Tag: performance art

Must-have Summer Accessory: Performance Art

10427531-marina-abramovic-portrait-with-scorpio Breaking Bad‘s back and Shark Week has come and gone. These are summer traditions that people have grown to anticipate and cherish. Unfortunately it will be our last with Walt and Jesse and the Lemon Shark never gets enough play, but these are part of the things that make the summer; the summer. Every summer has its blockbusters along with its soundtrack. Summer also brings us some ubiquitous hot fad or in rare cases a timeless classic (I’m looking at you Daft Punk). For 2013, this summer’s must-have accessory is of course: performance art. Wait what?!? jay_rob_1 It all started a little while back with Jay-Z’s art film Picasso Baby. Wait what, this is an art film?!? Let’s see, it does have Picasso in the title and he was an artist, so that is definitely related to art. The lyrics also name check Rothko, Basquiat, Bacon and Leonardo Da Vinci- ok. It also subscribes to the pile of bricks theory of art: a pile of bricks in a parking lot is a pile of bricks, a pile of bricks in a gallery is art. The institution endorses the object or in this case the video. If this video was shot anywhere besides the Pace Gallery, for instance a grocery store; could it still cling to the art moniker? Last but not least, to argue the artfulness of the video is its inclusion of many real life visual art personalities. Some of the people that appear in Picasso Baby include: Jerry Saltz, Marcel Dzama, George Condo, Wangechi Mutu, and of course Marina Abramovic. jay Marina Abramovic is the current reigning queen of performance art and her inclusion here seems to signify art status. At this point I’d like to say that I like Jay-Z and admire his effort but this is a music video and not art. The filming of the video involved performance in front of people in a gallery but the minute it was edited into an easily digestible product it planted itself firmly in the music video camp. The song is all about status and so is the video. The guest list had a very studio 54 velvet rope vibe. Jay-Z parades art-stars and celebrities like the new must have accessory. You gotta love him for it. Marina Abramovic was the jewel in his crown or was Jay-Z the pop star boost to hers.

Relation in Time 1977

Relation in Time 1977

Marina Abramovic has enjoyed a lasting and illustrious career as a performance artist and most of her work succeeds at challenging the viewer and expanding upon the story of art (Picasso Baby – not so much). Some of her work I like and some of it I like less. This is an excerpt from her An Artist’s Life Manifesto:

1. An artist’s conduct in his life:

– An artist should not lie to himself or others
– An artist should not steal ideas from other artists
– An artist should not compromise for themselves or in regards to the art market
– An artist should not kill other human beings
– An artist should not make themselves into an idol
– An artist should not make themselves into an idol
– An artist should not make themselves into an idol

OK, what if an artist just associates themselves with an idol? Is that acceptable, and if so why not two? Enter Lady Gaga hugging a giant crystal.


I’m sorry but, the short The Abramovic Method starring Lady Gaga is not only bad art, it’s just plain silly. It feels like a first year art school project. At least Jay-Z’s Picasso Baby had a genuine sense of fun and playing with convention. This is drowning convention in an isolated river weighed down by cliche and contrived notions of solipsism. It thinks itself very poo-poo clever. I’m afraid this is the kind of bad art that gives all art a bad name.

Marina goes on to say:

4. An artist’s relation to suffering:

– An artist should suffer
– From the suffering comes the best work
– Suffering brings transformation
– Through the suffering an artist transcends their spirit
– Through the suffering an artist transcends their spirit
– Through the suffering an artist transcends their spirit

The Artist is Present 2010

The Artist is Present 2010

I don’t believe in this notion that only good art can come from suffering.  (Lady Gaga and Jay-Z seem to be doing OK at the moment.)  Art is definitely difficult and an incredible amount of work but it shouldn’t be torture nor only used as catharsis. The mystique of the tortured artist is based more on the fact that we like to torture our artists, rather than this is their magical source of inspiration.  Being an artist is equal amounts play and equal amounts hardship. On the one side, you get to do whatever you want, exercise your mind and spirit and make cool stuff and on the other you are constantly faced with an ocean of apathy and indifference with a pinch of rejection. Hopefully you can swim through it and keep your head above water, because it can weigh you down like Marina prescribes. Every single artist who has picked up a brush, chisel, camera, pen or microphone has had to make that swim, some in rougher waters than others.


This guy gets paid to stare blankly and not react.

Marina’s view on work:

13. An artist’s conduct in relation to work:

– An artist should avoid going to the studio every day
– An artist should not treat his work schedule as a bank employee does
– An artist should explore life and work only when an idea comes to him in a dream or during the day as a vision that arises as a surprise

I hate to burst the bubble, but being an artist is a job like any other. Inspiration doesn’t come from a dream or from on high, it comes from showing up.

Lastly she says:
– An artist should not repeat himself
– An artist should not overproduce
– An artist should avoid his own art pollution
– An artist should avoid his own art pollution
– An artist should avoid his own art pollution

With Jay-Z we’ll give it a pass, Lady Gaga -not so much.

The Family Fang: Book Review

Child A and Child B are the titles that Caleb and Camille Fang bestowed on their children: Annie and Buster. Needless to say, Annie and Buster aren’t too jazzed about these particular monikers or a number of other things that their parents have foisted upon them as they were growing up; all done in the name of art. Having famous performance artists for parents may sound like a dream come true for some, but these Fangs have teeth and sometimes they bite.

What people can get away with all in the name of Art can make you think twice. Artists have free reign to shock, amaze, horrify, titillate, entertain, bore, critique and push the boundaries of what’s socially acceptable.This is exactly what we want our artists to do. They are often the ones out on the front-lines pushing things forward. They make the large sacrifices of body and spirit to keep the gears spinning. We appreciate their hard work in the safety of galleries or the spontaneous happenings in public places but how far can you go in the name of art? Is there any sacrifice too large?

Joseph Beuys‘ Coyote: I like America and America likes Me would be an example of a sacrifice not a lot of us would be willing to make. It takes a certain level of commitment to lock yourself in a gallery with a live coyote to make a statement  about a country you’ve never visited and have it as your only experience of that place. Beuys’ performance is thought provoking, beautiful and a little crazy. The problem with crazy is that there are different types of crazy: good crazy and bad crazy. Artists like Joseph Beuys and Matthew Barney are the right kind of crazy. They have singular visions that are both complex and well executed.

On the other end of the spectrum, some performance pieces can veer into the realm of weird for weird’s sake or fall into the category a friend of mine from art school coined called: ‘poo-poo clever’. Most poo-poo clever pieces adhere to all the nouveau art speak and hit all the marks but never get beyond the ‘that’s interesting’ in a really boring way. Making art is difficult at the best of times but performing it just adds a whole new dimension. Luckily for us, you would never accuse the Fang family of being poo-poo clever. They approach Art with a Coyote level of enthusiasm.

Kevin Wilson paints a picture of a family where there is never a dull moment. The story is told in the present day from the perspective of  Annie and Buster peppered with flashbacks chronicling various performance pieces executed by the family over the years. The Fangs revel in the mayhem they cause and to them all the world’s a stage. After experiencing some unexpected setbacks in their personal lives both Child A and Child B find themselves once again under the roof of their parents’ Tennessee home. Will the kids participate in the grandest performance of their parents’ lives or do some wounds run too deep?

The Family Fang explores unconventional family dynamics  in delightful and unexpected ways. Kevin Wilson deftly combines moments of laugh out loud humour with elements of raw emotion. The author leaves you with more questions than answers which is a testament to the fondness you feel for these characters. In the end, I’m not sure if the Family Fang are the good crazy or bad crazy but that’s all part of the performance.