Sunday, February 28, 2010

Brooklyn is Burning 4 at PS1: The Morning After.

"Weird Woman", Genesis BREYER P-ORRIDGE
at Brooklyn is Burning

I was invited by curators Andres Bedoya and Sarvia Jasso to be a part of this year's Brooklyn is Burning event, which took place last night at PS1 Contemporary Art Center. I have to say that it ended up being one of the most emotionally charged art events I have ever attended.

Brooklyn is Burning took place in one of the large galleries on PS1's third floor--on top of Christian Marclay's floor installation, 2822 Records. Eight video projectors were set up so that during the screening at 4:00 pm, each video could be seen in multiples of 8. This allowed viewers to spread around the room, look in all directions, and be surrounded by images and sounds. I liked it.

Every Woman, © Narcissister
Photo from her website.

The screening was exciting, with sexy and surprising performative video works that often had musical components. (Videos by Theo Adams, Andres Bedoya, Brice Dellsperger, Juan Pablo Echeverri, Erica Eyres, Kathryn Garcia, Kylie Lockwood, Narcissister, Julia Oldham, Genesis BREYER P-ORRIDGE, Lior Shvil.) Narcissister's piece "Every Woman", an awesome and sexy reversed strip tease in which the artist extracted articles of clothing from her orifices, was one that I thought about a lot afterward and wanted to see again. Luckily, you can watch it on her website, in the video section. I can't get the song "I'm Every Woman", which served as the soundtrack of this piece, out of my head.

Lior Shvil's video documentation of Unser Stuckeln Arbiet, in which the artist turns an Israeli mortar weapon into an auto-erotic spanking device, was deeply unsettling and funny at the same time. Bits of the video were interspersed throughout the screening, keeping us on our toes. Co-curator Andres Bedoya had a video in the screening in which he created a giant curtain of hair over a beautiful museum door in Bolivia using long-haired ladies as his material. Gorgeous and creepy.

Video projection during Try Cry Try's performance.

Four performances followed the screening. Try Cry Try's spectacular, glittery, noisy musical performance was first. Georgia Sagri came next, pretending that she (Georgia) was unable to make it to the event, and was being replaced by a strange, slinky character named Jane (but who was actually Georgia). She strutted around repeating mysteriously that she had an announcement to make and that her name was Jane.

Georgia was followed by Ann Liv Young, who gave a provocative and confrontational performance, as her character Sherry, in which she viciously insulted Georgia, peed in a bowl and spilled it, stripped and masturbated in Georgia's face, joked and sang and talked about whales, and got into a shouting match with several worked-up people in the audience (especially, as you might imagine, Georgia). I can't deny that the aggressive and raw nature of Ann's performance did indeed rile everyone up and serve as a strange kind of focal point; however, I don't yet know how to wrap my head around the attack on a fellow artist. (Update: two responses to the events of the night--Sherry's video response and Sarvia Jasso's response.)

The performance space: plus pee, minus power.

During Ann's performance, PS1 cut the power. As a result, Morty Diamond's brilliant performance was seriously compromised. He performed in the dark, with no sound. Something interesting happened, though. The audience rallied around Morty, crowded in and illuminated him with their cell phones and ipods while he performed, and a laptop served as the impromptu sound system. Morty led a moving call and response piece in the nude that was focused on an intimate look at his body and his questions about gender. During the performance, one could feel the warm and crackling energy of the crowd. Even though I couldn't see Morty very well, the performance gave me goosebumps. It was definitely an emotional climax of the night.

PS1 never announced why they pulled the plug on the event. Artist Michael Bilsborough wrote to me today, "[PS1's] censorship is inexcusable, but more so hypocritical, given that Marina Abramovic was signing her book on that same day". I think that's a really interesting point. (Update: see Michael's piece Too in the Pink for his expanded/updated views on this issue; see PS1's position here; see Claudia La Rocco's response to PS1's position here.)

After Morty's performance, a number of the artists and viewers walked over to LIC Bar where we tried to figure out what in the world had happened, and how we felt about it. I sensed that there was a lot of camaraderie among the artists gathered at the bar, and I had some wonderful conversations. I think the events of the night will take a while for me to understand and make sense of, but I look forward to the questions and conversations that will come out of it.

Photos by Eric (except Narcissister's "Every Woman".)

Updates (in chronological order, more or less):


  1. Genesis P'Orridge was a part of an industrial band, "Throbbing Gristle" I used to listen to in the 90's. Their music was by far the strangest thing I listened to during my industrial phase. How fun that you where in a show with him.

  2. I thought that was exciting too!

  3. I didn't think there was a "vicious attack" at all. Young began by asking the audience what they thought of Sagri's performance, and asking what it meant. That's called speech. Maybe provocative, but ultimately weak stuff in the art world. To survive here you need to have a thick skin. It was Sagri who really seemed to escalate things, giving Young the finger, and screaming at her. (After Young masturbated in front of her, but still, it was such obvious provocation and Young maintained a playful attitude the whole time.) But the real culprit here is PS1 for censoring the artists at all. (What was their reason? And why pick on Morty, who was an innocent victim?) PS1 (and its "affiliate" MoMA) should be prepared to remove all the controversial art from their walls. And they should be stripped of all the City money they get from the Department of Cultural Affairs. Censorship should not be tolerated.

  4. Thanks for your thoughts, Anonymous. I'm still trying to figure it all out, so I appreciate your point of view here. And yes, for me one of the biggest questions is why PS1 reacted by shutting us down--but without actually kicking us out of the space.

  5. Nice post! That was a big day for everyone.

  6. WELL goodness me! How absolutely refreshing and special that anything camouflaged by the moniker "ART" should still have power! Power to confuse. Power to give us pause for thought! Power to wonder what we were ever doing in a gallery? Power to consider essential issues (WHAT? mean ART has THAT kind of POWER?) and so we bemoan bei9ng unable to actually BE at the PS1 event. BUT...WEIRD WOMAN told me that there was EVOLUTION in the air! That there was dis-integration of stereotypes in the air AND...there was glittery nods to being a COCKETTE in the air...all we can say as a "Wrecker of Civilisation" is YES! When in EXTREME!


  7. Genesis! Thank you for your reminder of what art can do. I loved being in Weird Woman's presence on Saturday.


  9. Candied yams up my grandmother's ass. We've come so far and are still... nowhere. What surprises me most is that this is still considered all that provocative.

  10. I'm going to try to use the expression "Candied yams up my grandmother's ass" once a day for the rest of my life.

  11. fab post. enlightening thread. just checked out ann liv youngs website. best ive seen in ages. although she sounds like pain in the ass.

  12. Would that pain involve a candied yam? Where's Karen Finley when you need her?