2009-07-05

Performance Art

Stopped by Gallery 101 on Friday night with a few friends to see Not Tonight Honey, an art show that promised to include performance art.

By the time we arrived, we had missed three performances, but we stayed long enough to catch at least one.

We may have caught two. One of the gallery's bathrooms had a closed circuit TV camera in it with a monitor out in the gallery. At one point, a woman went into the bathroom and on the monitor we could see her pacing back and forth waving her arms. I wasn't sure if this was a performance or perhaps a private display of tension or strong emotion.

But we definitely caught one full performance. The room got suddenly quiet while I was in the middle of expounding on something. We had missed a young woman disrobing and then kneeling in front of a set of candles and water bottles filled with a dark liquid.

The woman lit a candle, said a prayer, whipped herself a dozen or so times on the back with a flogger and drank a bottle of the liquid. Then she lit the next candle and repeated the process. Her back was getting bright red by the fourth candle and the fourth bottle. It occurred to me that she was drinking too much in too short a time for it to be healthy. That is when I realized that a part of her ritual that I thought was silent prayer was actually regurgitation into a large container.

I decided that I didn't really want to see any more of the performance and walked out to the Gallery's back deck. The others who had come with me, Aggie, the Disheveled Waiter and Woodsy had apparently also seen enough.

We had a lively discussion about the performance and performance art in general. But I am left with several questions including:

  1. Are nudity, self-flagellation, regurgitation and religious iconography passé in performance art?
  2. Or do you need at least one of those elements so that people will know it's art?
  3. Are the levels of self-harm and audience discomfort directly proportional to the quality of a performance art piece?


7 comments:

The Chair said...

Just when I had suppressed all those Catholic school memories. Oh well, back to therapy.

coyote said...

So... here's a question you didn't quite get to:

You're very clear that you did not enjoy this.

But tell me, did the artist appear to be enjoying herself? And if she was, could you and the rest of the audience been just another fetishy element she felt that she needed for her, ummm, own private/public ritual?

Sometimes the line between abusing oneself and abusing others is thin. So I'm just askin'...

Woodsy said...

Coyote, I was surprised when I saw that the artist had a great big smile on her face when she turn around to face the audience right at the end of her peice.

coyote said...

Interesting. And possibly suggestive.

So, I guess she liked having an audience.

Or maybe she was just thrilled that she didn't have to puke anymore...

Did any of you happen to hear other audience member's thoughts?

Woodsy said...

Coyote, my impression was that most of the audience seemed impressed by the performance - they clapped enthusiastically and congratulated her.

nursemyra said...

Performance art is passe

coyote said...

Glad to hear from you, NurseM. I have reason to suspect you'd know. If this stuff was anything like representative, cliché was what made it passé...