Legendary Neo-Futurist PHIL RIDARELLI interviewed this week’s Infiltrator, the multi-talented charmer DAVIS HAINES. Come be among the first to see his newest performance piece before Friday night’s TML!
So you have one older brother?
I have two brothers and a sister.
Are they all performers?
At one point, yes. My older brother Kent who is a comedian, my sister Lilian did a lot of theatre in high school, now she’s a social worker, we both work with people with autism and disabilities. And I have a twin brother who I’ve been performing with my whole life. This piece was originally supposed to be the two of us doing it. “The Haines Sisters” We were Neo-Vaudeville performance art. But he moved to Hawaii.
How long ago?
About a month and a half ago, real recently. Last I heard he was in a 10-day Vipassana Buddhist meditation.
Is this the first time you’ve been apart?
No, he graduated high school a year early, and so I spent my senior year alone and I also spent two years in college alone. So we spent three years apart back in the day. Then I ended up dropping out of school to be with him and my older brother. And we’ve been performing together ever since. And he just recently moved to Hawaii.
Does the fact that he’s your twin, what sort of element does it add when you collaborate together?
It’s either incredbly smooth, or incredibly combative. Cuz we have the same amount of absurdity, y’know? He’s my identical… in a way he’s a walking, living mirror, cuz we’re genetically identical. So we’re literally the same person, but two different spirits, to different personalities.
Do you use that opportunity as a barometer of where you want to be?
Absolutely. It gives me chills to think about it cuz for a while he… When he was moving to Hawaii I was really frustrated, cuz we were in a band together, and that band was doing really well, it had a lot of momentum, so when he decided to go to Hawaii, it was a big choice for him. He was following what he believed to be his path, and I was struggling to come to terms with that cuz I had made so many sacrifices to be here for the art; we had a folk trio too. Until one day he basically just yelled at me, he was like “If you’re not following your own path, then you’re not honoring your own truth.” And it sort of escalated to this point where he was crying, and I was actually smiling cuz it was nice to have someone who would be that honest with me.
Why did he move?
He said it came to him in a dream, but I think he was planning it. I know him better than that. I think it was easy to tell people it came to him in a dream, but I think he knew in his heart that he wanted to go do something because ever since my bike accident we’ve been dying to get wild, get free. We both hitchhiked the country, and I went to France, which was my first international travel since then; we both just love getting out there and doing wild stuff.
Did you feel a stronger sense of community, not just with your fellow performers, but in general after having gone through all that?
Oh, man. That was a huge part of what I experienced. I didn’t every really feel a whole lot of pain throughout the experience, and I truly believe it’s because so many people were thinking about me or communing for the sake of my safety at that time. To this day, I still hear about people, friends of friends of friends, who heard about my accident who prayed for me or were sending love; that community is huge and I feel I have to honor that in any way I can.
How does the accident affect what you create?
For a long time I couldn’t escape it. Everybody knew. This was three years ago. I flew down to Birmingham, Alabama, where I’m from, to recover. Everyone in that town knew. I couldn’t go anywhere without somebody knowing it. And that was great and difficult in its own ways because I didn’t have to constantly explain it to people… but I also felt like people were afraid to touch me or hug me because I was in a wheelchair, I felt this distance from people. Then when I overcame all that, and I moved back to Chicago, I moved back here, and I made this whole group of friends who had no idea about my accident until it would come up in conversation, or… I recently started doing pieces about my accident. And part of the reason I’m excited about this piece is that it was an opportunity to live inside of that reality, because it doesn’t define who I am… I mean, I don’t walk around like “The Guy Who Got Run Over by a Truck,” but it is my every day reality.
So the plan was to create a piece with your brother and perform as the Haines Sisters. Once your brother left, was there a conscious choice about “I want to deal with this topic now”?
I had no idea actually. I thought I was going to be doing a Neo-Futurist piece, I thought I was going to be telling a story before the show, like “Hey! Y’know…” But when I found out it was an entire performance art piece, I was totally unsure of what I wanted to do, and I looked down on my arm… and I had seen this short documentary about disability rights and I started going back and forth: I’ve always worked with people with disabilities, but do I actually have a disability, because I work with people who remain in wheelchairs… and I realized: I do have a disability… It’s just invisible. So I wrote on my arm: Invis(ability)… and when I was at the theatre, I looked down at my arm and I thought, “Oh, that’s what it needs to be.”