Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Paris and Performance Art

I have a confession to make.  Everything I know about performance art I learned from Sex and the City. You know the episode I mean - where Carrie meets Aleksandr at a performance art show and they return at 3am to make sure the artist isn't sleeping or eating a Big Mac. Yeah, that one.

My take away from that episode? I don't get performance art.

Now, I'll be the first one to tell you that avant-garde and progressive artists, both in the art and the fashion world, go over my head. Their pieces just aren't my style, and I can live with that.

However, performance art perplexes me.

This weekend, I was walking around the Centre Pompidou in Paris and I entered an exhibit and immediately saw a gentleman writhing on the floor. In the half second that I hesitated before rushing to his aid - thank god I hesitated - I realized he had a crowd. I was witnessing my very first, live-and-in-person performance art piece. And it was kind of a let-down.

I'm not sure who this artist was, or what point he was supposed to be making, but all he did was slowly roll around on the floor of the gallery. It was actually quite bizarre.  I watched him for a while until I became vaguely uncomfortable and moved on.

The rest of the exhibit shared the theme of performance art, but instead of live viewings, these were all recordings projected onto makeshift screens.  Most seemed to involve dance - and I can understand that. Even the sailors-dancing-with-giant-robots kind of dance.

But one projection stopped me in my tracks.

There she was, naked from head to toe. Not even veiled in the thinnest layer of modesty.

Performance artist in Paris’s Centre Pompidou

She nal optimist, ort stamps, ket! travels, meet likeminded individuals and placate my constant wanderlust recordings projected was rolling around a stage that had two dozen bottles suspended over it, slowly dripping olive oil. The stage was slick with the liquid and caused a certain amount of slide to occur with every movement and gesticulation. But the kicker? She was naked, so every third second or so she flashed her gumbo pot at the camera without the slightest hesitation or ounce of shyness. And all that was before she started stroking herself.

When making a ruling on pornography, Justice Potter Stewart of the US Supreme Court once said that he was not be able to define pornography, but “[he knew] it when [he saw] it". And this friends, was pornography.

I will be honest; I did spend a bit of time watching this projection. But how could I not? Maybe that's all performance art is about - shock value.

But if it is, I'm afraid I'm still missing the point.  Maybe I really can learn all I need to know about some things from Sex and the City.


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