Daedalus Howell is Conceptual Art

As many longtime readers know, the performance art piece known as “Daedalus Howell” is nearing its 30th anniversary as a ???

Those heretofore unaware may consider the obvious clues like the fact that “Daedalus Howell” is clearly not a real name. No one is given such a fantastic writer’s name at birth — because I submit, no one is that good a writer when that young. And frankly, good writers aren’t born, they’re made. By good editors.

Really, could a character with all the narrative nuance of a “Daedalus Howell” be born at all? No. They’re made — and seldom by a single hand. Thanks to corporate personhood and the proliferation of performance art in the early 90s—the long-form conceptual art piece known as “Daedalus Howell” has been a going concern for three decades. But now it’s time to recast the role.

To be clear, your present writer is not Daedalus Howell, just one of several people who have played the character since its inception. Our troupe was not the first and certainly not the last, though there was a brief period in 2003 when the project was virtualized into an online chatbot. When the site was hacked to randomly spit out thesaurus entries and no one noticed for months, only human performers have portrayed the character since.

We auditioned for the work’s originators, a collective of ???, after one of the earlier DH’s ???  It’s equal parts learning and license. Once you have the particulars down (namely ????) then you can render your own interpretation and play to your individual strengths as a performer. I’ve emphasized the character’s ??? whereas others have leveraged their abilities to ??? or ???? for example.  

I’ve played the role on and off for nearly 20 years with others taking the mantle intermittently and sometimes simultaneously, which accounts for a confusing time in the mid-aughts when two of us showed up to do our schtick at the same conference. The canny promoter, simply slotted in an additional lecture and the two Howells comically heckled each other from the audience. I wish I’d been there.  

With the current contract ending this Spring, I’m game to watch the next generation take the mantle. Auditions for what, to me, feels like a “role of a lifetime,” have already begun with many promising hopefuls. 

Truly anyone can play the role — there are just a few suggestions, in my opinion, to keep on-brand. Look up “supercilious” and commit the definition to memory, then embody it.

You have to keep the narrative elements in place (essentially a cycle of ridiculousness followed by redemption). If you’re going to be in the public eye, keep it bloodshot. are recommended. But not required performance art at this level of commitment. Doesn’t mean however that you have to be on 24/7. In fact. I frequently take weekends off and unless I’m in public, I rarely wear the costume.

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