Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ars Gratia Artis

One of the many areas in which I have no appreciation for the art of others is the field of "performance art."  People have made tidy fortunes by getting paid to do everyday ordinary stuff, but with an audience oohing and ahhing as they sit there eating a corned beef sandwich on rye.  

Oh listen, I understand that the practitioners of performance art do it as a way to show disdain for traditional theatre.  They say they do these things as an antithesis of theatre.   A fellow named Chris Burden, and I'm sure he is, received his Master of Fine Arts diploma from the University of California and now goes around performing performance art.  In 1972, right out of that college classroom, he had a guy shoot him in the arm from a distance of five feet.  In 1974 he allowed himself to be nailed to a Volkswagen (picture).  1975 saw him lie motionless on a big sheet of glass for 45 hours and 10 minutes.  A guy brought him a pitcher of water and he stood up, using a hammer to break a nearby clock.

So here's the deal: you have to choose pretending to think this sort of insanity is great art, and mooning over the wonderful symbolism in breaking a perfectly good clock and saying that lying on a sheet of glass for almost two days represents man's inability to gain traction against the forces of evil and torpor that even now threaten to engulf us all, or you can say that your innate sense of what represents worthwhile activity precludes this nonsense.

What brings all this to my mind is that actress Tilda Swinton (right) spent Saturday afternoon sleeping inside a glass box at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.  There was a card next to the glass box with this explanation for the uninitiated, the hicks who stumbled across a woman sleeping in a glass box and failed to recognize great art when they saw it: "Living artist, glass, steel, mattress, pillow, linen, water, and spectacles," said the card.

"You paid to get in there!" said the man who sits in Baltimore shaking his head.

Has Ms Swinton been in the box doing card tricks or knitting scarves for the underprivileged or even just reading a book out loud for the benefit of the visually handicapped, she would have been doing something entertaining or valuable.  

But no.  She slept. And they call that art.  

I could just scream.  Will you pay to hear me?

1 comment:

Dar said...

For a class I took a couple of years ago I had to do performance art. I 'deconstructed' an old microwave in spray painted it and then beat it to death with an front of a live audience...the "performance" was, of course, captured on video, which I edited and played in class for a grade. Got an A and instructor was impressed.... but I'm pretty sure no one is ever going to pay me to do a repeat performance in an art museum....