Sunday, November 7, 2010
Can performance art be treated like performing art – something to be repeated and reinterpreted by anyone with adequate experience, skill, and conviction, like the script of a play or a musical score? Abramović believed so – that the extremely personal, expressive, and transformative acts of performance art could be liberated from their author. When Marina Abramović Dies: A Biography by James Westcott
When I went to see the Marina Abramović retrospective at MoMA I realized that many of the things she has done for art, I have done for sex. Breath play, objectification, cutting, flogging, slapping; there were elements of my sex life all around me, but in the expansive white walls of a museum rather than the cozy dim lights of my bedroom. I've been interested in the intersection between bdsm and art for a long time, but only recently has it occurred to me that I could experiment with this myself.
A while ago I went to a combination art and sex play party. I decided to do something for my Cracked Spines series. I wanted to use a quote from Jean Genet, so channeling Carolee Schneemann and a smidge of Matthew Barney I did a drawing with a Sharpie in my mouth while bound in a straight jacket.
When I saw the artifacts from Abramović's Rhythm 0 at the museum (the table of objects and a still photo) I was fascinated. When I saw it performed live during The Artist is Absent, I knew I had to try this myself.
I did a test run with a small party of friends in my home. There were 69 objects ranging from the benign (body paint, a cookie, ribbon, a pearl necklace), to the sexual (condoms, a glass dildo, a vibrator), to objects of pain (floggers, riding crop, a metal ruler). People stood and sat chatting with friends, drinking wine and nibbling snacks in front of the table with the sign taped to the wall above. There was no announcement made. At one point I stood on the white sheet on the floor next to the table and waited. Minutes went by as the room got a bit quiet and people waited for someone to make the first move. I stood completely silent, looking straight ahead, unmoving (unless someone moved me) and totally passive for a little over two (maybe two and a half) hours. I could have (and wanted to) go longer, but the party wanted me back. Through the whole process I had never felt more powerful, more confident and more in control in my life.
I did it a second time at Dark Odyssey. This time there were a lot more people and more importantly people who didn't know me. This time I put no obvious bdsm toys or implements of pain. There were also no obvious sex toys. To my surprise and pleasure, the experience proved to be far more powerful and the participants much more creative than I expected. It was pleasurable, terrifying, arousing, nerve wracking, calming, painful, meditative, funny, dehumanizing and empowering.
When it was over I immediately burst into tears. As before, my only complaint about the experience was that it was ended too soon.
It was done in the dungeon which was not my first choice for a location. I wanted to do it outdoors in a more neutral environment. I didn't want it to be perceived as just another scene, but I realized later how much more interesting the experience became in that space and how the rules and etiquette of play changed. To use the lingo, I was basically giving anyone who came by and chose to participate consensual non-consent to do whatever they wanted to me. The idea of what "bdsm" could be was expanded for me the way the idea of what defined "art" had been expanded 50 years ago.
I had mixed feelings about copying her performance. I wasn't sure if it was "okay" to recreate someone's work in this way. But the more I do these things the more I want to experience what other artists did and learn from those experiences and interpret them in a way that makes sense to me.
I was invited, but unable to go, to a Halloween orgy. Faced with the problem of what kind of costume to wear when you're just going to end up naked anyway, I was going to go as Yoko Ono doing "Cut Piece":
YOKO ONO CUT PIECE
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