Thursday, 24 January 2008

RES IPSA LOQUITUR



I continue to receive comments scolding me for being too judgmental about certain art. I've always tried to follow the ancient advice of Seneca: "If you judge, investigate." So rather than repeating my own biased conclusions, perhaps it makes sense to share examples of "performance art" that helped to shape my views.
I report, you decide.

The following are direct quotes from favorable reviews that appeared in
High Performance Magazine (one of the leading journals of performance art for 20 years).

1. La Fura dels Baus

The Spanish industrial performance art group, La Fura dels Baus is so good it makes "all other industrial performance art groups stink like a Nazi pissing on the festering ashes of the Reichstag." Here is how La Fura uses performance art to provide insight into "the shit of politics:"
Two raving maniacs burst through a cinder block wall with sledge hammers....The performers come closer and I smell the unwashed suits they wear. With disgusting relish, these Hammer characters set upon three apparently harmless Slime men who have been rolling around in metal barrels chasing the audience mindlessly....Then they pour on buckets of liquid which must boil and burn for the Slime Men writhe in paroxysmal pain, horrible to behold.... I interpret the Slime men as Everyman, emerging from the dark and trying with limited faculties to organize something, anything which can be called their lives. The hammer men are oppressors.

2. "No Art" Performance

High Performance has been getting queries from other magazines wanting to know the status of Teching Hsieh's work in progress. But since July when Hsieh announced that for a year he would not do art, look at it, speak about art or think about art, we have been unable to find out any more first hand information than anyone else. Friends speculate that the piece grew out of the frustration he experienced trying to organize a one year torch-carrying piece that required a minimum of 400 recipients. Even after running full page ads in the East Village Eye and other publications, Hsieh was only able to come up with around 200 interested people, whereupon he dropped the idea and announced his "no art" piece. Fallout from the piece has been that he refuses to visit old friends because they have too much art on their walls and avoids Linda Montano, his friend and collaborator for his last year long piece in which they were tied together, because Montano is doing a seven year art/life piece in which everything she does is declared art. (italics added).

3. "I'm an Ass Man" Performance

Karen Finley's performance, "I'm an Ass Man," zeroes in on sexual tyranny, substance abuse and frustrations of marginal existence. Finley attacks New York's Eurotrash, recently moneyed and titled immigrants who flaunt their wealth and recreational drugs. At the same time she pours milk, honey and instant tea into an open purse, shakes it up, and sloppily drinks a portion...Sexual assault abounds in Finley's psychotic world....A slob at a subway station sees a fat lady and fantasizes about raping her, only to discover she is menstruating. Here, Finley opens a bottle of beets and a can of red kidney beans and pours them together, rubbing her hands in the red mess. After describing attempted child sexual abuse by an adult male on a young girl, Finley squishes several bars of melted ice cream sandwiches, smearing it all over her black dress. In graphic detail she disdainfully tells how a real "macho" man will have anal intercourse with a woman.... My main complaint is that Finley did not go far enough. This version was too short and tame....Art audiences need to be shocked because many come from sheltered middle class environments with no first hand experience in the seamier side of life.



All reviews copyright High Performance Magazine. Photo credit for Karen Finley performing her "I'm an Ass Man" art: Ira Sandler



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