I H8 Performance Art

by zyxonian

I replaced “ate” with an erect infinite symbol ∞ to better portray my undying resentment against all the hyper-intellectualized, ego-ridden elitism and gross  commercialization of what my friend would call, “self-congratulatory masturbation” – otherwise known as the New York Performance Art Scene.

As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, Communitylessness and Selflessness, “Performance Art, from its 1960s and 70s roots, was an anti-art; it challenged concepts of beauty while blurring the lines between artist and viewer. In it’s heyday, you couldn’t buy or sell performance art – it was consciously anti-commerce, escaping mass packaging and thoughtless consumption. Performance art was politically and socially minded, synthesizing new ideas of community and self”.

Then why does it cost me $7 to see someone polish an orange at an “underground venue”? Why does the artist say, “The performance interrogated multiple perspectives of identity and privacy involving fathers’ rights and child abuse”. 


O RLY? NO WAI! I thought it was talking about the post-colonial nature of a Florida boycott in the aftermath of the Zimmerman trial.

But whatever the performance actually means isn’t important; the topic of discussion ends once you leave the gallery. If the conversation continues, it is because another artist was inspired to do their own performance about child abuse at a different gallery. This time they slap a salmon. In this cycle of performance discourse the topic of child abuse will remain in the theoretical realm, crystalizing in violent actions against fruit and fish, never leaving the confines of a gallery or museum. Their art has no radical nature, no climb for social change or political justice.

The source of my diatribe: Last night I spent 5 and a half hours in a white box with a group of NYU Performance Art postgraduates. Out of respect for my friend, I stayed the entire length. This was a mistake because my mind was eventually tilling seeds of nihilism. I saw a series of events, some which were uniquely sensuous and beautiful – only to be soiled by the overall nothingologue.  As a woman was carving a chicken in front of me, telling the story of her wartime grandfather eating the flesh of a human, I internally asked myself questions, “Why were we locked in a white box room? Why is this forum not open to the public? Are we actually doing anything?”

If this were the 1960s, being locked in that room carving chicken would have been perfect – the aesthetic landscape at the time was that of rebellion, questioning, experimentation, and a search of the provocatively beautiful. We wouldn’t need to supplement our performance with half-developed artist statements – the very act of doing something so strange was more than enough to alter the concepts of art, community, et cetera.

But no – here we are engaging in fauxvestigation, iterating and reiterating the words “corporeality”, “peripheral nature”, “evokes the idea of…” because this is the fashion of New York. If you pop a balloon and describe the event as an idiosyncratic atlas, simultaneously universal and highly personal, you’ll probably get some praise and appear at a Chelsea art gallery cocktail schmoozing with fat-walleted name droppers.

You know what Performance reminds me of?  Asemica.

I use the word asemica from the phenomenon known as asemic writinghttp://asemic.net/ (thanks Kalan!)

Asemic writing is open form scrawl devoid of semantic content

Jeremy Balius - Berlin Stories 2

I think this stuff is really gorgeous. Like the early days of Performance, asemica has no meaning – its tantalizing topography is enough. Its inherent meaninglessness is part of its innocent charm. But maybe I’m just projecting my ideals onto it. Maybe other artists have different ideas regarding asemic writing. There is probably an artist that finds a connection between the scrawling gibberish of asemica to the white noise of Twitter feeds. There is probably an artist that draws lines between asemic writing and two-dimensional abstraction of child abuse.

But that’s the thing!! It still doesn’t mean anything – we are merely projecting meaning onto it.

If the New York Performance Scene wants to take a step towards fruitful discussion, they should look at themselves and ask, “why are we gibbering?”.

Then, maybe, we can talk about how we give gibberish meaning and how that becomes the beginning of language.