We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

On Edge

Performance at the End of the Twentieth Century

C. Carr

Publication Year: 2012

Through her engaged and articulate essays in the Village Voice, C. Carr has emerged as the cultural historian of the New York underground and the foremost critic of performance art. On Edge brings together her writings to offer a detailed and insightful history of this vibrant brand of theatre from the late 70s to today. It represents both Carr's analysis as a critic and her testament as a witness to performances which, by their very nature, can never be repeated.

Carr has organized this collection both chronologically and thematically, ranging from the emphasis on bodily manipulation/endurance in the 70s to the underground club scene in New York to an insider's analysis of the Tompkins Square Riot as a manifestation of the cultural and social conflicts that underlie much of performance art. She examines the transgressive and taboo-shattering work of Ethyl Eichelberger, Karen Finley, and Holly Hughes; documents specific performances by Annie Sprinkle and Lydia Lunch; and maps the development of such artists as Robbie McCauley, Blue Man Group, and John Jesurun. She also describes the "cross-over" phenomenon of the mid-80s and considers the far-right backlash against this mainstreaming as cultural reactionaries sought to curb the influence of these new artists.

CONTRIBUTORS: Linda Montano, Chris Burden, G.G Allin, Jean Baudrillard, Patty Hearts, Dan Quayle, Anne Magnouson, John Jesurun, John Kelly, Shu Lea Changvv, Diamanda Galas, Salley May, Rafael Mantanez Ortiz, Sherman Fleming, Kristine Stiles, Laurie Carlos, Jessica Hafedorn, Robbie McCormick, Karen Finley, Poopo Shiraishi, Donna Henes, Holey Hughe, Ela Troyano, Michael Smith, Harry Koipper, John Sex, Nina Jagen, Ethyl Eichelberge, Marina Abramovic, Ulay.

Ebook Edition Note: All illustrations have been redacted from the ebook edition.

Published by: Wesleyan University Press


pdf iconDownload PDF (41.8 KB)
p. 1-1

On Edge

pdf iconDownload PDF (202.1 KB)
pp. 2-3


pdf iconDownload PDF (795.1 KB)
p. 5-5


pdf iconDownload PDF (508.5 KB)
pp. v-7


pdf iconDownload PDF (834.9 KB)
pp. vii-ix

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (45.5 KB)
pp. xi-xii

Special thanks for editing my words and encouraging these ad-ventures: Vince AleUi, Karen Durbin, David Frankel, Richard Goldstein, Lisa Kennedy, Erika Munk, Kit Rachlis, Amy Virshup, I'd also like to thank the following for ...

read more

Introduction: Leaving Terra Firma

pdf iconDownload PDF (750.5 KB)
pp. xiii-xxii

I came to New York to live on the art frontier, and I remember the moment when I had to face the fact of its evaporation. A week after getting caught up in the 1988 Tompkins Square riot, which was basically a turf war over gentrification, I went back to the park to report on the all-day lovefest that was supposed to heal the wounds. After hours of talking to homeless people, skinheads, old yippies, and , ...

read more

Foreword to the Revised Edition

pdf iconDownload PDF (534.8 KB)
pp. xxiii-25

At last, I live up to my subtitle. This updated edition takes the col-lection to the end of the century and beyond, and I've been able to include more (but far from all) of the artists who did impor-tant work during that fecund period of performance art history. Revisions actually begin with the "Wired" section, formerly titled "Un-plugged." (We are all now definitely plugged.) And each section is ...

In Extremis

pdf iconDownload PDF (23.8 KB)
pp. 1-27

read more

Roped: A Saga of Art in Everyday Life

pdf iconDownload PDF (621.7 KB)
pp. 3-9

Even as they came to the window to throw me a key, it was Art. . Linda Montano and Tehching Hsieh have engaged in living every moment as Art since last July 4 when they were tied together at the waist with an eight-foot rope, declaring then that they would neither take the rope off nor touch each other for one year. When one of them had to get something, they both went to that something. When ...

read more

Before and After Science

pdf iconDownload PDF (698.7 KB)
pp. 10-15

The body mounted a platform. Eighteen fish hooks pierced the back of his naked frame. He positioned himself face down below a pulley with eighteen rings. Calmly he instructed two assistants to connect the hooks and pulley with the cord. Thirty or so spec-tators around the platform were tiptoe-silent. The body suddenly gasped with pain. "No worse than usual," he winced. "I just keep ...

read more

This is Only a Test

pdf iconDownload PDF (750.1 KB)
pp. 16-24

The image most emblematic of seventies body art has the rough panicky blur of a news photo. Faces are unrecognizable. So is the rifle. And the artist's description of the action is a simple dispassionate observation: "At 7:45 P.M., I was shot in the left arm by a friend. . . ." Chris Burden took his risks in the manner of a scientist-one who decides that he must test a new serum on himself alone, who later declares that he always knew it would work. When ...

read more

A Great Wall

pdf iconDownload PDF (916.7 KB)
pp. 25-48

Last March 30, artists Marina Abramovic and Ulay set out to walk the length of the Great Wall of China. They began at opposite ends, some 3,700 miles apart. In the east, Marina stepped away from the Yellow Sea and onto the wall at precisely 10:47 A.M., the auspicious moment chosen for her by those Chinese officials who'd come along to bear witness. In the west, Ulay (Uwe Laysiepen) planted a flag honoring Moroccan explorer Ibn Ba-...


read more

The Hot Bottom: Art and Artifice in the East Village

pdf iconDownload PDF (702.1 KB)
pp. 51-56

The first time I saw Pat Hearn Gallery I was walking home down Avenue B around midnight. Perhaps that was what made the gleaming, astonishing, almost absurdly out-of-place Light Thing parition. Like "I have seen the future of Avenue B and it looks like a The art world baby boom in this nabe continues to be the story of the season. Twenty-six galleries have opened in the last year I ...

read more

Country Clubbing

pdf iconDownload PDF (555.5 KB)
pp. 57-59

The pig had been cooking on a bed frame since midnight, its 250 sauce-red pounds suspended over a pit. Biggest porker 8BC had had in three years of Pig Phests. During last night's Tarzan per-formance, actors had carried the pig out of the club, trailed by the entire audience. Trussed in Reynolds Wrap, it began cooking in the fire-lit vacant lot as part of "Tarzan's" plot. Seems the pig had been gentrified. The club was the jungle, decorated in garbage bag vines. ...

read more

To Thine Own Self Be True

pdf iconDownload PDF (612.1 KB)
pp. 60-63

Ethyl Eichelberger thinks that at this point in his life he should play both women and men. So when he hit forty two weeks ago, he did his own variation on King Lear at 8Be. Leer he called it. With playing a man easier." He knows some women find drag offensive, but he doesn't know why. This bothers him, as though he'd been accused like Shakespeare's Lear of having "ever but slenderly known himself." I'd never seen Ethyl out of a dress before. But when the curtain rose ...

read more

Sex Gods, Ekstatic Women John Sex

pdf iconDownload PDF (661.2 KB)
pp. 64-66

The pompadour deserves a place in the history of great ideas. No one realized this till John Sex sharpened his hair, exaggerating the outlandish essence of the sex god. It crests a foot above his Club, in this hair plumage like a courting bird's, in a broad-shouldered tuxedo jacket encrusted with little lights, John Sex hit the stage singing no one does the shing-a-ling like he does. Small leap of faith to ask in the face of so extravagant an image, even if the music was-well, less ...

read more

The Revolution That Won't Be Televised

pdf iconDownload PDF (554.3 KB)
pp. 67-69

Mike is mega-mellow. You listen to the Muzak he talks. You look at the freeze-dried color of his clothing. You think here beats the white-shoed heart of the supper-club host. Then with the he trots out one peculiar downright un-American entertainment after Last month Mike brought Mike's Talent Show to Danceteria so Man-hattan Cable could tape it. Bits of it could have been quirky Ed Sullivan: a magic act with attitude (Robinson's Mysteries), a surly standup wit ...

read more

R.I.P. 8BC The end of the never-ending talent show

pdf iconDownload PDF (563.8 KB)
pp. 70-73

For one last night we engaged in "unlicensed activities." Like watching Ethyl Eichelberger. He strapped the accordion on around 4 A.M. and announced from 8BC's stage, "This is a song about loss." An unscheduled gig for Ethyl, who'd hurried over in full mascara from the Pyramid Club where he has a job dancing on the bar. But shutting down hadn't been scheduled either. The city had fingered 8BC as an "unlicensed cabaret." And owner Cornelius Conboy wanted ...

read more

Art Crimes Cinema of Transgression

pdf iconDownload PDF (649.2 KB)
pp. 74-77

...as they danced, splattering phosphorescence over the stage and out into the audience, covering the first crowded rows in glowing spots. And death. If that's your thing. The next night, that first row was in dan-ger of more indelible spots, when a naked and shrieking Brian Moran poured a bucket of blood over his head. It was Cinema of Transgression ...

read more

Loisada Talking Pictures

pdf iconDownload PDF (600.4 KB)
pp. 78-83

There's a scene in Bubble People where the spectral Jack Smith, looking like a drag queen biker, has a little encounter with the filmmaker Ela Troyano. "I am the Bubble Goddess," he intones, then pauses. "Tell me the truth. Has the camera started?" Close-up on his beads and beard and orange wraparound shades. "We can get better results if we're honest with each other, and you tell me when the camera has started. Depicting what a great actor I must be." ...

read more

The Queer Frontier Holly Hughes

pdf iconDownload PDF (570.5 KB)
pp. 84-87

A bout a year ago, I watched Holly Hughes and another woman rolling around on the bar at Club Chandalier tearing most of each other's clothes off during the "Russ Meyer Tribute Night" Faster, Pussycat! Kill! KiW, and we'd been promised "killer go-go girls." The friend I was with said, as we were leaving, "Remember ten years It gets confusing in that uncharted land where lesbians are trying to create something out of the nothing that is their birthright. And do ...

read more

Disenchanted Evening

pdf iconDownload PDF (564.3 KB)
pp. 88-91

Often these goddess events happen at some ungodly hour like five in the morning, as determined by the relationship between earth and sun and the Farmer's Almanac. But this year winter shaman and ritual artist, mused later that perhaps that's why every-Henes assured me that every solstice event was a test. She said that hours before the police arrived. Back when we were still on a yellow school bus, decorating ourselves with tinsel, glitter nail polish, and ...

read more

Big Bang Theory

pdf iconDownload PDF (485.2 KB)
pp. 92-94

The little pink pig steps daintily off the stage to sniff, first my foot, then the other feet cramped into lotus positions. Piglet tugs at its white leash and harness. I barely note the white-clad per-leash, because a woman in black swimsuit to his right is "bouncing" eggs. Hard. The front row dodges the splatter that continues when-all her eggs broken-the woman dives into the gook and slides. At the back, a naked woman rises from a silver tub. Here in the center piece ...

read more

Bad Company at the Love Club

pdf iconDownload PDF (662.7 KB)
pp. 95-97

A friend assures me that if I visit EPCOT Center in Florida, I can tour a science exhibit while being tortured by giant Mickey Mouses. This she calls "the second-best kitsch thing to do in if I never get there, at least I have the Bad Music Videos option, now that the program has become a regular feature at the clubs and on cable TV. I mean it's an option if I want a taste of the weirdness out there Last Wednesday, Industrial Strength Productions came to The Love ...

read more

Help Thou Mine Unbelief The Church of the Little Green Man

pdf iconDownload PDF (556.5 KB)
pp. 98-100

Dollars smell funny when they bum-all too suitably like burn-ing sweat. But the "Reverend" Mike Osterhout thought they smelled wonderful. Gussied up in a black suit and dozen or so gold necklaces, he stood inside the door of Darinka greeting his parishioners. "Bum that little green man," he directed. I stuck a dollar bill into the flame and watched it curl into ashes in the offering box, an anti-gift, the price of admission at The Church of the Little Green ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (569.5 KB)
pp. 101-104

It started before midnight with a ragged little rally directed at the park faithful-the unlucky, the unruly, your tired, your poor. Near the entrance at 8th Street and Avenue A, a plump balding man in neighbors through a tinny speaker system: "Yuppies and real estate magnates have declared war on the people of Tompkins Square Park!" Fliers from the Emergency Coalition Against Martial Law covered a card table nearby, and a young man in black clothing and beret waved ...

read more

The Triumph of Neoism

pdf iconDownload PDF (712.0 KB)
pp. 105-111

There at Chameleon Bar with the other beer drinkers, the neoists had assembled from across the universe-Baltimore, Berlin, Rivington Street. Maybe they numbered only fifteen or twenty. But they were hard core-those who wanted to destroy the existing order, those willing to announce "give me freedom or kill me," those who might wear flaming...

read more

Don't Make Me Over

pdf iconDownload PDF (558.8 KB)
pp. 112-114

Slaves of New York is the first eighties revival. Out of sheer attitude, hairspray, and design, the movie re-ment in the mideighties when a thousand flashes in the pan flared about. Like Slaves, I too can overlook the serious artists and dealers who emerged (most of them are now in Soho) and remember the teeny storefronts crammed with neobadness. The East Village was a toy ver-...

read more

Just Revolting

pdf iconDownload PDF (253.5 KB)
pp. 115-118

Nowadays the East Village seems peopled by ghosts. And it's small comfort to imagine the spirit of beatnik, digger, and yip-pie flickering through the polished new condos. a fast-disappearing Loisaida. In May, Allen Ginsberg and William Kunstler showed up at a squatters' benefit. Ginsberg triggered a spon-taneous sing-along clap-along, creating instant community. We were a tribal gathering of antigentrification holdouts. But it's a short road from ...

Regenerate Art

read more

Unspeakable Practices, Unnatural Acts

pdf iconDownload PDF (793.2 KB)
pp. 121-131

A raw quaking id takes the stage, but at first you don't notice since she's wearing an over-the-hill Sunday school dress or a Sandra Dee cocktail party outfit and she's stepping shyly to the mike appeared inside herself. She's slipped into that personalized primeval ooze now and the floodgates fly open in a loud declamation: "No, Herr Schmidt, I will not shit in your mouth, even if I do get to know you . ... " Or, "I go down on that ass with my mouth, my penis still kinda high and hard ...

read more

The Lady Is a Dick

pdf iconDownload PDF (712.5 KB)
pp. 132-137

Wherever she goes, it's the wrong side of town, because of what polite folks call her "lifestyle." Though she'd just call it "queer." She'll embrace a stigma faster than you can slap it the timeless, tasteless world of dyke noir as imagined by Holly Hughes. In her plays-The Lady Dick, The Well of Horniness, and now Dress Suits to Hire-Hughes has gleefully invented herself a genre with little precedent. From the hard-boiled fiction she loves, she's appropriated ...

read more

Body Beautiful

pdf iconDownload PDF (249.7 KB)
pp. 138-140

The woman in the blue wig and the dress cut full of revealing holes kissed every spectator who entered the basement of Franklin Furnace. "Wait for a midpriest to guide you to the world of to the cave of the shaman." I could hear the animal-like cries of the "shaman.I' Then, as a guide led a group of us through the low light and burning incense, I saw him up on the platform, in his "cave" hung with quilts, sheets, and strips of aluminum foil. He sat there naked in ...

read more

Lydia Lunch Faces the Void

pdf iconDownload PDF (554.8 KB)
pp. 141-143

She came to tell us that the end was near. But not near enough. From up in her black sarcophagus-shaped pulpit, Lydia Lunch spewed out her disgust for this horror called living. For this gov-ernment of, by, and for a bunch of assholes. For a life that's "all about getting tucked" -as inover, up, and with. That forces you to "kill or be killed if ya ain't dead already." She, in fact, would kill herself if "So drop the fuckin' bomb!" she shrieked. She said the concept of "mu-...

read more

Learning to Love the Monster

pdf iconDownload PDF (670.6 KB)
pp. 144-147

It was the week Elvis spoke from the grave, his "ghost seen by doz-ens." (Quoth a tabloid.) Down at the abandoned gas station on Avenue B, the spectral image of The King flickered over a sheet tacked up on a board. Thirty people had gathered to watch a pro-breaking down the body politic of the fat 01' sex god from Memphis. Jon Moritsugu's ...

read more

The Kipper Kids in Middle Age

pdf iconDownload PDF (709.4 KB)
pp. 148-153

The Kipper Kids were singing music hall numbers in the Men's for a capacity crowd of cameras and mikes. Out in the hallway, I could hear a hearty chorus of "Roamin' in the Gloamin'." I monitors. As always, the two Kippers were dressed in shower caps and whiteface, huge noses and thrusting chins, painted stubble and raccoon eyes, but-here, for the first time-each wore a tire with rope suspenders over the usual jockstrap. This was for HBO, after all, not ...

read more

Life is a Killer

pdf iconDownload PDF (687.9 KB)
pp. 154-158

A horror show is a glimpse of your own helpless guts. I'd gone down the Lower Worst Side to Hotel Amazon (ex-public school). In what looked like a school auditorium gone creepy-crawly, one light burned at police interrogation intensity, and our master of ceremonies squirted pink gunk out the eye sockets of his oversized mask. It was horror show time, but it wouldn't be cute. And it wouldn't be a movie, where you know it won't leap off the ...

read more

Is That You? Fiona Templeton

pdf iconDownload PDF (558.1 KB)
pp. 159-161

It was no dream. I'd simply entered a parallel universe that looked, shook, and smelled like Times Square. Suddenly I was meeting strangers on the street who seemed to know me quite intimately. They advised me in elevators, ran from me down dingy hotel hall-ways, and threatened me casually in the parkway at the Marriott Marquis. The man who put me into a passing car in front of St. Luke's told the driver, ...

read more

Deconstructing Dixie

pdf iconDownload PDF (592.8 KB)
pp. 162-167

I realized with horror that I knew those rubbery "Negro" humanoids on the screen. Those were my Saturday morning cartoons. As a kid, I'd watched all that jungle bunny stuff with unconscious, uncritical eyes. To see it again in Thought Music's deconstructed minstrel show at Franklin Furnace was to gag on that old racist muck. My Music-put on the minstrel masks just to stretch them out. They make two assumptions. That those images still inform everything. And that ...

read more

A Crash of Symbols

pdf iconDownload PDF (663.3 KB)
pp. 168-170

Franklin Furnace reeked like a real-life furnace, the bite of something gaseous getting stronger as we entered the basement. Now we'd rub two performers together and-blow up the joint? Sherman Fleming and Kristine Stiles entered from behind a white screen, taking awkward baby steps because they were pressed up against each other, holding a board between their naked bodies. Once they were front and center, this black man and white woman began drumming their hands over...

read more

Two Birds with One Stone

pdf iconDownload PDF (669.7 KB)
pp. 171-173

I remember that night in '85 when I first stumbled into a Dancenoise show at 8BC and recognized the energy of some wild-in-the-streets girlhood: the black bras and combat boots; a deafening ugly sound-track; choreography built from the urge to brawl and make messes and put one's little baby dolls through certain ordeals. The act was ... uncivilized. I knew I'd have to follow these girls to the ends of the earth Anne Jobst and Lucy Sexton flaunt the aggression women learn to ...

read more

A Public Cervix Announcement

pdf iconDownload PDF (668.9 KB)
pp. 174-176

Well before showtime, the little red Harmony Burlesque Theater was swarming and buzzing with sex radicals, sex buffs, camera buffs, and the plain old curious. "Feminist porn activist" Annie Sprinkle stood up front, near posters of the women who usually play the Harmony-the assorted "bombshells" and "exotics." Tonight the cast would be...

read more

Revisions of Excess

pdf iconDownload PDF (554.9 KB)
pp. 177-179

Sometimes I love reading about "the loss of the Real" and other greatest hits of postmodern thought. But we're talking High Concept with most of this stuff, and the texts get ever more pre-, post-, and para-. Academic cultural critics have always invented their own little worlds and turgid new languages. But dip into some of this poststructuralist...

read more

An Artist Retreats from Rage

pdf iconDownload PDF (566.1 KB)
pp. 180-183

Readjust the knobs on the twentieth century, and you can re-tune history so the avant-gardists were headed toward "multicultur-alism" all along. Rafael Montanez Ortiz sees the re-emergence chain of isms. At least, that's his reading of Dada rituals, Duchampian found objects, and Cageian "chance operations." They may be high-lights from the Western avant-garde, says Ortiz, but native cultures were using them thousands of years ago. Our art, their religion-or ...

read more

Beauties and Beasts

pdf iconDownload PDF (555.2 KB)
pp. 184-186

Some families get raised, and some get lowered. A deviant Dad stood in the air shaft outside Franklin Furnace's basement, leer-ing through the window, snapping a handcuff around the wasp waist of his daughter, a Barbie doll. "You've just been waiting for your daddy, haven't you?" he smirked. He ogled. He oozed, because Salley May's Sinferno cut the real horror in this scenario with sim-ulated horror. The daughter's molested by Dad, unnurtured and un-...

read more

Radical Shriek

pdf iconDownload PDF (677.6 KB)
pp. 187-190

Diamanda Galas does not presume to speak for others. But people with AIDS have occasionally told her that she speaks for them. She is an instrument in tune with their rage and despair. And Galas calls her music "interveinal song" -straight from the blood-stream. She calls AIDS "homicide." Onstage, keening into two or more microphones with her wild hair, dramatic makeup, and black clothes, Galas is always a performer of febrile intensity. "I'm not singing about ...

read more

Simulacra Stops Here

pdf iconDownload PDF (662.9 KB)
pp. 191-193

Standing in Tijuana on the invisible line dividing Mexico from the States, I felt viscerally what I'd once nodded at intellectually, an image from Guillermo Gomez-Pena's Border Brujo: the border as wound. After nightfall especially, the fracture is clearly visible. All light to the south. All dark to the north. All ramshackle houses and cacophony and food smells to the south. All silence to the north...

read more

Redicovering America

pdf iconDownload PDF (698.4 KB)
pp. 194-199

He's a citizen of everywhere and nowhere, a post-Mexican neo-Chicano trans-American. These transitional identities feed the work, become the work. the attic rehearsal space at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Guillermo Gomez-Pena is pacing across his new performance continent-black oceans, Day-Glo orange terrain. It's cut into giant game-board squares "to give you the idea you can play with topography." Here, as the War-...

read more

Talk Show

pdf iconDownload PDF (596.9 KB)
pp. 200-205

In the spring of 1990 , I saw an early version of Sally's Rape at the Studio Museum in Harlem, in conjunction with "The Decade Show." Most spectators that evening had been bused uptown from vation in the context of Sally's Rape, deconstructed as it is to bring racial subtext to the surface. So there we were. White people. In Harlem. grandmother Sally, who "had them chillun by the master like that's supposed to been something." Which is the kind of story most white ...

read more

A Cinema Against the Vérités

pdf iconDownload PDF (702.8 KB)
pp. 206-212

On this day, Avenues C and D translate to avenues Cold and Debilitating, but the actors betray few signs of winter suffering. Sarita Choudhury stands next to the camera in a black cutaway twisted straight up with what seems to be wire. She's holding a tele-vision, and in this scene, she'll enter the shantytown to deposit it in a wall of twenty-two other televisions. In Shu Lea Cheang's Waste Land (working title), everyone's a media maven, whether homeless or at ...


read more

Am I a Camera?

pdf iconDownload PDF (556.1 KB)
pp. 215-217

One eye is better than two," declares the sinister self-proclaimed "eye surgeon" whose face suddenly appears halfway through Black Maria on the giant screen hung above us like a ceiling. She eye wants to see one thing and the other wants to see the other." We might be better off getting rid of an eye. She assures us that she sees more clearly since removing one of her own and replacing it with a With his usual contradictory contrariness, John Jesurun has made ...

read more

Am I Living in a Box?

pdf iconDownload PDF (668.4 KB)
pp. 218-220

Aif expecting an audience of crazed homophobes, Ann Magnuson had thrown plastic gloves over the back of each seat in Alice Tully Hall. Near the end of her show, we all put them on, brain was in quotes. But that comes with her territory. Junk culture, especially the tube, infects her like a disease. Starring in her first feature film, Making Mr. Right, she mused (in New York Talk), "Do you think success might mean that I finally get my own TV show?" TV is the win-...

read more

The Vanguard Moves to Melrose Place

pdf iconDownload PDF (685.3 KB)
pp. 221-224

With its murders, catfights, hothouse ambience, and elaborate game of musical beds, Melrose Place is American's weekly For the past year and a half, Mel Chin and a team of fellow artists known as the GALA Committee have been inserting artwork into the Melrose set-not just paintings but props, from cutlery to bedsheets-much of it encoded with secret subversive messages. "In the Name of ...

read more

The Heart of the Web

pdf iconDownload PDF (586.0 KB)
pp. 225-229

Nina Sobell and Emily Hartzell did the first live performance in the history of the World Wide Web in October 1994. No doubt you're hearing it here first. Art history's cyberspace chapter un-low profile can't last for long. Last month, in what they estimate was their eightieth performance, Hartzell and Sobell placed a live video feed at the center of their website's opening page, surrounding it with seven smaller images: hypervisual links to related performances in ...

read more

Call Her Ishmael

pdf iconDownload PDF (580.9 KB)
pp. 230-234

Laurie Anderson cheerfully concedes that Moby Dick was "not really asking to become a multimedia show." But she just couldn't help herself. She rediscovered the barnacled tome when a television producer invited her to create a monologue about a favorite book for a literacy project. (She hadn't read it since high school.) Though that project collapsed, Anderson reread the book six times. "I began to hear it as music," she says. She reveled in its "rambling, rolling sen-...

War on Art

An NEA Timeline (Just the Lowlights)

pdf iconDownload PDF (717.6 KB)
pp. 237-244

read more

Portrait of an Artist in the Age of AIDS

pdf iconDownload PDF (801.9 KB)
pp. 245-257

The kid ran down the block, at age six or seven, giddy with what he'd just learned: "We all die! One day we're all going to be dead!" As he told his little friends, they burst into tears, and par-seen as a very sick little kid for exposing the Real Deal. Recalling that moment, David smiles: "That's a metaphor for the rest of my life.'" ment for the Arts and a major downtown institution, Artists Space. His catalogue essay for a publicly funded show about AIDS made front-...

read more

The Sexual Politics of Censorship

pdf iconDownload PDF (792.2 KB)
pp. 258-269

Martha Wilson, director of Franklin Furnace, a major downtown venue for experimental art, came to work on May 21, 1990, to find large white stickers fixed to the front door: "VACATE-DO THAT CONDITIONS IN THIS PREMISES ARE IMMINENTLY PERILOUS TO LIFE." After fifteen years as an archive and performance showcase, the Fur-nace had been charged with not having an illuminated exit sign or emer-gency lighting, and with keeping the front door locked during a show. ...

read more

With Mapplethorpe in Cincinnati

pdf iconDownload PDF (853.5 KB)
pp. 270-286

The night "Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment" opened in Cincinnati last April (1990), more than 4,000 people crowded into the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC), filing through a space They concentrated on the pictures as if they expected them to be snatched away at any moment. As if that were inevitable. They waited for up to an hour to get in, then for another hour to view the infamous X, Y, and Z Portfolios. "I know you all want to see at least one nasty ...

read more

The Adventures of Andre Serrano in Pursuit of the White Supremacists

pdf iconDownload PDF (693.2 KB)
pp. 287-291

The night Andres Serrano arrived to photograph the Imperial Wizards, he found both men sitting in the kitchen at James Venable's house near Atlanta. Venable, the retired Wizard, was out the year before and never gotten it back, so the new Wizard was going to let him borrow his. Serrano wanted them hooded and masked and in the green robes designating their Ku Klux Klan rank. It was all agreed. Everyone who'd told him that he'd never get to these people, ...

read more

Gross Indecency: The NEA Four Decision

pdf iconDownload PDF (566.9 KB)
pp. 292-296

On June 25, 1998, the Supreme Court added its own dash of sur-realism to the nine-year battle over arts funding when it handed down a decision in the case of Karen Finley et al. v. Na-tional Endowment for the Arts. While ruling on the one hand that Congress may require the NEA to consider "general standards of de-cency" when awarding grants, the Court also declared this language "advisory" and virtually meaningless. In effect, the Court had found its ...


read more

The Bohemian Diaspora

pdf iconDownload PDF (799.5 KB)
pp. 299-311

Aworn gray tepee sits at the edge of the city's oldest shantytown, just yards from where Manhattan Bridge traffic hits Canal Street. But it also sits in terra incognita. The two artists who've Seated in the dim interior on foam pads, Nick Fracaro and Gabriele Schafer began to explain. For years, they've collaborated as Thieves' Theatre, trying to "embody and articulate" the voice of the disenfran-chised. Doing Genet's Deathwatch with prisoners in Illinois. Doing ...

read more

In the Discomfort Zone

pdf iconDownload PDF (701.0 KB)
pp. 312-317

I was looking for a man in a hula skirt. And that wasn't even the good part. He'd made the skirt from dollar bills and planned to chain himself to the door of a Chase 24-Hour Banking Center across the enough a young cop would be asking the question of the hour: "Is this Artist William Pope.L had conceived of ATM Piece as "an attempt to bring fresh discomfort to an age-old problem," the relationship between haves and have-nots. He planned to position himself as street ...

read more

Dancing in the Streets

pdf iconDownload PDF (255.4 KB)
pp. 318-320

The art frontier was headed into his living room, and Thomas Armstrong admitted that he'd had his misgivings. "You gotta be suspicious," he said of the offer his wife, Pat Hall, had accepted would cook; the School would dance. Right in their Loisaida home. "It didn't sound right," said Armstrong, standing just outside the Hall's friends sat munching on fried chicken and candied yams. He was right, of course. Armstrong and Hall live in a new housing devel-...

read more

The Pain Artist

pdf iconDownload PDF (568.2 KB)
pp. 321-324

When Bob Flanagan performed in New York in 1991, potential spectators were warned: "Not for the faint of heart." That perturbable. But Flanagan went farther than most. As a self-described "hetero-masochist, in extremis," he was notorious for nailing his penis to a board. Flanagan happened to perform in a context that explained In 1997, a publicist for Kirby Dick's documentary, Sick: The Life and ...

read more

The World According to Jack Smith

pdf iconDownload PDF (562.4 KB)
pp. 325-327

In 1965, the year after New York Criminal court declared his film Flaming Creatures obscene, Jack Smith created his first performance piece, Rehearsal for the Destruction of Atlantis. Stage directions indicate that the audience would be blindfolded, led into the theater by "very tough lesbians," then instructed by a "mad voice" to imagine that they were all winos, brutalized by cops. At that point, the curtain would open. Time: the present. Place: "Atlantis .... A child's vegetable garden ...

read more

Men? Oh, Pause

pdf iconDownload PDF (674.9 KB)
pp. 328-331

She's taken on some of the great manly roles, running the gamut of guys from Stanley Kowalski to Perry Como. Few women can make that claim, and I suppose few would want to. (More's the pity.) But for Peggy Shaw, the male roles just came naturally, a queer calling that began before "queer" became a theory, a nation, and a possible college major. Now, in a new piece of radical genderflux, Shaw plays someone rather like herself,...

read more

The Statue of Libertines

pdf iconDownload PDF (576.1 KB)
pp. 332-335

Annie Sprinkle stood at the railing overlooking New York harbor, resplendent in full mermaid regalia: green skirt with padded tail, bright orange wig, long loops of pearls. "Look how much formance artist. "Fifty years ago, I could have never dressed like this at the Statue of Liberty." Annie does try to look on the bright side. But her trip to Liberty Island on Columbus Day with a group of "pleasure acti-Apparently the problem was with the radical portion of the day's ...

read more

Washed in the Blood

pdf iconDownload PDF (689.3 KB)
pp. 336-340

As a boy, Ron Athey practiced Christianity in extremis, and it helped make him the tattooed purveyor of spectacular and disturbing rituals that he is today. as a scapegoat in the culture war. The religious right singled him out in 1994 for a performance called Four Scenes in a Harsh Life after the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis funneled approximately $150 from the Na-tional Endowment for the Arts in his direction. Given Athey's back-...

read more

Stripped Down

pdf iconDownload PDF (674.6 KB)
pp. 341-344

Zhang Huan has always wanted to do large-scale pieces, but in China he had trouble getting people to take their clothes off. Nudity is essential to his work, he believes. Last November, he finally managed to stage such a performance at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, with himself and fifty-six other naked people. Of course, One of China's foremost performance artists, Zhang began to attract attention in New York when he performed in 1998 at "Inside/Out," ...

read more

The Rumble in DUMBO

pdf iconDownload PDF (588.8 KB)
pp. 345-349

It was a beautiful night for a knockout-that is, for reality to set in. House packed, energy high, humidity almost low. There'd be noth-ing really sticky but the blood. Addict-went into Box Opera 3 hoping to lose big. He'd been staging these spectacle boxing matches since 1999, and according to his own self-imposed rules, he could not stop them until somebody beat him. As a long line filed toward the ticket tables at St. Ann's Warehouse in ...

read more

Silence = Life

pdf iconDownload PDF (562.6 KB)
pp. 350-352

John Kelly first saw the classic French film Children of Paradise in the late '70S, while studying visual art at Parsons. He had already re-tired from the stage. The ballet career just wasn't going to work. He'd won a scholar-ship to the American Ballet Theatre's school at age seventeen and studied there for two years, but he was fully grown when he started, too late to mold his body for the postures required in classical dance. He real-...

read more

The End of the Edge: An Epilogue

pdf iconDownload PDF (724.8 KB)
pp. 353-360

At New York's first Fringe Festival in 1997, I saw the new life in art we were all going to have once we were done losing the culture war. I didn't see it onstage but in the festival's infrastruc-ture and ability to sell itself. Skillfully organized and effectively marketed, the Fringe began with no funding and ended with no debt. This after 175 shows in twenty-one venues over eleven days. A miracle. ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (629.1 KB)
pp. 361-394

E-ISBN-13: 9780819572424
Print-ISBN-13: 9780819568885

Page Count: 392
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: Rev. ed.