I’ll go straight to the point. Of all the different forms of art, performance would be my least favorite. Not because of its lively aspect. More because it’s usually very, very bad. Ok fair enough, I can’t just say it sucks and be done with it. I need to explain why I think it more than often does. What does bad mean and entail in performance?
First of all. Let’s be clear. Paintings, photographs, videos, sculptures, and everything else people « make » can also more than often suck. It’s empty, flat, boring, unappealing aesthetically, and so on. Why is performance so disturbing? Why does it often look vain, fake, pretentious, ridiculous, and over-played? Besides the answer « because it is »? Well. Maybe, just maybe. Because performance in itself can be such a powerful form of art. And when it does go bad, for a number of factors, objective or subjective, it hits you in the face even harder than a painting would. What’s the one factor in a performance you don’t get in any other form of art? Duh, a person. Ok, or an animal or a machine (which my auto-correct replaced my « mating »… Makes you think, doesn’t it?) What you are asked to face is a person. And a person not just as creator, but as creation. And what makes us react more than a person acting out in a fucked up way, or saying or impersonating or showing stuff that’s just weird, or random, or sometimes brilliant? Of course, artworks other than performance can be powerful too, and can leave us thoughtful, disgusted, and any kind of emotion you find in the wide spectrum of feelings and reactions. But the power of a human being, that’ll always dominate.
Which makes me think and wonder… Why do I look at Marina Abramovic’s recent performances not as such but rather as slightly pathetic artsy celebrity acting out? What makes me feel embarrassed on her behalf when I look at her engaging in an eye combat with Jay-Z, when others scream out of their lungs « genius! » Her work used to rise from inside and poured out of her being through the act of performing. That’s if, like me, you look at energy as a tangible, palpable entity. Energy, creative force, talent, message, are all synonyms - you know, the same way we refer to God saying life force, energy, creator, Life, Nature, Earth, high power and so on. Funny how much of the lexical field of one can be found in the other…
Paul McCarthy, he’s a good one. Over the summer, my girl took me to Monaco to see one of his performances. We got there, walked in the gallery where her friend was working, only to find out it had got cancelled. We did end up spending 24 hours in St Paul de Vence, one of my absolute favorite place on earth, so, win win? Back to his work, back to NYC, and back to 2013. WS was beyond intense. Violent, authoritative, decadent gone wrong, sordid in many ways. Yet. Yet so enjoyable. The deranged and human part of us that rejoices in filth and voyeurism and pain put on the side, I thought it was glorious (yo Adri) because it did highly disturb me. I walked around the Armory space sensing how the longer I stayed the more I was being degraded and misused. Clearly, that would be my own projected fantasies and unconscious talking. I hated it. Which is why I loved it. It forced itself onto me, made me confront my weird hidden sentiments and views. It made me feel alive, regardless of how unpleasant that was. It was good because it fully engaged « me ». I wasn’t there to justify the art and the artist by my simple presence. Let me double this. My presence wasn’t put to profit to only be used as a compliment or « raison d’etre » for the performer or installation or piece or creator or whatever. The piece grabbed me by the ass (yeah, it kinda of did) and forced me to immerse in it as the viewer. The deliciousness of the purgatory. My bad. The deliciousness of hell.
Speaking of hell. I was in the subway yesterday. No, that’s not it. Stop interrupting. I was in the subway, changing trains at 14th street. Thank God (you’ll see the irony there) my girlfriend hasn’t been a New Yorker for that long, so she’s not as blasé as the rest of us. And when she hears music in the subway, she turns her head to see what it’s about. Thank God she did. Because there it was. The perfect performance. Happening under ground. To the rhythm of some disco pop tune, a guy was giving it all. He was wearing a red sequin thong. A pair of devil horns. And had already taken off a zebra-patterned shirt. He was dancing in a circle. Then the guy next to us, in his late 50’s, started talking to me. Sweet Christ. He said « we » should call the cops. Because « this (was) a serious offense. » Like, it was « blaspheme. » Hu? Oh, you mean, because he’s dancing and acting super gay and wearing a red shiny thong and has a devil horns headband? Oh, oh, I get it. Because on top of it all, his choreography involves a Christian cross? Yeah but it looks so good man. I’m not calling the cops. This is the best piece of art (dance is art too, remember) I’ve seen all week. Given, it’s only Monday. His name is Qween Amor btw, and he’s got very interesting things to say about what he does.