This is not a question of whether the economic policy followed by the government is the right one or not: perhaps it is and perhaps it isn’t. It is a question of the honest use of words. One would not say of a man who passed from smoking sixty cigarettes a day to fifty that he had given up smoking, or that he had exercised great self-denial. And one would not, or rather should not, say of an organisation that had balanced its budget once in fifty years (the British government) that it was practicing austerity merely because it had to borrow a slightly lower percentage of what it spent than it did the year before. This is to deprive words of their meaning… If reducing the rate at which you overspend and accumulate debt is called austerity, no one will dare go any further in that direction, though it were the right direction in which to go.
Yes, it’s once again time to wade through the aesthetic slaughterhouse that is performance art. This time, I’m treating you to edited highlights of a ninety-minute “durational performance” by Katy Albert and Sophia Hamilton, aka Mothergirl. This Chicago duo tells us that their work “exhibits a strategically refracted or misrepresented view of current political and philosophical discourse, creating a space where viewers are challenged to think critically about their own relationships with feminism, consumerism, and representational visuality.” But of course. Given their talent, or at least their self-regard, how could it not?
In the video below, filmed in 2013 near an onramp in the city of Chicago and titled Don’t Sleep, There’s a War Going On, we see the ladies beating themselves around the head and face with large feather pillows. Thereby enlightening passers-by, obviously. The duo describes the piece as “a physical act of frustration - an ambiguous response to the implicit guilt of inaction and the weight of overwhelming knowledge.” If the point of the performance somehow escapes you, due to your philistine tendencies, the ladies provide clues to its deep meaning, and by extension their own brilliance: “The lack of clarity serves two purposes: to show the expansiveness of war and to allow [the] audience to access the image first and the meaning second.”
Now cower in the shadow of their artistic enormity:
Because I know you love it, here’s more “guerrilla art” on a bridge. Or more specifically, an “infiltration in public space.” This time the venue is Pier 66 at the 2011 Fountain New York Art Fair, where Canadian performance artist Martine Viale thrills and captivates passers-by, armed only with a carrier bag of bobbins and a head wrapped in yarn. The powerful climax is rather special.
This time, by bringing you the vast artistic talents of Ms Jane Wang.
Ms Wang is perhaps best known for hosting the Earthdance Music and Movement Jam in Plainfield, Massachusetts, where “dance and music dialogue together” every second Sunday of the month. Often to stunning effect. Ms Wang’s areas of expertise are of course numerous and include “installation art, fluxus, performance art, phone photography” and “videotaping with her ultra-flip cameras.” When not dazzling audiences with her fluxus, Ms Wang also collaborates with other, equally bold artists, with projects including the breath-taking Wire Man (2008) and Giant Red Ruby Shoe (2009). The latter being part of an “installation/meditation” shown during the Politics of Shoes artistic mega-event, the profundity of which can, thanks to video recordings, be pondered here and here.
If further proof of aesthetic genius is needed, I’ve managed to track down video of Ms Wang collaborating with Shizu Homma on a “guerrilla performance piece” on a bridge in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The length of said recording, a mighty 24 minutes, is necessary to convey the magnitude and seriousness of the work in question. Brace yourselves. Things really kick into high gear about 50 seconds in.
Gigi Barker, a London-based designer, has designed a leather chair with a pheromone-impregnated silicone base that makes it feel and smell like you’re lounging in the fleshy, comforting folds of a man’s belly. Barker spent two years perfecting the disturbingly realistic texture and colour, which is pink and lightly mottled. The scent comes from the aftershave of the anonymous man whose form the chair is modelled on.
Rocío Boliver, a performance artist, “devotee of transgression” and author of “porno-erotic texts,” struggles with middle age.
There is of course a long and tedious tradition of self-harm in performance art. It’s hardly less common than nudity or faeces. Or anti-capitalist pablum. Though to be fair, some have embraced self-mutilation in a slightly less time-wasting and roundabout manner. In 1971 an artist named Chris Burden had a friend load a rifle and then shoot him in the arm. Mr Burden felt this would lead to him being “taken seriously as an artist.” Though it seems this colossal seriousness had to be reaffirmed three years later, when Burden felt it artistically necessary to have both of his hands nailed to the roof of a VW Beetle.
The exquisite mealtime sorrows of the Guardianista male.
The bearer of these sorrows, David Dennis, has apparently spent an awful lot of time fretting about his wife putting food on his plate. I mean literally putting food on his plate, as when serving a typical meal. Given Mr Dennis’s rather pronounced Guardianista tendencies, it’s scarcely surprising that he’s also been fretting that other people, possibly people much like himself, may subsequently judge him for this patriarchal trespass, as if he and his wife were dreadful throwbacks to a darker, more primitive age.
Icess Fernandez Rojas isn’t being sufficiently affirmed by strangers, software and disposable paper cups. Something must be done.
It’s all very tragic. Our Guardian columnist just wants to “celebrate [her] uniqueness” in an “inclusive society” and her spellchecking software, the subtleties of which apparently elude her, is dashing those hopes. She isn’t being “validated” by Microsoft Word. It’s how utopias die.
For a long while I’ve been trying to interest my friends in the art world to get behind freedom of speech in a bigger way, to recognise that the very health of the marketplace of ideas depends on its openness to entry and its freedom of transaction... This usually doesn’t persuade anyone who isn’t already liberty-minded to begin with. So next I resort to self-interest. We creative types rely on that openness to function. If we don’t stand in defence of hate speech — not the content, just the right to express it — any mechanisms for cutting it off will eventually be used against us. If injured feelings take on the seriousness of injured bodies, we will become a society that pulls art off of walls, cancels performances, and strikes essays from public view. Sadly, this usually doesn’t work either, because the targets of accusations of hate speech typically lean right, and the art community leans left.
Franklin also links to this Pew survey of social media use, which suggests that self-described progressives are statistically much more likely to ban or block people with whom they disagree. A finding that may not be entirely shocking to regular readers.
And somewhat related, Greg Collins on the unremarked privileges of the self-appointed privilege police:
The paramount privilege at universities is not race, class, or gender, but intellectual soft despotism… A student whose worldview clings to that of university administrators and professors has the advantage of accessing university resources, money, and time to drive his cause. These instruments are far more powerful in granting benefits to politically preferred groups in higher education than subconscious biases in favour of particular races or classes. It is a privilege when your views conform with those of more than 90 percent of your professors. It is a privilege when your worldviews are blessed by a proliferation of like-minded commencement speakers and guest lecturers. And it is a privilege when you have university resources, money, and time within fingertips’ reach to wield to advance your political cause.
As an illustration of this leverage, Collins mentions one of many sabotaged speaking events - a talk by the conservative writer Don Feder at the University of Massachusetts in March 2009, the subject of which was, or would have been, free speech. Within 20 seconds of opening his mouth, Feder had been interrupted, shouted down and called a racist, before being screamed at repeatedly and assailed with epithets about his daughter. Despite his pleas for civility, Feder was unable to speak for more than three minutes without further, often deafening interruption by members of the International Socialist Organisation and Radical Student Union. Footage of the disruption can be seen here. Despite the students’ prolonged attempts to intimidate Feder and prevent the intended discussion taking place – a goal they accomplished - campus officials later claimed that Feder “chose to discontinue his speech.” An interesting, and revealing, choice of words.
It saddens all that I believe is truly good so deeply to see such ignorant and violently senseless comments made out of selfishness and an inability to think beyond an immediate and primitive reaction... But how do you address a flood of ignorance, a torrent of hatred and insecurity? How do you speak to the angry voices with pitchforks and torches? You are the witch hunters and you project your own inadequacies onto others without any self-critical thought or capacity for ideas outside of your own selfishness. Good art causes us to ask questions of ourselves and the reason you hate this art is because you refuse to ask yourself any meaningful questions... Your soul will remain undeveloped and your life without meaning if you allow your ignorance to control you. In art, as in life, you must ask yourself the most important question: why? And ask it honestly. Give yourself some time. And for most of you, a lot of time.
Three items, thematically related. First, the world of the arts, where some things just won’t be tolerated by those who know what’s best for us. Like artist and writer Bill Drummond:
It not only offended me morally and aesthetically, it also went against everything that I feel political discourse should be about. Thus there was nothing for it.
And so vandalism ensued. Followed, obviously, by self-congratulation in the pages of the Guardian, where Mr Drummond conjures the obligatory post hoc ambiguity. Is it “a mere publicity stunt?” he asks, as if that were in doubt. “By doing this have I added to the political discourse in the country in any sort of positive way?” Apparently Mr Drummond is making us think, an activity impossible without his intervention, while saving us from the things we mustn’t be looking at. It’s a pattern we’ve seen before.
Lauren Steele, the Cambridge Student Union Women’s Officer who organised the protest, rejected these calls [for discussion]… A statement issued by the pro-choice protesters, derived from the text of the leaflets handed out to passers-by, argued that “Debate is a conversation of power, where the objective is to win: to overpower the other side. This is violence. It is not ‘discussion’.”
Because being contradicted is distressing for a narcissist. Imagine the indignity. Therefore words must be redefined, and redefined again, until talking equals violence and debate becomes impossible. And then, well, the rest of us must comply or risk being denounced as violent haters. Why, oh why, don’t you people CARE™ about the feelings of narcissists?
Evidently, when walking past a loon holding a placard about the post-mortem comeuppance of “masturbators, drunkards, fornicators and homosexuals,” the obvious thing to do is to suddenly assault the man, repeatedly, while braying like a donkey. And then screech with inexpressible outrage when further assaults are interrupted. Readers may wish to imagine how our somewhat inarticulate Social Justice Warrior might have behaved if a similar placard were being held by a bearded adherent of another religion.