Dutes Miller (right) and Stan Shellabarger (left) hard at work
Dutes Miller (right) and Stan Shellabarger (left) hard at work Credit: Courtesy the artists and Western Exhibitions

Dutes Miller and Stan Shellabarger occasionally perform together without being in the same room. The artists are always connected, however, by a pink tube made of acrylic yarn. The tube currently measures 80 feet in length and grows longer as they sit on either end and crochet away—always in public because it wouldn’t be a performance otherwise. The piece is called Untitled (Pink Tube), and they’ve been working on it ten years.

The Museum of Contemporary Art—where they’re currently performing and exhibiting—describes the project: “Disarmingly familiar yet poignant, Untitled (Pink Tube) explores gender roles, body politics, and artistic labor, with a keen awareness of the growing significance of craft-based production to contemporary art practices.”

Miller told me that like a lot of their work as a married couple, it’s autobiographical: “It’s about our relationship.” In 2003 the pair celebrated ten years together and had been discussing the “accumulation of time and material.” Plus, both of their grandmothers had crocheted. They didn’t know how to when they began but they learned as they went along.

The sight of two bearded men crocheting on either end of a long, floppy phallus or umbilical cord gets a variety of responses from audiences. “Some people think it’s hilarious and they’ll laugh, some are confused, some think it’s charming, others are unsettled,” Miller explained. Other people just want to talk to them about it, which they’re totally fine with. Miller went on, “It’s a performance, not theatrical. We’re not actors, we’re ourselves; there’s no fourth wall.” Through November 19 Miller and Shellabarger will crochet live at the MCA on Tuesdays (4-8 PM), Thursdays (2-5 PM), and Saturdays (noon-3 PM).