This sounds like a great little recipe for a performance work, Anonymous. Let me be straightforward about one thing: artist zines are retarded. Somebody makes one like every two seconds, but then somebody only throws one away like every four seconds so there’s this mass of photocopied, poorly written, masturbatory baby tomes filling up every corner of the world. It’s enough to make anybody quit the art game. I mean, look at Vito Acconci. He doesn’t really have anything to do with zines as far as I know, but I literally mean just look at him; he’s a ghoul.
God, who doesn’t live in Berlin these days? Am I right? LOL.
It’s no secret that Berliners and performance art are QUITE fond of one another. Also, FUN FACT: a Berliner is also a type of doughnut. Hawt.
But on the real tip, Germany has a super complicated history. Probably almost a hundred years ago now, there was a guy named Adolph Hitler who was pretty antisemitic. He lived in Germany and eventually became the President of Germany. Once he became the President of Germany, he showed his true colors and said, “I think Jews are garbage. Homosexuals are fucking nasty.” It was wiwwy sad. But all the people in Germany were like, “You know what tho? The graphic design these guys are using is pretty on point, and he’s a compelling speaker, so I’m finna just see where this all goes.”
It was crazy. He killed tons of people. It’s rumored that this was also when senses of humor were killed in Germany, but that hasn’t been confirmed by scientists yet. Anyway, the terrible shit he did ended up being called the Holocaust and Stephen Spielberg even made a movie about it once starring Ra’s al Ghul from Taken and Taken 2. It won several hundred awards, and was the first film to ever win a Tony.
So, as you can see, Germany is complicated. And to be Anne Frank about it, it’s kind of an easy target - I’m looking at you, Quentin ;-). Doing a performance that critiques Germany overtly in Berlin is pretty obvious, but doing a veiled critique of German history by critiquing something super American is kind of fucking brilliant, right? Yes.
Okay, I’m not sure if you live in Berlin or not (who am I kidding? of course you do), but you’re gonna need to get there for the Month of Performance Art event. Don’t sweat it if you haven’t been curated into the festival or anything, because everybody knows that real performance art happens in the streets. Performance art is actually the most “street” of all the art forms, which is why a lot of people refer to it as “street art.” Make sure that you have a ton of Adderall to keep your spirits up for the whole month; you’re gonna need it!
This performance is super easy and requires very minimal props and you don’t even have to get naked. Note: you can totally get naked, you just don’t have to. Over the course of the month, just be super social and go out to a lot of biergartens and Herzog premiers. Get to know the people. As you’re getting to know them, start to casually make references to the Whitney Biennial. Now, once you’ve gained their trust, begin, subtly at first, to allude to the fact that there might never have been a Whitney Biennial at all. By the end of the month, make sure that you consistently refer to it as the “alleged” Whitney Biennial. At this point, you should also be wearing a Guy Fawkes mask 24/7.
Germans are easily spooked, and they love a good conspiracy theory. Further, they are genetically predisposed to liking the term “alleged” because it would be super fucking convenient in terms of cleaning up their country’s past. The more Germans you get on board with your Whitney Biennial Truther shit, the more you’ll critically expose their latent antisemitism. On the final day of the festival, remove your Guy Fawkes mask and reveal that this has been a long con (my favorite type of con, obvi). Get up on a German monument or something and yell down to everybody that the Whitney Biennial is real! Tell them that the Holocaust was real! Tell them that fascism is the result of the aestheticization of politics! Print out Adorno’s Wikipedia page and pass it out! Maybe also draw on it, or just arbitrarily highlight parts of his bio.
You will end up doing an incredible service for the German people by holding up the mirror that they do not wish to see. I think that this is what Matthew Barney thinks he’s doing, but who can say? Matthew Barney is probably a Whitney Biennial Truther, now that I think about it. Does anybody have Matthew’s contact info? I’d like to talk to him about this.
Call the piece Today, We Are All Andrea Fraser. I’m not sure why you’re calling it that, but it sounds fucking intellectual as shit.
Yeah, absolutely. It sounds to me, Mr. James Munsch, that you’re referring to what’s known as the droste effect or mise en abyme. Both of those are ways to describe what is essentially optical feedback. You know when you stand between two mirrors and you’re just like, “Oh my fuck.” That’s what that is.
You might remember the album cover to Pink Floyd’s epic album Ummagumma from 1969. On it, the band plays deliciously with this effect by repositioning themselves in subsequent photographs on the front of the LP. It looks CRAZY.
As I was reading your inquiry, I was also naturally thinking about matryoshka dolls from Russia. Everybody knows about these - they’re the big doll with a littler doll inside of it, with an even littler doll inside of that, etc. Pretty neat stuff if you ask me!
One tough thing about this work you’re proposing though is the sheer volume of dicks that it would take to facilitate a successful execution. Surely, you could probably find a dozen or so dicks in the alleyways around your town on a Saturday night if you really looked hard, but even just one bag of dicks itself has to have several dozen dicks inside of it. It could take you years to collect all the dicks that you’d need for this piece!
But these days, when an artist or a filmmaker wants to produce something epic but just honestly doesn’t have the resources to do so, they turn to crowd-sourcing. The two most popular sites are obviously Kickstarter and Indiegogo, but I have a feeling that if you sent in your proposal to either of them, they’d turn it down because it’s just too far out. Still, with a small investment on your part, you could buy dick-starter.com from @momopeche and begin to crowd-source your own vast collection of wangs of all ilk. I literally can’t imagine how your dick campaign could be unsuccessful, and since you’re inventing the way the website works, you can set up “flex dick funding” options for yourself so that even if you don’t reach your goal of, say, 10,000 dicks, you still get to keep all of the dicks that people pledge.
Make sure to really think about the rewards that you’ll be offering though, Munsch; if a man sends you his private penis, you owe him big.
Once you have all your dicks, get a bunch of bags. It’s always seemed to me like the “classic” bag of dicks is a burlap sack. Burlap has a tactile quality that you just can’t get out of canvas totes or plastic bags from the grocery store. Also, with burlap, you can cut it to size.
Start with a really tiny little coin purse-sized one, and maybe put the littlest penises that you got in that one. Next, just kind of move your way up the ladder putting the smaller bags into bigger bags and then rounding each bag out with another suite of lap hogs. Before you know it, you’ll have a final bag of dicks the size of a Koons flower puppy that has scores of bags of dicks inside of it! JK - don’t make it that big, it won’t work for this performance.
Invite a friend with a video camera over and put together a film set that looks like a little tea room. You’re going to be creating a tribute to Matthew Barney’s Drawing Restraint 9, but instead of starring in the film with Björk, you’ll be starring with the Bjäg of Dicks. Most of that movie is completely unwatchable and just doesn’t make any sense, so you should really only focus on the super gross part towards the end where they meet in the tea room and eat each other. Put the camera on a tripod and then sit down on the floor with the giant Bjäg of Dicks. Tell your friend to hit record on the camera, and then it’s his/her job to start dumping tons of water into the set so that it starts to flood.
As the set is flooding, cut open the Bjäg of Dicks and just go to town feasting on the pee pees. At some point, roll one of the penises up so that it kind of looks like a sushi roll (they do this in the Barney movie and I literally puked a hundred times when I saw it). Cut off some of your own skin and feed it to the Bjäg of Dicks so that it’s like about reciprocity or symbiosis or a circle of life. When the room is almost totally flooded and you’re about to die, grab what’s left of the Bjäg of Dicks lovingly and swim away out of frame.
Shop the film around to the regular festival circuit and see if anybody will put it on their line-up for 2014. If I know anything about filmmakers, it’s that they really love shit like this and they’ll put you on as a headliner and you’ll get a standing ovation and Paul Thomas Anderson will be like, “Oh. My. God.” Then you’ll meet Harmony Korine and Lars von Trier and probably Sofia Coppola and then you won’t even have to work anymore because you get paid in the film industry for knowing those people somehow. It is awesome and that’s the secret reason that everyone in New York is so jealous of Los Angeles. Congratulations; you’ve made it.
Call the piece Pee Ceremony.
Mothers can be complicated animals, to say the least, Anonymous. Not my own mother though; she is kewl. While I can’t completely fathom from your short query what exactly it is that you do to your mother that prompts the waterworks, I can assume that since you read this blog it likely has something to do with the ridiculous decision you’ve made to become an artist. Lots of mommies cry when their babies grow up to be artists. This isn’t because they are worried for their babies, but rather they are worried for themselves. You see, when mommies get old, they need somebody to take care of them. They become the babies themselves, and everybody knows that a broke artist cannot take care of a baby. If you don’t believe me, ask Eric Clapton.
Today, we’re going to put together a great little performance that will quell your mother’s financial fears for your and her futures, and bring the both of you together in a really neat way. Further, the work will pose a very fresh “institutional critique” based on a work by a very, very famous institutional critic! But before we begin, have you heard of the Sexxxtons?
Monica (the daughter) and Jessica (the mother) Sexxxton (I think this is a stage name) are residents of Tampa, Florida and are supposedly the only actual mother-daughter pornstar couple in the world. While they enjoy double-teaming dudes on the regs, they have a strict rule that they do not ever kiss because that is incest. According to an article about them on Gawker, the State of Florida defines incest as a female sex organ being penetrated by a male sex organ, so it looks like these two are not only unreasonably sexy, but extremely knowledgeable about the law.
While it might be a long shot, you’re going to have to convince your mother to join you in a ferocious sex romp on camera. She’ll be uptight about it at first, but it’s nothing that a few melon balls won’t cure. Loosen her up; get her comfortable. She needs to know that this is going to not only bring you both closer than you’ve ever been before, but it’s going to make you a fuckton of money in the process.
Back to “institutional critique,” are you aware of the American artist Andrea Fraser? Much of her output has been intended to critique the very mechanisms that keep the art world moving. She doesn’t like museums, or galleries, or collectors, or dealers. Once in 1989 she gave a fake tour at the Philadelphia Museum of Art to attendees where she just totally lied to them a bunch and was like talking super intensely about how cool the doorknobs and tile on the floor was. This was fucking crazy because the people on the tour were like, “Uh, isn’t the art on the walls?” And then Fraser’s like, “You fucking ghouls. All you understand is exchange value and your gross ineptitude is one of the very things bleeding the cultural value out of the art object.” Fraser gets a “T” for “Transgressive” in my book!
Perhaps her most infamous work though came over a decade later in 2003. The work, Untitled (2003) involved Fraser banging out a really rich collector at a hotel on video in exchange for $20,000. This was a challenge to ideas about ownership or art production and probably about the market, but Fraser has been quite clear that it was not supposed to critique the sale of art as a type of prostitution endeavor. How committing prostitution doesn’t liken the sale of art to prostitution is beyond me, but maybe, readers, you can help me out with this…
You and your mother will place a post on Craigslist advertising your services as a real-life mother-daughter fuck experience. Make sure to place your fee at a high mark - no less than $100,000. It might not be a bad idea to place within the body of the post a warning that if anybody tries the “classic Craigslist lowball,” heads are gonna roll. After you’ve decided on a suitable respondent to bang together, book a room at a fancy hotel and install a video camera in one of the upper corners. Prepare some light snacks and chill a bottle of white wine so that your John can be comfortable and put at ease. He is, after all, about to commit a crime and you don’t want him thinking that you’re a couple of narcs. Once he’s arrived, invite him into the room and then, I don’t know, have sex with him I guess. I wasn’t there when Fraser did her piece, but it more or less seems like that’s what happened.
While you’re fucking, project this video combination that I made for your piece onto the wall:
Shop the video around to a few galleries, and put it up on Vimeo because that means that it’s by an artist and not by a teenager. You’ll get a show somewhere, but I’m not going to promise anything.
This work is called Mother, Do You Think He’ll Wear a Condom?
Unsurprisingly, Anonymous, a lot of people hate books. They are big and stupid and are made of paper. It is rumored that when packing to move apartments, only a fucking idiot puts more than seven books into one box. Statistically, this means that I am a fucking idiot.
But do you know what’s even worse than books? E-books. Not only are they just “digital” versions of otherwise stupid collections of letters and punctuation, they are a suffix for Twitter accounts that like to be totally wacky and “OOC” (out of control). I can’t count how many times I’ve been on an airplane seated next to some jabroni giggling his way through the latest from David Sedaris and requesting Coke Zeroes plus a complimentary package of cookies AND salted nuts. The worst part about people who read books on iPads, Kindles, Kindle Fires, or in PDF format is that they think they’re being so fucking casual by just dimming their screen and acting like the device isn’t on during takeoff. This is the most dangerous thing that they’ve ever done because they have children, drive Nissan Leafs (Leaves?) and live in places like Minneapolis or Big Sur.
Many of these people have iPods that they like to listen to on flights as well, and if I know anything about people with e-readers, it’s that they also all have the Talking Heads’ 1980 album Remain in Light on said iPods. Some of these people also own Zune mp3 players, and they are the only people who own Zune mp3 players. Have you ever taken a road trip with a couple of designers who have kids? There is a 110% chance that they will play Remain in Light through twice in a row. The subtly-African rhythms will lull their screaming, shitfaced offspring into slumber, and the music is just inoffensive enough that both mommy and daddy can agree upon it. Plus, since you’re an artist, they operate under the assumption that anything touched by David Byrne or Brian Eno has an almost religious significance for you. This is why I constantly warn artists about becoming friends with designers. All designers have children, and all designers drive in cars.
There have been a lot of studies on Remain in Light and the listening habits of designers. And while much of it has been received as controversial and/or racist against white people who actually care what Wieden+Kennedy or gluten-free beer is, one indisputable fact has come to light: No designer has ever let track 6, “Seen and Not Seen,” actually play through without skipping over it about thirty seconds after it starts. Designers love how David Byrne sometimes will just start talking out of nowhere when you’re like, “Whoa, he was just singing and now this?!?” but they do not like this song because he just talks the whole time. There is no hook, which is like a song’s brand identity.
The best thing about designers is that they consider themselves to be tastemakers for literally everyone except for artists. This is because designers spend 86% of their day instructed by their Creative Directors to surf art and culture blogs to steal ideas, typefaces, ironic frameworks, and words. You’ve heard of “trickle-down economics”? Designers benefit from “trickle-down creativity.” They LOVE to go to art shows as well, despite quietly dying inside during the entire opening reception as a result of an existential crisis about why somebody would make something that couldn’t be mobile-optimized for an iPhone.
So, Anonymous, for your performance, you’re going to stage a relational aesthetics event geared towards bringing designers into the culture. Since they operate on a massive cultural learning curve, they will assume that relational aesthetics is “new,” “innovative,” or even “fresh.” Invite them all to your event which should take place in a large, unfurnished and abandoned warehouse. Make sure to have a friend there to take pictures or it didn’t happen. In the e-vite (designers love to get invitations via email), instruct them all to show up at 06:00pm and to bring their favorite e-reader device for a group experiment called “E-Book Swap.”
Once your designer posse has gathered into a large circle with you at the center, ask them all to open up their favorite e-book on their e-reader and begin to read aloud simultaneously. Then, over the cacophonous caucasian chorus of their collective voices, announce that you will now exit the circle and that they should continue to read. Tell them that you will tap each of them on the shoulder, and when their shoulder is tapped, they should walk into the center of the circle and set down their e-reader. It will begin to make a giant Felix Gonzalez-Torres style pile.
When the pile has reached a large and massive presence and everyone has relinquished their e-readers, ask them to leave the warehouse with you. Once outside, announce that in a few moments, they will all return to the pile of e-readers and pick one up that belongs to someone else, hence the “E-Book Swap” title. This, you will tell them, is about exchange and a sharing of taste, but not in the traditional convivial sense. It’s about literary/journalistic tastes! They will applaud your unorthodox perspective on property, while quietly freaking the fuck out that somebody is going to find out that they are a huge James Patterson fan. Ask them to wait while you go inside to add your own e-reader to the pile.
Back inside, steal one of their own e-readers and download a copy of Mein Kampf. Pour a couple of gallons of gasoline onto the pile of e-readers and have your friend escort all of them back in. Once they’ve formed a circle around the e-readers again, begin to read loudly from Mein Kampf and then throw a lit match onto the huge pile so that it burns like fucking crazy.
The piece should be titled Seen and Nazi-een.
Hello, Anonymous. I’m not sure if you understand the format of this blog, because you don’t really seem interested in finding out how to make this question a performance. But since I like to consider myself sort of a “free spirit,” I guess that I can try to answer your question and refrain from scripting it immediately into a work of full-blown performance art.
I think that her popularity is due in part to how insanely successful she has been at establishing herself as an integral part of the development of twentieth and twenty-first century art practice. I also think that it’s due to the fact that she embodies numerous things that teenage girls on Tumblr adore. And Tumblr is pretty much indisputably ruled by teenage girls.
Here are five very specific areas to confirm the fact that Abramovic is more Tumblr-embraced by teen girls than even Molly Soda:
Cutting - If there’s one thing that (white) teen girls love, it’s “controlling the pain.” Can you imagine how fucking tight it must be to be a teen girl and imagine getting PAID to cut yourself? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging. I don’t care if girls cut themselves. Worrying about what women do with their bodies is the job of Republicans, and they wouldn’t accept my party registration card, so fuck them. One of Abramovic’s most famous works is called “Thomas Lips,” I believe. It’s the one where she cut a star into her own tummy.
Crying - Webcam shots of girls crying is also very popular on Tumblr. Abramovic made like 160 million people cry during The Artist is Present at the MoMA. Teenage girls like to cry, and Abramovic enthusiasts like to cry, ergo, teenage girls are Abramovic enthusiasts. Google the phrase “Marina Abramovic made me cry.” There are 12,300 search results presently. Plus, that picture above is one of the characters on GIRLS, crying. Teenage girls love GIRLS.
Side note: Teenage girls on Tumblr are absolutely better both formally and conceptually at crying than Laurel Nakadate.
Obsessing over unrealistic beauty expectations - A lot of teenage girls on Tumblr think that they are ugly because of fucked up socially sanctioned standards of beauty. This is actually pretty sad. Abramovic famously obsessed that, “Art must be beautiful. [The] artist must be beautiful,” while maniacally combing through her hair. There is a profoundly weird link between the aesthetics of the Portapak cameras used to document early works of performance and contemporary webcam videos. I’m being serious. Cite me when you casually fucking drop that in a conversation at the bar with your grad school cohort, Anonymous.
Being topless - Hundreds of millions of horny boys and men eagerly anticipate Tuesdays because of the waterfall of #ToplessTuesday imagery that gorges Tumblr’s feeds like fucking cray. I just searched for that tag on Tumblr and am now 100% sure I’m going to prison for having seen child pornography. Is anybody addressing this? Can I seriously get in trouble? Should I have even typed that? Anyway, Abramovic loves erotic shit, as evidenced in 2005’s Balkan Erotic Epic (pictured above). Looking up “Abramovic, Marina” in the index of an art history book that covers works since the 1960s is pretty much identical to typing in #TT or #ToplessTuesday into Tumblr’s tag archive search: you’re hunting tits.
Hella dramatic break-ups - There is a fantastic wealth on Tumblr of long-form writing by teenage girls agonizing over break-ups that, in the larger context of their adult lives, are fucking meaningless. We’ve all been there though; adolescent relationships are seriously torture. When Danielle Travis dumped me in the 11th grade, I thought I was literally going to die. Most of us though learn to shut the fuck up about this kind of stuff as life goes on, but sometimes we just can’t help but make a spectacle out of love gone awry. On Sex and the City, they once wisely informed their viewers that one may indulge in two weeks of public depression per six months that a relationship lasted. I don’t know if Marina Abramovic has ever seen that show, but if she has I bet she feels like a 75% Samantha / 25% Miranda mix. That’s not important. What is important is that when Abramovic and her lover Ulay went splitsville in 1988, they couldn’t just end it and get drunk and fuck strangers in the night. No, they needed to turn this thing into a truly spectacular drama. To pay homage to their partnership and give them both closure, they did something a little wackier than penning unedited rants on Tumblr (though no less sincere). They walked from opposite ends of the Great Wall of China and met in the middle to say goodbye. That’s literally like 1,500 miles each. Ulay started in the Gobi Desert and Abramovic started at the Yellow Sea.
That’s goth as fuck, if you ask me. Soft grunge can eat my ass.
So, while we didn’t manage to concoct a performance for you, Anonymous, I feel like we still covered a lot of ground and maybe provided an interesting perspective on the ubiquity of Abramovic’s work on Tumblr. To be honest, I’d give my right arm (see previous post) to see a show featuring Bunny Rogers, Molly Soda, Rachael Milton, and a handful of others doing a show called TEENAGE ABRAMOVIC in a storefront in Bushwick. Not at Storefront Bushwick, at a storefront in Bushwick.
Holy jeez. I remember reading about this disorder at some point (probably in some shitty Chuck Palahniuk novel) but it seems like it doesn’t get much mainstream coverage. This is probably because of the Illuminati staging the Boston Marathon Bombing hoax, but what do I know about news, really?
Body Integrity Identity Disorder (also known as BIID) is apparently a real thing. I wish that you’d come off of Anonymous, dear reader, because it would be exceptionally helpful to know if this work that you’d like to stage is to deal with your own BIID or if it’s more of an analytical piece that like kind of examines the conditions surrounding BIID and instead of trying to solve the issues, it like really is just posing a question - you know? One time a teacher of mine told me that it was an artist’s job to pose questions, not to solve problems and I was like, “Hello, No More Personal or Ethical Responsibility!”
We’ll move forward assuming though, for the sake of argument, that you do personally suffer from BIID. I’ve got a really neat idea for you that is going to bridge some of the canon of performance history, and also pose a very contemporary question about the difference between actors and performance artists. I’ll guess that you know of Aron Ralston - the hiker who cut off his own arm to escape imminent death, played flawlessly by James Franco in Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours, the film adaptation of Ralston’s memoir Between a Rock and a Hard Place.
To begin with, you should study up on Rudolf Schwarzkogler. Here is a clip of a 1965 work called 4th Aktion:
Schwarzkogler was associated with the Viennese Actionism movement of the 1960s. A lot of people claim that much of the hoopla surrounding the works produced by this group of Austrians is unmerited because they were generally pretty full of shit and not as gnarly as they tried to make it seem. But regardless of where you stand on the issue, they definitely puked, peed, and bled a whole bunch. I think that in the Student Academic Handbook where I teach, under the section about prohibited materials on campus it reads:
- No firearms
- No drugs or alcohol
- No reinterpretations of Viennese Actionism
Go, “Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!” or something like that so the people watching you online are all, “Fuck! Whoa!”
It’s time to get comfy; you’re going to be in this crevice for five days. After you kind of calm down from getting trapped, start to talk about how odd it is that you’re trapped underneath this rock, since you’ve always kind of hated that arm anyway and felt like you could do without it. By the end of the first day, you might even start to talk to the webcam about how you don’t even really like any of your limbs, to be honest. It would be a good idea to have your boulder buddy also live-tweeting this performance so that it gets picked up by like Animal New York or somebody. I feel like Marina Galperina at Animal would probably dig this thing. Tell your buddy to tweet at her a bunch. Maybe also tweet Andrew WK because he’ll send some really positive party vibes at you. The whole time, also document this with the video camera that you brought down. That way, when you edit over 100 hours of footage to have your documentation, you’ll at least get to change up the viewing angle a few times, catch my drift?
This is just a terrific premise to begin a performance piece, Anonymous. Also, your timing is somewhat impeccable in terms of connecting the dots between that crazy old bag Virginia Woolf and the art world.
Anybody who’s anybody knows the plot to Orlando all too well, and anybody who’s somebody has seen Sally Potter’s 1992 fim adaptation of the “semi-biographical” novel (hint: it’s about Woolf’s lady-lover, poet Vita Sackville West). The first time that I watched this cinematic eye-feast unravel before me was not unlike the first time that my ears devoured the heady gong followed by Jimmy Garrison taking that bass for a walk at the opening of Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. It was like discovering hand lotion, Anonymous; the world could - would - be my oyster. But what was it that really stood out for both audiences and critics alike when Potter’s version hit theaters as Clinton hit the White House?
That androgynous Brit brings a level of intensity to everything that she touches. Surely you’re aware though that Swinton’s output is not simply in contribution to the canon of cinema - in 1995 she debuted a bonafide work of performance art titled The Maybe at Serpentine Gallery in her native London. This work, a collaboration with Joanna Scanlan of Little Britain fame, featured Swinton in a glass box inside of the gallery on view snoozing like a tiny kitty.
"What could it mean?" asked the art viewing public. Swinton, an actor of considerable pedigree, engaging performance art? Naturally, I imagine that all performance artists were like, "Fuck that bitch. No fucking way." But the fact of the matter is that performance artists, unlike those who produce actually marketable objects, have very little say in what will and will not be canonized or covered in the press. Swinton’s role in the art world was forever cemented, and like any good contemporary artist, she has only exhibited variations on one piece ever since.
Fast forward to 2013 (hey, that’s now, LOL), out of nowhere Twitter fucking exploded with news that The Maybe was being staged at none other than New York’s own Museum of Modern Art. Stars came out in droves hoping to catch a glimpse of Swinton napping softly beside a pair of Elvis Costello-approved prescription frames. Even Chloë Grace Moretz, the QT Hit-Girl from Kick-Ass, posted a tweet bemoaning the fact that she was unable to see the work in person. Perhaps what’s the most exciting though about this tweet is that Moretz herself famously portrayed the androgynous child-vampire Abby in the 2010 American remake of the horror hit Let the Right One In.
As you’ll no doubt recognize here, Anonymous, a profound theme is developing: androgyny, yes? It is simply too bad that Marina Abramović is so categorically busty, as her own work staged at MoMA, The Artist is Present, was not terribly dissimilar to Swinton’s piece. Abramović is undeniably all that is woman, so it would be remiss to try to align her own motivations and/or character with Swinton’s or Moretz’s. Whether or not she is similar in personality to Virginia Woolf is something that you’re going to have to ask Ulay or James Franco, as they know her personally.
In consideration of your potential performance piece, I will warn that this could get slightly pricey, though the results are going to be fucking incredible. You will purchase a very large terrarium that sits atop an impressive metal armature. Note that the terrarium itself must be large enough to house your entire body. Next, you will order a Halloween costume from Party City which you will wear for the performance. It is supposed to look like this…
But sadly, it actually looks like this…
Don’t fret though, it will still do the job. You’ll be commended for at least remotely considering what your outfit looks like before doing your performance because literally no performance artists remember to think about this beforehand and then later get annoyed when people bring up what they wore in a conversation about the work’s aesthetics. Next, you need to collect a bunch of really heavy rocks. They should be dense, but not too large. You will also require several 5-gallon buckets and access to a hose or other water source. Lastly, you will need a portable CD player with speakers and a copy of the Indigo Girls record that contains the song “Virginia Woolf.”
At the gallery where you’re performing, place the terrarium in the center of the room. You’ll be wearing the Hit-Girl costume as viewers enter the space. Do not talk to them, and try to look really totally serious. As soon as there are a decent amount of people, turn on the Indigo Girls song and have an assistant/friend in charge of starting the song over again each time that it finishes so that it is, in effect, looping. Begin to ceremonially fill the 5-gallon buckets with water and then walk each one over to the terrarium, slowly filling it to the top.
Once the terrarium is filled to the brim, push a chair or stool over to it. Turn to your audience and then, in a very dramatic fashion, begin to stuff your pockets and other parts of your costume with the rocks. Step up onto the chair. Once you’ve completed this, you will address the audience:
"In The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, I have no verdict. In fact, I am ever so tired, and I think that I shall maybe just go to sleep. And thusly, I relinquish my position as judge to you, audience. Consider it your duty to judge - am I a boy, or am I a girl?”
Climb into the terrarium and lie down, allowing the rocks to sink you to the bottom of the tank. Now for the finale, you don’t have to decide this beforehand as you might want to kind of “feel out” the level of audience interest, but you might consider letting yourself drown to really make an impact. Or, you don’t have to do that, but people will not think the piece was as strong. It’s your call.
Call the piece I’m Afraid of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. This is the title of a song by the alt-country band Murder by Death, but nobody will call you out on it because it’s simply too embarrassing to even know that.
First of all, it’s no secret that marriage is a hot topic these days. In fact, in might be THE hot topic of 2013!
The trouble is, exploiting the institution of marriage is a very touchy subject. Can you imagine how incredibly pissed you’d be if you were a homosexual who was denied their right to marry their partner in the United States and then you heard about an artist marrying somebody just for the fucking critical discourse? C’mon! That would be insanely outrageous. It occurs to me though that I cannot operate under the assumption that you identify as gay or straight. So, if you are indeed gay, just substitute yourself into one of the female roles in the following performance. If you are straight, orchestrate the performance and talk about how you view your role in the work as that of a director like you’re Allan Fucking Kaprow.
The purpose of this work is to subvert and then ostensibly pervert the institution of marriage in the United States. You’ll need the following ingredients:
- Two lesbians
- One gay man
- One more gay man
Travel with the four individuals to, oh, I don’t know, South Carolina. Strom Thurmond was consecutively reelected as a senator there for like two hundred terms before that fucking rotten goat mule finally died, so they are exactly the type of people who need their noses rubbed directly in some serious fabulousness. Rent a couple of apartments in Charleston for a couple of months to kind of feel out the vibes and to get to know the neighbors. Be sure that Gay A and Lesbian A live in one apartment and that Gay B and Lesbian B live in the other. It is imperative that you all create the illusion that these are two entirely heterosexual couples. Start going to trivia nights, rent beach cruisers, watch an entire season of House of Cards on Netflix in a weekend - do everything that straight couples do.
Once the two couples have sort of ingrained themselves into the local fabric and are already known by their first names at the local Hardee’s (that’s what they call Carl’s Jr in the east), it is time to put the wheels in motion. I’m like 100% positive that Charleston, like all shitty fucking cities in the southern US, must have a minor league baseball team. They are probably called the Whizzy Bangers or some such rubbish. Purchase a suite of tickets to a game, and have Gay A and Gay B both independently approach the manager of the ballpark with a request to propose to their respective girlfriends during the seventh inning stretch.
On game day, show up and make sure that the couples are dressed like really convincingly. It is a good idea for Lesbian A and Lesbian B to loan their cargo shorts to Gay A and Gay B to create a more realistic outward appearance of collective heterosexuality. Both couples are to sit in different areas of the ballpark. When the seventh inning stretch begins, the announcer, in his caramel-mouthed southern twang, will announce:
"Laygeez n gintlming, t’day we’ve a speshul reeequist fum sum of oor beeghest fans. Pleez dye-rick yur attenshin to the two min standin in them bleechurz."
Now, both Gay A and Gay B should look at each other totally surprised from their seats like, “Aw, bro! I had no idea you were gonna do this, too!” Gay A and Gay B should then get down on their knees and propose to Lesbian A and Lesbian B, respectively. Instruct the lesbians to say yes to the proposal, and watch the fucking stadium explode in heterosexual groupthink as overweight refrigerator technology specialists and road workers just lose their fucking shit over how cute this fucking scene is.
Here is where you step in…
(Having been previously ordained online) You cry out to the crowd, “What are we waiting for?!? Love don’t care ‘bout time, amiright? I am an ordained minister and I say we marry these gorgeous young, straight couples right now!”
Those southern fucks are going to eat that shit up like it’s ranch dressing on literally anything. Bring the couples out onto the baseball diamond and perform a quick and dirty wedding ceremony for each on the pitcher’s mound. Once the couples kiss to seal the deal, the crowd is just gonna go bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S.
Here’s where you show your cards…
They are now officially a couple recognized by the State of South Carolina. They enjoy all the same rights as the other breeders in the audience do, but they don’t give a shit because they luh da dick, or luh da vag, whichever applies to their particular sexual orientation. Never mind. You get what I’m saying. The couples are now going to tear off their clothing and just fucking GO AT IT on the pitcher’s mound with one another. At first, they’ll start to grope and canoodle like they’re all hetero and shit, but after a minute, once the crowd starts to get real hot and bothered, you’re going to pull the ol’ switcheroo.
Get those men just fucking 69ing so hard and like gravel is all tearing up their backs and getting into their butts. The women are gonna throw down a serious scissoring session in full view of every God-fearing Christian in attendance. The crowd will literally automatically form a mob without even realizing and begin to run down the aisles to hop the wall onto the field. Just as they’re about to get to you though, you yell:
"STOP! Brothers and Sisters! Today we have destroyed the oppressive state of marriage through our actions! This is gay marriage! These are gays, married, married like straight people! But they’re gonna keep being just as gay as hell and cumming all over this dirt and sod!"
The crowd will suddenly realize how close-minded they are and start to slink back towards their seats. The following morning, the State of South Carolina will legalize gay marriage because it is just too fucking confusing to them now. Reporters from around the globe will descend on Charleston to interview you, the artist. They’ll ask you what the piece is called, to which you’ll respond, "Aren’t we ALL pitchers and catchers in somebody’s ballpark?"
You sound like a goddamn sweetheart, Anonymous. Most artists produce art to impress possible future boyfriends or girlfriends, but it’s a true rarity to meet an artist currently dating somebody who has even kind of thought about doing anything in the interest of making that person impressed. Since it’s 2013 and I don’t even see gender anymore, I’m going to write a performance to impress a boyfriend that can be executed whether you identify as a boy, a girl, or a witto bebe puggle!
First, let’s ask ourselves a question: What do all boyfriends like?
SEXY HALLOWEEN COSTUMES.
If you’re a reader of this blog, I’m going to go ahead and make the assumption that you’re already familiar with Hennessy Youngman, AKA His Holiness Henrock Allah, AKA Henrock Obama, AKA Henrocaplypse Now, AKA the Row Home Raconteur, AKA Mitt Romney’s Drug Dealer. As such, you’ll likely recall a little video piece that he made a couple of years back that explored the legacy of a motherfucking cracker named Bruce Nauman. In it, Mr. Youngman adeptly identifies the myriad ways in which Nauman’s interdisciplinary practice has shattered boundaries in the art world. The drawback to such an influential figure like Nauman existing though is that it is nearly impossible not to rip off his work!
Mr. Youngman points out that Bruce Nauman has already worked with water, hands, walking, neon, clowns, torture - the list goes on and on! But what Mr. Youngman failed to realize, which I myself only realized upon pondering your incredible query, Anonymous, is that Bruce Nauman has, to my knowledge, never executed any artwork that was inarguably SEXY!
Unlike 99.9% of performance works in the entirety of performance history, Anonymous, I regret to inform you that you’re actually going to have to plan this one out for several months starting today. It’s not that you really have to do anything between now and when you stage the work, but I think that you need to wait until October to do it so that it can be understood as a legitimate “Halloween” piece.
You’re no doubt familiar with Nauman’s studio exercises from the late 1960s where he pranced around his Mission District studio in San Francisco because he was too poor to buy paints and brushes. For those of you reading who aren’t familiar with these works, which were captured on video or film or whatever old people used, here is a still image from one:
While you’ve still got some time ahead of you, Anonymous, start approaching different venues in your town with a proposal to do a tribute work to Bruce Nauman in late October. Casually mention the preferred date as October 31st, 2013, and when they’re like, “Whoa, do you realize that’s Halloween?” You can say, “Holy shit, no. But cool. That’s a great coincidence.” ;)
Fast forward to the end of this coming October… assuming that you and your boyfriend are still together, invite him and all of his friends to the gallery/venue for your new piece that you’ll be launching. You’re going to utilize Nauman’s original work as a type of “found text” from which you’ve grown a new, contemporary work! Use tape to mark off a square on the floor where you’ll sort of dance back and forth from one corner to the next corner very meticulously for a really long period of time. Pick a number to go back and forth with for each side, like at least seventy. That’s all that you’re going to do during the piece. But here’s the kicker: what’s going to impress your boyfriend (and push Nauman’s work into a new stratosphere) is your outfit!
Helloooooooooooooooo, nurse! You see what I’m talking about? This shit is fucking hawt! Your boyfriend is gonna be drooling all over himself and is gonna have a semi in no time flat! It doesn’t matter if you, the performer, are male or female; nobody can resist the allure of a solid muffin top/whale tail combo. Don’t believe me? Give Leviticus another read, you fucking heretic.
Call the piece Samhain Dance or SEXercise on the Perimeter of a Super Cute Square.
I’m not going to lie, Anonymous, this might be the greatest question that I’ve ever received on this blog, and perhaps the best question that anyone has ever asked in the context of contemporary art (a close second might be when somebody asked me if I thought Laurel Nakadate was actually an eleven year old).
I’ll admit freely that I was unaware that people took such a keen interest in breastfeeding intentions. It’s kind of hot, but also really gross, you know? Anyway, breasts are awesome things and are enjoyed by virtually everyone on the planet. Even friends of mine who are absolutely 100% gay are fascinated and enthralled by breasts. You can like move them around, smoosh them, make them into new and interesting shapes; the sky is the limit. When I was a baby, I suckled teets for nourishment, and I wasn’t particular about to whom those teets belonged. There have been many times that my mother has talked at length over cocktails with her girlfriends about my insatiable hunger for milk, and her friends will laugh as they recall the occasions where I lunged with vigor and class for their own lactating sweater pups. Oh, to be young again.
I still like milk a lot and drink at least an 8oz glass daily, which many of my peers think is gross and juvenile. My preference is for 2%, though I’ve been known to purchase on a sliding scale from 1% to whole milk depending on the current selection at my local bodega. One thing I never do though is drink skim milk because it is kind of gray and that makes me think it probably has scabs in it or maybe it is from Guam.
Back to your performance though… I think I have a really neat idea for you. The next time that you’re asked to participate in an exhibition, tell them that you’re going to do a participatory piece that requires very minimal installation. The night before the exhibition is scheduled to open, bring some 2x4s and sheetrock down to the gallery. You’re a mother, which means that you are strong and powerful, so I have no doubt that you’ll have little trouble putting up a simple 8x8’ wall that seals off one corner of the exhibition space. If the gallery walls are higher than 8’, then that’s lovely because you don’t have to worry about building a door or anything because you can climb right over it using a ladder. If you were looking at the wall that you’re installing from above, it would look like this:
If the gallery walls aren’t taller than 8’, then you should maybe not screw one of the pieces of sheetrock to the lumber until you’ve gotten behind the wall right before the opening. Have a friend seal you back there if that’s the case.
In one of the pieces of sheetrock at about crotch height, smash a circular hole through it about the size of the shaft of a Maglite. Wrap duct tape over the rough parts of the hole sort of like this:
Using a permanent marker (I like the “Sharpie” brand), write something near the hole that will get viewers to take a peek. Something like, “Hey, check this out,” or maybe, “Double-dog-dare you to look, pussy,” will work splendidly. You’re going to be back there sitting on a chair, or kind of crouching, so that you can see out the hole into the gallery. Whenever a viewer’s eye pops into the hole, give your engorged, milk-filled breasts a good squeeze and shoot ‘em in the eye with a double stream of infant power juice!
It is highly likely that they’ll be enraged and want to fight you, but you’re sealed safely behind the wall and they will not be able to get to you. Have an assistant in the gallery hand each viewer a large button for them to wear if they like after experiencing the piece that says, “TODAY I CHANGED MY PERCEPTION OF BREASTFEEDING.” Maybe once they get the button, they’ll be like, “Holy shit. I had all of the preconceived notions about breast milk and breastfeeding and now that I’ve had a bunch of hot, raw milk shot right into my eyes, I realize that it’s actually beautiful, natural, and something to be celebrated and cherished.” If they don’t think that, then that person is not your “audience.”
Call the piece GLORY (w)HOLE (milk).
Hello, lawyer! This is an exciting day for the art world indeed. And please note, I am not making a funny. It’s about time that people who have real jobs started to take a more “interdisciplinary” approach. I am not sure how much you’re looking at contemporary art, lawyer, but there is a marvelous trend as of late that we might effectively call “The Artist as _______________” trend. Because they lack many real world skills required to complete normal employment tasks, artists like to kind of have fun with it and try on different careers just for kicks. Here are some examples:
- Mark Dion: Artist as Anthropologist!
- Guillermo Gomez-Pena: Artist as Post-Apocalyptic Border Shaman!
- Sophie Calle: Artist as Chambermaid!
- Laurie Anderson: Artist as a Girl Brian Eno!
- William Pohida: Artist as Vigilante!
- Rita Ackerman: Artist as Underwear Maker!
- Ryan McGinley: Artist as Commercial Photographer!
Sometimes, the results are without a doubt totally neato. Other times though, people are very critical of the artists and say, “Hey, Gedi Sibony! You don’t even have a contractor’s license! Maybe that’s why you don’t ever install drywall correctly!” Many call this trend “amateurism,” but I think that sounds rude. For instance, Cory Arcangel is not an amateur Adobe Creative Suite user, he seems really comfortable using it. Does this make him an amateur designer? I fucking doubt it. Whatever.
What I’m trying to say here, lawyer, is that there is maybe some real potential for people who are not artists to have “transdisciplinary law practices,” catch my drift? Like, maybe you’re a lawyer and you’re defending this guy accused of robbing a bunch of banks… but on the day of his court date, when it’s your turn to give your opening statements or whatever it is that lawyers do, have you ever considered maybe doing a really esoteric performance work that kind of poses the question about what a bank even is?
Lawyers as performance artists! Scuba divers as internet artists! Daycare managers as painters! Garbagemen as time-based ceramicists! The possibilities are super endless, and we in the art world should be so lucky as to have some of you regular folks contributing to the dialogue.
So, yeah, on the day your defendant stands in front of the judge, wear underneath your lawyer costume a different costume. I think a white t-shirt and jeans is a really “every guy” look and shouldn’t be underestimated, nahmean? When the judge is like, “Lawyer number two, what hath you to say in regards to this most egregious and heinous accusation?” just look at him and slowly rise to your feet. Slip off your lawyer coat and shirt and lawyer pants and move to the center of the court. Stick one arm out in front of you, then bend your wrist so that your fingers point towards the floor. Now, bend your head down so that it is parallel with your arm. Start to run backwards around the court with your arm still out in front of you and your head down, kind of like somebody has a rope tied around your waist and is pulling you back a whole bunch. Whether or not this move has a name, I do not know. But what I do know is that it’s super popular with performance artists who also end their performances with, “Well, that’s it. Thanks.”
Your client is going to be so pissed while you’re doing this, but that’s not of your concern at the moment. You’re in the zone, the performance zone, and it’d be pretty fucking rude of some criminal to take that truly sublime moment away from you. I’m talking about the simultaneous experience of absolute ecstasy and soul-crushing horror that happens every time an artist moves through time and space and people watch them. “Transformative” seems like too soft of a word.
Throw some money at the judge when you’re done, and scream, “Banks got bailed out! We got sold out! I HOLD MYSELF IN CONTEMPT!” You’ll be escorted out by the bailiff promptly, so don’t really worry about figuring out an ending.
Call the piece Jeff Wall Street vs Jeff Main Street.
Hi, Italian Student. Your parents are assholes for naming you that, first of all, and even bigger assholes for sending you to a college that only capitalizes the first word in its name. No wonder you want to make art about abandonment and loss, considering that your parents hung you out to dry the minute you spilled from your mother’s birth canal into this fucked up game of Life we call life.
I’d like to point out to you that if you’re aiming to produce performance art pieces that are “non-trivial,” then you’re in the wrong game. Performance art exclusively deals with the trivial. Anyone who disagrees need only to recall that Performa 11 actually curated a collaborative piece by James Franco and Laurel Nakadate where they did a seance to channel the spirit of dead playwright Tennessee Williams. It’s interesting to me that a “playwright” may also be referred to as a “dramatist.” What’s more interesting to me is that James Franco takes Laurel Nakadate seriously.
But back to your ridiculous query about creating a performance where the “main theme” is abandonment and loss, I’d like to suggest that you include a “secondary theme” of peeing your pants. Here is the twist though: you won’t be peeing your pants, the participants will.
Each year in Portland, OR there is a humongous and very stupid event called the Open Engagement Conference (a precursor to the Open Marriage Conference). It’s organized by Portland State University’s MFA in Art & Social Practice Program, which I heard got almost thirteen applicants this year.
Apply to the OE Conference with your project. In the description, communicate that you will require a classroom at PSU for the piece. Over the course of several days, you will be present in the space with a dresser that is filled with all of the pants that you own and a changing curtain. As attendees of the conference come into the room, invite them to try on a pair of your pants. This is the part about community or what the fuck ever it is that social practice artists are trying to create. When someone accepts, send them behind the changing curtain and let them put on your pants. You will keep their pants because it is about exchange or something. When they walk out from behind the curtain, instruct them to pee while wearing your pants. Document them afterward in your soiled pants with a disposable camera, because social practice artists love these a lot, as do people who are having a wedding. The participant is then to leave the gallery wearing your pants.
Write about how losing each pair of pants made you feel in a journal. Scan those journal pages and also the pictures and put them on your website.
Call the piece Pee in My Pants (Loss, a Mediation, Part I).
Oh, and when you’re at the conference, tell Harrell Fletcher “eat a bag of dicks” for me.