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Feminist performance art VS Black Flag, Sabbath, and other culturally masculine institutions


 
Jen Ray’s paintings of “sparring Amazonian women who inhabit decaying, semi-surrealist and strangely beautiful wastelands” evoke the late ‘70s avant-post-psychedelic science fiction worlds one would associate with Heavy Metal (the magazine, not the music), but with a decidedly feminist bent—both in subject matter, and, some might argue, in form as well. Angry, jagged, “masculine” lines are filled in with soft, “feminine” washes of color—that is if colors and lines can even be described as “masculine” or “feminine” in the 21st century.
 

Untitled. 2007. (Detail)—Click on image for larger version.
 
Ray seems to delight in playing with gender stereotypes, and it’s all the more obvious in the exceptional performance pieces she constructs to augment her magnificent large-scale works of fine art.

North Carolina born, Ray was based out of Berlin for nearly a decade before recently returning to her home state. Her exhibitions of painting and performance have been presented in Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Dusseldorf, Wolfsburg, Paris, Copenhagen, Mexico City, Amersfoort (Netherlands), and most recently, at New York’s Albertz Benda gallery

Ray’s newest exhibition, Deep Cuts, runs at Albertz Benda until November 7th. The presentation which accompanied the opening, directed by Ray, featured a performance by Honeychild Coleman and Amor Schumacher along with a chorus of women backing up détourned renditions of Public Enemy’s “Countdown to Armageddon” and The Guess Who’s “American Woman.”

In a world where the mere mention of the phrase “performance art” sends eyes rolling with assumptions of self-indulgent, pretentious, mess-making (and add the word “feminist” to that phrase and you’ll likely lose even more dudebro interest) it’s remarkable how entertaining, as well as conceptual and thought-provoking, Jen Ray’s productions are. It’s very nearly as populist as it is powerful in its approach.

Give it a couple of minutes to ramp up and stick with it till the end… this is killer:
 

 
The first of Jen Ray’s performance works that I viewed (and still my favorite) was Hits which takes Black Flag’s tongue-in-cheek 1987 macho party-anthem “Annihilate This Week” and turns it on its ass. My remark upon first viewing this piece was “this is more interesting than any (punk band’s) show I’ve been to in the past five years.” The sterile atmosphere of the gallery space and its attendees being invaded by singer “Mad Kate” out-Rollins-ing Rollins somehow makes the proceedings even more “punk.”

This may not be safe for some work environments:
 

 
Much more after the jump…

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Posted by Christopher Bickel
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10.27.2015
08:50 am
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Scottee’s ‘Follow’: how to gain more Twitter fans (or not)

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Scottee’s a bit of a legend in British performance art and cabaret circles, even though he’d hate to admit it himself. The 26-year-old writer/performer/director has already worked with some of the biggest names in this field and won a host of prestigious awards, not to mention a bunch of notoriety and some serious critical acclaim. 

While there’s more than a hint of Leigh Bowery to Scottee’s persona, he denies seeing himself as a “drag queen,” even if that’s how the staff at Marks & Spencer refer to him. What Scottee Scottee is, beyond the messed-up make up and torn stockings, is a performer, as his involvement with London’s Duckie collective, and his own Eat Your Heart Out troupe, proves. From his own website:

He has broken limbs, been questioned by Police and lost 100’s of pairs of high heels in his determination to please and challenge his audiences. Scottee has been critically compared to variety and music hall greats with his unique practice of light entertainment. 

His brash, clumsy and obnoxious approach to performance has left audiences confused, annoyed & covered in glitter. Whatever you think of Scottee - he probably won’t care.

But still, all this is not enough. Scottee wants more.

His latest project is called Follow and traces his efforts to attract more followers to his Twitter account. The end goal is for Scottee to have more followers on that social network than the British TV psychic Russell Grant, tho whom Scottee bares a passing resemblance, and often gets compared (it’s those sweaters, dear).

So far, so self-indulgent, I can hear you thinking. Well, yeah. All performance art is self-indulgent. What’s more important is what the viewer takes from the experience, and what light the artist can shed on cultural, and political, phenomena. And surprisingly, a project about attracting more Twitter followers is actually pretty good in that respect.

Who is real? What is real? Why should that really matter? Are online relationships as valid as real-world contact? Even if it’s with a robot? If they’re not as valid, then why not?

Scottee is open in proclaiming that social networking is the best invention in the history of humankind, and he makes for a compelling voice on our journey through Twitter’s seamy underbelly. Here is part two of the ongoing Follow video series, but if you’d rather watch Follow chronologically, part one is here:
 

 
Follow is running in conjunction with the Abandon Normal Devices festival, and you can follow Scottee Scottee on Twitter here.

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
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08.03.2012
09:41 am
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Gilbert and George: Living Sculptures

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Perhaps best known for their brilliantly-colored, wall-sized paintings, artists Gilbert and George have been working together since they first met at St. Martin’s School of Art in London, 1967. The pair claim they became friends as George was the only person who could understand the Italian-born Gilbert’s poorly spoken English. “It was love at first sight,” they have since claimed. It was while they were students that Gilbert and George first devised their trademark performance art called Living Sculptures, where they wandered through the city streets covered in metallic make-up. The idea was to “collapse the distance between art and artists.”

In 1970, Gilbert and George developed this further and first performed their famous Singing Sculpture, at the Nigel Greenwood Gallery. Again coated in metallic make-up, the duo stood on a table and moved in robotic movement to comedy double-act, Flannagan and Allen’s 1930’s music hall song “Underneath the Arches” - about the homeless men who slept under railway arches during the Great Depression. Their show proved controversial and divided audiences, which is will no doubt happen with the pair’s latest show, The Urethra Postcard Art of Gilbert and George, which has just opened at the White Cube Gallery in London.

For this latest show, Gilbert and George have created 564 pieces of art from their personal collection of tourist postcards and telephone booth sex cards, advertising prostitutes’ services. Collecting the tourist postcards was easy, the call girl cards more difficult, as they explained to the Guardian:

The phonebox sex cards were trickier. When they saw one they liked – “Luke man 2 man horny fit lad 27 years” – they would dive in and grab it, but would then have to scour the area looking for 12 more. “Transexual Linda new in town” must have found business collapsing as all the ads within half a mile disappeared.

The prostitutes’ cards are a vanishing artform, along with the phoneboxes themselves – “almost fizzled out now,” George said mournfully.

The Urethra Postcard Art of Gilbert and George is at the White Cube until 19 February. And if you’re interested in contacting the pair, then you’ll find them under “artists” in London’s Yellow Pages.

This short documentary explains the background to Gilbert and George’s Living Sculptures, discussing their Singing Sculpture and how everything they do is a form of art.
 

 
More from Gilbert and George, including ‘Bend It’, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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01.12.2011
07:58 pm
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It’s Christmas, The World is Burning, Let’s Masturbate: The Divine David Hoyle

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The cost was a nervous breakdown - contemplating the wallpaper: “Just rocking to and fro, you know, the days merging, the seasons coming and going.” It’s David Hoyle talking to London’s Time Out magazine back in 2006. Hoyle is a performance artist, actor, and writer, he was talking about the cost of being The Divine David - his caustic alter-ego.

“In a way the Divine David became the patron saint of decadence and nihilism and all the rest of it, and it’s hard for that not to affect your own actions,” Hoyle recalls. In the end, he felt, the character was doing him more harm than good. “As much as I used to say, ‘Oh yes, you have to be very sure of your identity to be doing all this business,’ I don’t think I actually was. If you’re used to creating aliases and camouflage and all that sort of palaver, eventually you have to peel it all away and work out who you are.”

The Divine David Presents first appeared on British TV screens in 1999, and offered a series of his thoughts, views, pastiches and whatever came into his head about lile, sex and everything in between. Television was never to be the same again for The Divine David pushed boundaries and challenged perceptions - wait, that description is the kind of media cliche The Divine David would hate - let’s just say he fucked with his audience, and sometimes he fucked with himself, as he once explained to Joe Coleman:

DD: I’m very suspicious of actors and actresses… anything that I do as Divine David is not acting, it’s being. When I say something like ‘I’d like to stab you in the neck’, I really mean it. I said I wanted to rip people’s spines out so they could make attractive pendants and earrings…

IW: David has done a performance where he tried to rip his own spine out on stage…

DD: I just decided ‘I’m gonna do it’, I had Siouxsie and The Banshees singing Through the Looking Glass: “even the greatest stars dislike themselves in the looking glass”. I was laughing my head off. I broke a glass and thought “I’ll shove in it my back and try to rip my spine out”, so I just got it and shoved it in… there were people being sick… it challenged their ideas of themselves to such an extent. But I think that, ultimately, can be quite liberating.

His TV series on Channel 4 brought him some mainstream success, but Hoyle was “mired in drink and drugs,” and to save himself, decided to kill off The Divine David in an ice-show spectacular at the Streatham Ice Arena in London. He then moved back to Manchester, “At the end I was pretty burnt out.” And that’s when the breakdown happened.

Hoyle was born in Blackpool, the seaside city famed for its lights, its shows, its candy rock, its kiss-me-quick hats and its Tower. As a gay child, living in Blackpool was “horrendous. Going to school everyday was like “was like walking to your death on a daily basis. Knowing that you were going to get assaulted, knowing that you didn’t have anybody to talk to.” As he told The Times there was no one to turn to, even his teachers were unsympathetic:

“They would watch as my bag was emptied out of the window, three storeys up. They would allow it because they believed that by subjecting me to violence it would make me heterosexual. Your life is a nightmare but you can’t tell them why, because what you are is so massively wrong that what people are doing by assaulting you is the right thing. You should be assaulted for being a homosexual. That’s what was going on in my mind.”

Hoyle coped by turning his pain into comedy. At 17 he made his stage debut at a working men’s club, the Belle Vue.

“I created this character who was the illegitimate offspring of the Duke of Edinburgh and Dorothy Squires. His name was Paul Munnery-Vain, taken from the pulmonary vein in your heart.”

He was a success, and you know the rest was…as they say, and started Hoyle onto his brilliant career.

Then in the 1990s, Hoyle developed the Divine David, a “queer cultural terrorist,” who satirized the lifestyles many of his audiences held dear - gay-community narcissism, the chauvinism of drag artists, sexual politics, celebrity culture and sex. Hoyle was not just mining the world around him, but using up large chunks of himself - and it came at a cost.

Six years after Divine David’s death-on-ice, David Hoyle returned to “straight” performance, and world domination with more brutal, brilliant, emotionally charged and bitingly funny shows. As the writer Paul Darling recently commented, “David Hoyle is a political/comic/philosophical/poetic GENIUS and we’re lucky to have him.”

And here’s where it started with Hoyle as The Divine David.
 

 
More Divine David and Bonus Clips of David Hoyle at home after the jump..
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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12.14.2010
07:19 pm
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Members of Russian Performance Art Group ‘Voina’ Arrested and Charged

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Two leading members of Russia’s radical art group Voina (“War”), Oleg Vorotnikov, 32, and Leonid Nikolaev, 27, have been charged with “criminal mischief”, after turning over police cars in St. Petersburg as a protest against police corruption, last September.

Nikolayev and Vorotnikov were arrested at a Moscow apartment on 15 November, and brought to St. Petersburg the next day, where they have since been held in custody at a pretrial detention center.

According to witnesses, the pair were handcuffed and had bags put over their heads when arrested. The police searched the apartment and confiscated computers, hard drives, USB flash drives, cell phones and various papers.

The police said that the damage inflicted on the police cars totaled 98,000 rubles ($3,146).

If convicted, the two artists could face up to five years in prison. The charges have surprised members of Voina, as the arrests come two months after the car-flipping incident and the police targeted only two of the seven individuals involved. The St. Petersburg Times reports:

Nikolayev and Vorotnikov’s lawyers appealed the artists’ pretrial detention Tuesday, according to the web site Free Voina, which is campaigning for the release of the artists.

Both have refused to speak to investigators, referring to the Constitution, which guarantees the right of accused people not to give evidence against themselves, the site reported.

According to the web site, investigators have expressed their intention to re-arrest another Voina artist, Natalya Sokol, who was briefly detained on 15 November but was released because she has a young son.

In emailed comments to The St. Petersburg Times, Voina’s spokesman Alexei Plutser-Sarno described the charges as “illegal.”

“The criminal case was filed for the artistic stunt ‘Palace Revolution,’ when the artists demanded, metaphorically, the reform of the Interior Ministry and an end to police arbitrariness,” he wrote.

“In response to this demand, the Interior Minister is insisting that prosecutors demand [five] years in prison. Effectively, the artists are charged with ideological hatred against the social group ‘corrupt authorities.’

“Previously, the Interior Ministry’s official representative was talking about 500 rubles ($16) of damage — one broken mirror and a flashing light. Now the cost of the used mirror of the police Lada has increased up to $3,000 and continues to grow. Apparently, the mirror was set with diamonds; it’s a pity that the artists didn’t notice that.”

Earlier this week, a campaign demanding the release of the imprisoned artists and raising funds for them was launched.

Voina is a highly controversial conceptual art group, of up to sixty different members, including poets, artists, journalists and students. The group was founded in 2007 by philosophy students at Lomonosov Moscow State University, under the leadership of Petr Verzilov and Oleg Vorotnikov.

Voina has achieved considerable notoriety in their homeland since their first event on 1st May 2007, when a group of activists threw dead cats inside a McDonalds restaurant in Moscow. 

In 2008, they made international news with their performance piece Fuck for the Heir Puppy Bear, in which five couples (including a heavily pregnant woman) had sex in the State Museum of Biology. The event was staged the day before the election of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, whose last name is derived from the word medved, “bear” in Russian.

More recently, Voina staged In Memory of the Decemberists - A Present to Yuri Luzhkov, which presented the hanging of two gay men and three Central Asian guest workers, as a direct attack against Moscow Mayor Luzhkov, whose policies have been denounced as racist and homophobic, and the frequent murders of guest workers in the city.

Also, as Dangerous Minds’ Marc Campbell recently reported:

Russian performance artists and political activists, Voina, demonstrate how to liberate food from the supermarket using a woman’s vagina. Perhaps inspired by Divine in Pink Flamingos, these chicken snatchers have developed a simple but effective way to provide their collective with free nourishment.

A more subdued act took place earlier this year, when the group painted a giant phallus on a drawbridge leading to the headquarters of the Federal Security Service in Saint Petersburg.

The news of the arrests has shocked certain parts of Russia’s art community, but it is yet to be seen what affect the possible loss of one of the group’s leaders will have.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

Woman Liberates Chicken from Supermarket by Hiding It in Her Vagina


 
More work by Voina after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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11.25.2010
07:30 pm
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Ming Wong: Learn German with Petra von Kant

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Before the artist Ming Wong re-located to Berlin in 2007, he decided to learn German by immersing himself in the country’s culture. The result was a 10-minute performance tape, where Ming learnt the lingo from Rainer Werner Fassbinder, loosely autobiographical film, The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant.

Believing that one of the best ways to get insight into a foreign culture is through the films of that country, the artist has adopted one of his favourite German films as his guide, The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972) by Fassbinder, about a successful but arrogant fashion designer in her mid-thirties, who falls into despair when she loses the woman she loves.

Putting himself in the mould of German actress Margit Carstensen in the role of Petra Von Kant - for which she won several awards - the artist attempts to articulate himself through as wide a range of emotions as displayed by the actress in the climactic scene from the film, where our tragic lovesick anti-heroine goes through a hysterical disintegration.

With this work the artist rehearses going through the motions and emotions and articulating the words for situations that he believes he may encounter when he moves to Berlin as a post-35-year-old, single, gay, ethnic-minority mid-career artist - i.e. feeling bitter, desperate, or washed up. („Ich bin im Arsch”)

With these tools, he will be armed with the right words and modes of expressions to communicate his feelings effectively to his potential German compatriots.

Since then, Singapore’s foremost artist Wong has continued with his examination of “the performative veneers of language and identity, through his own World Cinema,” going on to use Douglas Sirk’s Imitation of Life to question ethnicity and identity.

Life of Imitation was commissioned by the National Arts Council for the Singapore pavilion in the 53rd Venice Biennale. Re-staged at SAM with a new design and additional works, it will thereafter tour other cities.

Re-inventing a Hollywood drama on racial identity by Douglas Sirk, the film — set up with two screens showing the same film simultaneously — evokes a peculiar sense in the viewer.

The film’s main protagonist are a black mother and her mixed race daughter who denies her mixed origins and pretends she is white. Initially denying her visiting mother an intimate meeting, she eventually breaks down in her mother’s arms.

Through the powerful images and execution of concept, Wong also attempts to erase the different ethnicities by having three male actors from three ethnic groups in Singapore take turns playing the black mother and her mixed-race daughter, with the identity of each actor changing after each shoot.

This year, he re-visualized, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Teorema in the work called, Devo Partire, Domani (I Must Leave, Tomorrow). The title is taken from one of the few lines spoken by Terence Stamp in the film, whose arrival into the home of an upper class Milanese family, alters their lives. 

Produced by Napoli Teatro Festival Italia 2010 and Singapore Biennale 2011, Devo Partire. Domani is a 5-channel video installation inspired by the cult arthouse 1968 Italian film ‘Teorema’ by Pier Paolo Pasolini. In this work the artist plays every character of a bourgeois Italian household which goes through an identity crisis after the visitation of a mysterious Stranger.

Ming Wong has adapted the story to contemporary times and to the setting of Naples. Entirely filmed on location, the work makes extensive use of the Neopolitan landscape - including the Scampia drug ghetto, the failed industrial desert of Bagnoli, the volcano of Vesuvius, the archeological museum and the vibrant streets of Naples – to offset the attempts by the Singapore-born artist to pass off as archetypal Italian characters inhabiting these genuine spaces. Ghosts of the past revisit their lives; statues of Gods come alive. Visions of an apocalyptic future, references to Italian cinema and cinema history enter the picture, recalling not just Pasolini’s work but also his persona and legacy.

Ming Wong will be speaking at the BFI’s Afterimage event, in London, on 6 November, and then taking part in the Myths of the Artist Symposium at the Tate Modern London on 20 November.
 

 
Bonus clips from Ming Wong, Petra von Kant, plus interview after the jump
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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10.23.2010
11:58 am
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