I Only Wear Black Turtlenecks: 5 Year Anniversary (2020)

The performer, wearing a black turtleneck.

It is worth repeating to say it all began with a tweet.

It all began with a tweet. While initially it could have been considered a meaningless tweet, at this point it has become far from meaningless. It is a personal opinion as to whether or not something actually has meaning; what the intended meaning is and what meaning comes across.

Performance art is a tricky world. It is a somewhat elusive art form. It can take the shape of many other forms of creativity. Some may consider it meaningless. It is a personal opinion as to whether or not something actually has meaning.

I am currently speaking from the perspective of my distant self: “the artist”. I am now my current self: “the law student”. It is important to note that it is impossible to be both. It would be meaningless to provide an explanation as to why that is.

I Only Wear Black Turtlenecks: 5 Year Anniversary is exactly what the title says. No need to search for the meaning. It is obvious. It is a repeat of my first performance. I wear a black turtleneck every day for a year. The year ends. I stop wearing black turtlenecks. Four years pass. I do it again.

Is there a point to the repetition? The daily one, and the one that happens every five years?

In the five years that have passed since the original performance piece, I graduated with my degree in acting, quit acting before I started (I am nothing if not a quitter), and began law school.

I do not claim to know anything about the law beyond that of one semester of law school, but there are parallels between the study of law and the study of performance. In law school, I have begun to learn the art of a case brief.

A case brief is a written summary of a legal decision. It serves to provide the reader with an ease of understanding the facts, history, issues, outcome, and reasoning behind a case.

There is no better or more pretentious way to merge my four months of legal education with my many years of performance art. I will now provide a brief of this performance piece.

I Only Wear Black Turtlenecks v I Only Wear Black Turtlenecks: 5 Year Anniversary, 2020

Facts: The performer wore a black turtleneck every day for the entire year (2020). The performer documented this on the popular social media platform, Instagram.¹ Instagram is a platform for users to share photos and other nonsense. Every photo featured the performer wearing a black turtleneck, and some kind of representation to indicate the number of the day’s date. A hashtag accompanied each photo. A hashtag is a number sign accompanied by a statement of nonsense. This one said “#turtledove2020”.² Other people occasionally used this hashtag for unrelated photos. Unrelated photos included one hand holding a large silver sneaker.³ The sneaker was apparently for sale.⁴

Procedural History: The original performance piece began on January 1, 2015 and ran until January 1, 2016. The performer wore a black turtleneck every day for the entire year, and documented the performance with monthly photos, a written paper, and a final write up on Medium.⁵ Medium is an online publishing platform to share think pieces and other nonsense. The role the audience plays in performance art and the performer’s personal realizations were the main points of focus during the 2015 performance.

Issues:

1) Is there a purpose for the daily repetition of the black turtleneck?

2) Is there a purpose for repeating the repetition every five years?

Analysis: The original performance held a thrill in the discovery, and a pleasure in the gradual reveal of the repetition. The 2020 performance had a clearer introduction, with less ambiguity for both the audience and performer. The 2020 performance focused less on the role of the audience. The 2020 performance required the same level of dedication to the routine, with the added requirement of daily documentation.

In both pieces, the ease of wearing the same outfit everyday provided a sense of stability. In 2015, this allowed the performer to consider the external image and the persona portrayed by a consistent outfit. The repetition allowed for an internal change, as the performer recognized a renewed passion for creativity, brought by the routine and stability of the black turtleneck. The performer created a recognizable self-image and found comfort in knowing that no matter the occasion, a black turtleneck was the inevitable outfit of choice.

The performance in 2020 provided different realizations. While 2015 brought internal change, wearing black turtlenecks in 2020 provided stability as the world changed around the performer. The somewhat paradox of the performance involved not only a never changing wardrobe, but by mid-March, an almost never changing surrounding. In the unexpected moments of day-to-day life, black turtlenecks remained a constant. Inspiration came from the daily search and occasional spontaneity that daily documentation required.

There are similarities between the two performance pieces. In both pieces the performer only wore black turtlenecks. There was ample and much appreciated audience support. Celebrations occurred. In 2015, guests were invited to a black turtleneck themed birthday party. They arrived in person, wearing black turtlenecks. In 2020, guests were invited to a black turtleneck themed birthday party. They arrived on the internet, wearing black turtlenecks. In both years, a select few guests declined to wear turtlenecks for unknown personal reasons. They were still permitted to attend the celebrations.

At the end of 2015, the performer removed the turtleneck as the clock struck midnight and the year became 2016. This occurred at a party. At the end of 2020, the performer removed the turtleneck as the clock struck midnight and the year became 2021. This was streamed via Instagram Live.⁶ The performer vowed to never use Instagram Live again.

In 2015, the piece considered the role of an audience that is unaware they are an audience. In 2020, the audience was aware of the performance from the first day, and the piece became more about interaction than awareness. Sharing a photo everyday created a continuous engagement on the internet.

If not for the audience, it would be difficult to say whether there is a purpose in the repetition beyond that of the artistic realizations of the performer. The question that follows is whether there is value in performance even if meaning exists only for the performer. It is a personal opinion as to whether or not something actually has meaning.

Conclusion: This performance occurs every five years. In 2015, the performer found a renewed inspiration within the creative self. In 2020, the performer found a renewed inspiration within the external environment. I Only Wear Black Turtlenecks holds value for the performer. For both the performer and the audience it provides consistency within the unexpected. In both performance pieces, the repetition and routine have provided the discovery of something new.

I Only Wear Black Turtlenecks: 10 Year Anniversary will begin on January 1, 2025.

Until then, please follow along with my other work by visiting my website, or consider supporting me on Patreon.

¹ ionlywearblackturtlenecks, “I Only Wear Black Turtlenecks” (January 2021), online: Instagram <https://www.instagram.com/ionlywearblackturtlenecks/>.

² Ibid.

³ dsp.218, “They’re so much better in hand!!!!” (20 July 2020), online: Instagram <https://www.instagram.com/p/CC34oz4HoGL/>.

⁴ hype.nyc.seller., “Yeezy Boost 350 Zyon DSWT: Size 10.5” (25 November 2020), online: Instagram <https://www.instagram.com/p/CIBMN0Up9CD/>.

⁵ Sarah Ormandy, I Only Wear Black Turtlenecks (31 December 2015), online: <https://medium.com/@lushnessrumpus/i-only-wear-black-turtlenecks-a4d412af4bec>.

⁶ ionlywearblackturtlenecks, “The End(1 January 2021), online: IGTV <https://www.instagram.com/ionlywearblackturtlenecks/channel/>.

Turtle dove.