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.)