Thursday, September 22, 2011

Day 7: Them and us

We forget that our lives are obscene. We swim in obscenity, we breath it, we consume it. After generations of generous feedings, that obscenity has percolated through our bodies, minds and souls. We no longer see who and what we have become. We live it, we speak it, our natural everyday gestures are obscene, our bodies and aspect are all grossly obscene yet invisible.

Let me digress with a couple of examples; climate change caused by our unlimited consumption which will soon irreparably warp the earth’s weather patterns causing untold damage to eco-systems and populations; the invasion of Afghanistan bringing war and destitution to a people that have caused us no harm; the intolerable divide between the wealthy and the destitute that leaves a few owning vast uncountable riches while others starve. There are more examples.

But our lives are insulated from these problems, or seemingly so. There is little outrage, little concerted action to blunt the attacks on the poor or upon those foreign peoples who remain out of sight and faraway. As the peoples of Iraq/ El Salvador/ Somalia/ Palestine/ Coast Salish wallow in misery of our making, we continue to collect our objects and live our lives as happy citizens of a society that exists precisely to lay waste to the planet and its peoples.

It’s called capitalism and like Sartre said, we are its appendages. It is Capital that moves our limbs, builds our activities and forms our dreams.

The evening of performance at the Gallery Gachet on Tuesday night was curated by Irene Loughlin. Unfortunately, Mexico City artist Pancho Lopez was a no-show; he was unable to obtain a Canadian visa. Vassan Sitthiket filled in for him with a strong performance, but the curatorial focus of the evening on the issues of “conceptualization of reason and madness” was blurred somewhat by the content of Sitthiket’s overtly political performance.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to see the work of Diane Thorn Jacobs. I was participating in a piece by Sakiko Yamaoka, which I’ll post tomorrow.

The evening began for me with the very disturbing work “Action T4: The Asylum is Burning” by the Central-American duo Naufus Ramirez-Figueroa and Adriana Contreras. Their piece tells the life story of a woman who is killed in the 1940’s in a suspicious fire at a Guatemalan mental hospital. The fire is suspected to be the work of Nazi sympathasizers attempting to liquidate psychiatric patients.

The performance begins with Ramirez-Figueroa burning the hair off his fingers with a cigarette lighter, he continues running the flame over his wrists and arms. He undoes his shirt and burns the hair off his chest. He lowers his pants and burns the hair of his pubis and legs. Finally he burns his facial hair. As he does this, the room fills with the stink of burning hair.

He tells the dead woman’s story by whispering it into the ear of his partner, Contreras. She then declaims it to the audience.

Simply told, there is the rape of a child, the girl is 14, the mother of the child attempts revenge but she is thwarted and goes to prison, the girl marries her rapist and has his children. She finally ends up in the mental institution where she is consumed by fire.

Rocco Trigoures was back at Live with another performance. This time a swirling drunken dance set to Mexican pop music, punctured by outbursts of Tourettes-like screaming and hysteria. He smashed his way through a string of pearls with a hammer and gathered them up again as if they were the fragments of his shattered soul. He concluded by kneeling before the crowd while donning a grinning death’s head mask.

Irene Loughlin continued with an invocation of anti-personality in an excrescence of negativity. Dressed all in black latex with black boots and stiletto heels she covered her face with a thick black wig, which trailed a tail of hair down to her shining boots.

A soundtrack was provided by a small transistor radio tuned to white noise.

Appropriately every act Loughlin attempted was foiled, the paper she attempted to tape to the wall just wouldn’t stick even as she added more and more bright yellow duct –tape, her pot of ink was too far away from her ladder for her to dip her pony tail, her stiletto heel refused to damage the radio speaker.

With an extraordinary effort she finally succeeded in writing out the words “Folly Perceived” with her ink sodden ponytail. Once this is act was complete a friend from the audience assured her that the performance might end.

For Vassan Sittiket’s performance, he donned a blond fright wig, a camouflage jacket, black rubber gloves and an American Flag, which he draped over his back like a super hero. Pulling out a brand new dildo he proceeded to violently fuck a cabbage, a cauliflower, a chicken and a cucumber. Small army toys, fighter jets and tanks flew around the stage to the rata-ta-ta-tat of gunfire and explosions. The piece concluded as Sittiket set afire $20 and $50 bills, while singing “Everything is gonna be all right”.

It was a spectacle painted in broad raw strokes. His on-going commentary situated the piece. It was about food, about colonial imperialism, about the state of permanent war, about the lying rhetoric of freedom, democracy and liberty.

Sittiket started his piece with a wish to create a new GMO, a genetically modified object. Presumably, this new object would exemplify a new way of being that would exorcise the demons that Sittiket summons and denounces. This essential part, the creation of the new way of being, was left unstated in the piece. I’ll look forward to future work that presents us a plausible way of escape from the mad, cruel creatures that lurk under MEC anoraks, the Boss suits and American Apparel tees.

One primary function of this art of performance is to provide us a with a mirror powerful enough to reflect elements of truth through the fog of our collective illusions. Even if we all know there is no true escape, there is no “them” and “us”, and that this art and our consumption of it is also situated within the context of its critique, its capacity to reify and portray can help us (or so I wish to believe). Because an even more imperative function for the art is to provide a few useful tools by which we, or at least some of us, can make an escape (even if we know there’s no where else to go).



Anonymous said...

I wanted to correct, that Pedro Guillen Cuevas was the artist unable to come to perform, not Pancho Lopez.

Irene Loughlin said...

That was no 'friend' who decided the performance was over lol. Usually I ignore such things, this time, I couldn't be bothered.

Irene Loughlin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Irene Loughlin said...

For detailed analysis of mine Diane's work, please order the book at:
with an essay by academic Fei Shi.