She wants to be a...PERFORMANCE ARTIST?!

Just think about that term. It ranks right up there with Prop Comedian or Mime. A automatic punchline.

So my sister in law is 22 and in graduate art school. And she’s slowly choosing to be a performance artist. I don’t know what to say. I’ve yet to be subjected to one of her “works” (thankfully, she’s on the East Coast), but how am I going to feign the least bit of interest or support if this is how she’s going to waste her life?

Just for the record, I’ve known some art school types and I truly believe that about 99% of their work is self-indulgent, navel-gazing crap. But I’ll take a horrible mixed-media installation or pointlessly abstract B&W still life photograph over a performance piece anyday. Is there any audience for this besides your art school classmates? Aren’t they giggling under their breath, too?

Let’s talk about the ones I’ve been lucky enough to hear about. In one, my SIL presents a curtained booth on stage and invites the audience to blindly feel inside. Surprise! She’s inside. And naked. And getting groped, in the name of art, I suppose. “This represents the paradigm of preconceptions, expectations and the soft goodness at the heart of mysterious life.” Or something like that.

Her next piece involves her swallowing a bunch of rice balls. Then forcing herself to vomit said rice balls all over the stage. “The balls represent grief and the body can only hold so much sorrow before rejecting it.” Try explaining all that to the janitor.

Her latest piece involves spraying pigs blood on a slave-era garment suspended above the stage with whipping sounds playing in the background. Intrigued yet? This might have some promise if it weren’t paired with…(get ready)…a reading of Curious George. Yes, the children’s book! You know, cause Curious George gets kidnapped from Africa by a white man. You can see the obvious allegorical connection to slavery, right? Not quite sure why the slavemaster is wearing a big yellow pimp hat, though. I’m sure it means something. Your theories?

Wow. She also got her BA in art so she’s been exposed to all kinds of art. Hmm…painting, sculpture, photography? No thanks. Drawing, bookmaking, graphic design? Not really for me. Engraving, woodblock printing, silk screening for godssakes?! No, I think I’d prefer to humiliate myself on stage in shocking and novel ways. Coming up with asinine symbolic connections to explain my Jackassery stunts sounds great! I don’t ever want to sell a single thing (hey, can I get a video copy of the vomit-ball piece?) or ever find a self-respecting audience for my work. Performance art is the way for me!

(Hoping this keeps my contempt in check for another 10 minutes.)

I would. Hahemm… Like. To See. The. First. One.


And then “artists” complain because nobody seems to care about the self-indulgent crap they produce.

True art has relevance, a fact some people never managed to learn while smearing their feces over canvas.

OK, I have done performance art, and have a Bachelors of Science in Art. Not all performance art is crap, however, I will grant that most of it appears that way.

The first one, yep that’s art! :smiley:
the other two, interesting… I have seen a few very good performance pieces and a TON of REALLY bad ones. Both of those to me have a (slim) chance of being good.

yes I know, I’m weird.

I live across the street from Pratt art insititute, and let me tell you I’ve seen all the crap in the world.

But be honest, you have see 1 or 2 good ones. Yes?

I admit that most performance art comes off as arrogant or self-indulgent, but then again, some of it has a sense of humor, like the artists who have pissed on* Duchamp’s Fountain (itself a masterpiece in its own right), or the artists who handed out their NEA grant to illegal immigrants.

*Note: The second link has a picture that, while I don’t think it shows the guys’, er, appendages, does show them in the act of urination or preparation for such an act. Since it’s impossible to make out any denuded genitalia, or urine for that matter, I’m almost positive it’s board-safe. Still, open at your own risk if at work.

More then that, some of the stuff is amazing.

But when it’s bad, oh boy does it stink. :smiley:

Once you’ve watched Karen Finley rub eggs all over her hair while wearing nothing but a diaper. after which she threw herself to the ground, was covered in glitter and proceeded to remove aforementioned diaper to reveal her genitalia, and recite poetry while writhing on the ground and humping the surrounding air molecules, pretty much nothing is bad performance art.

It’s just other people trying to be Karen Finley. ( sp? )

I felt soiled, and I was 10 feet from the stage.


I thought this was a movie lie… ya know, something in a movie and NOT real life. That it IS real only serves to make me withdraw inside myself ever more daily from the freak parade we call humanity.

I am frightened by the rice ball thing… gulps back her gorge impolitely

Umm… because she’s family? I’m not crazy about the idea myself, but if a relative of mine were doing something along these lines, I’d try to be supportive. And the phrase “waste her life” would not ever, ever cross my lips.

She’s 22. Let her learn some life-lessons, and in a few years she’ll get tired of cleaning up pig’s blood or tired of being broke (or most likely, tired of hanging out with artists) and she’ll find something else to do.

This is about the only thing where Newt Gingrich and I have any common ground.

I look at my paycheck, and I just seethe with resentment. Part of my taxes, withheld from me by the Holy Federal Government against my will, still goes to the NEA, which funds this kind of crap. I can’t begin to tell you how much this kind of nonsense irritates me.

I can understand (but not approve of) agricultural subsidies, misguided as they are. I can understand food stamps, public housing, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. I don’t condone them, but I understand them.

I can not, for the life of me, understand the National Endowment for the Arts.

You want to be an artist? Fine. You want to make the next big blockbuster movie, or write the Great American Novel, or save the world by promoting World Peace through interpretive dance? Go right ahead. Just do it the way Leonardo DaVinci did.

Find a patron.

Find somebody with more money than brains, and get them to fund your latest brainstorm. Otherwise, and here’s a radical idea, just do it and try to sell it. If you can’t make money on it, you should quit and just take that job selling shoes at Payless.

Do what ever you have to do. But please stop lobbying your Congressman to take the money I earned through my hard work to fund your whims.


Sorry. The way I do things here is:

I browse General Questions to see if there are any threads to which I could make a meaningful contribution.

Then I browse MPSIMS and the Pit.

I got confused, and I thought I was posting in the Pit with that last one, so please excuse the harsh tone.

And yes, I know that hapaXL and I are on the same page here. So what? I’m still right. And so is he.

Flame on. Just do it in the Pit.

Actually, she’s in private school and paying for all this herself, so don’t get your taxpayer panties in a bunch.:smiley: Personally, I’ll take a million shit-covered artists over a stealth bomber anyday.

And jackelope, I would never be that harsh in real life. My concern is that I’m a horrible liar and at some point in the future I might be forced to say through gritted teeth, “Yeah, it was very good, very thought-provoking.” Everybody’s going to see the lie on my face.

They have. It’s called the Federal Government, in particular the liberal wing of said FG. Not that the conservatives are any better in terms of not stupidly wasting our money, but NEA funding falls solidly into the other camp.

I’ve been working on an ongoing performance piece, improvising as I go. It’s a representation of the social and economic dynamic as it evolves between one individual and the rest of society. It’s in its fiftieth season.

I’ve received some good reviews and been panned. Eh, you get that with art.


You could always say something like, “Look, I’m a square; I care more about college football than about surrealist poetry, and I have a big picture of Elvis hanging on my living room wall. Honestly, this isn’t up my alley.” Or something along those lines; I use myself as an example here. This lets you off the hook, and lets her feel all artsy. Perhaps even fartsy.

And Ringo, I think I’m going to be quoting you on that one.

Wasn’t it Barnum who said “You will never go broke underestimating the public?”