy Lippard. It was published in 1997, but I had no idea I was included in it:

“But few have yet to discover this vast territory of national water issues, which is outside of most of their experiences.
There are, of course exceptions, such as Billy Curmano’s heroic and often hilarious swim down the entire Mississippi as a performance work and environmental statement, accompanied by a deluge of hokey fan club press releases (“As American as Apple Pie, But Better for You!”); at the beginning of the 1996 swimming season, he had swum 1,928 of the 2,500 miles from his home state of Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico.” – pg. 167

Lucy, here’s your update:
“Alligators…Lightening…and sharks!...Oh,…my! On July 23rd, 1997 at 12:25 p.m., with alligators to the rear, sharks in the bay and a hurricane forming off the coast of Cuba, Billy X. Curmano became the first person in recorded history to swim from the source of the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico.” – “Selections from Objects” Catalog, Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans, 1997.
Incidentally, the mayor proclaimed Oct. 4, 1997 “Billy X. Curmano Day” in New Orleans and the New X Art Ensemble played for the “Swim Finale” with some very special guest stars sitting in.

Before and during the long, long swim, I developed a signature piece, "The River Rap". It addresses problems with all the world's waters. It was released on the award winning "Billy X: Solo Set" CD available at CD Baby. The lyrics are on this site and available in a chapbook from Art Works USA.

The Lure of the Local - September 29, 2008

I was busily working the other day when the phone rang. A young woman's voice seemed surprised to have connected with Billy X. I assured her it was indeed I. She told me "they" were studying me and identified herself as a student from MIAD (Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design) and asked to put me on speaker. I said okay and we had some fun, but I wondered why me and why now? Another voice said they were reading "The Lure of the Local" by Lucy Lippard. I had no idea I was included in that book. Funny how you discover these things.

Threat Level 3: Orange Alert - September 12, 2008

Billy had recorded with both Steve Smith and John Pendergast, but the 3 first played together at the New Orleans Contemporary Art Center with New X. It was the end of Billy's swim from the source of the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico; the mayor proclaimed Billy X. Curmano Day and the 3 late-nighters played in the stairwell of their hotel. They clicked and wanted more. Time and distance held up the follow through for ten years, but now it’s a done deal. The compact disc Orange Alert is finally pressed and available at

The first live Threat Level 3 show was a soundscape created for Internationally renowned sculptor Kenneth Patrick Payne’s Circus Inferno, Fire & Ice, at the Burchfield Nature/Art Center near Buffalo, NY. A medieval cast iron stave furnace acted as front man to the trio as they improvised with its sounds and flames climbing to a 3,000º operating temperature.

Our Header & Some Credits - September 11, 2008

The black & white photo on the head of the site is by Kevin Pomeroy. It's the New X Art Ensemble featuring the Amazing Tess Toster Tones at Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis.
John O'Hara bit the orange for Orange Alert. He's our go to guy for photos and graphics.
Unidentified photos and art are usually Billy's.
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