[both by and about yrs truly]
HERE is some writing on the deep and true work of Jill Sigman
HERE is a review of a recent work of mine
recognizability is a strength in the creation of performance art. it is a form that is highly estranged from western, late capitalist conceptions of self and other. A central characteristic of late capitalism is that one is able to ‘be with’ others in ways that are relegated from the body, this creates the conditions for a non-performance based society. no one has to knock on doors, ask questions directly, let alone leave voicemails anymore.
in such a world, performance has become scarier. it is more frightening to behold the other, to see and experience someone without the semiotics of technological interaction to buoy and preserve self-ness. there is a possibility of loss of self, inabilty to recover composure, to chill and keep doing you bruh. to be with another is to confront oneself, and to risk a dissolution that the internet promises to hold safe for you.
comorbid with this estrangement is the constant proliferation and sometimes instant disappearance of information– images, videos, words, memes–all those things that make up the semiotics of the digital age. one thing that i think helps people feel safe when presented with the unmitigated human form in performance is recognizability, or the quoting of all that information through repetition, remediation, reference.
this phenomenon can be a wonderful thing. it can throw into relief the absurdity, beauty, uncanniness or humor that lies within those things we consider the normalized abundance of information thrown at us every time we visit Youtube or Facebook. in doing so, it can make us think deeply about why we feel attraction or repulsion to the information we receive, what we believe about it or how we believe in it. what lies within all of it that makes us tick.
it can, on the other hand, dissolve the capacity for creativity in performance making. when it is possible to quote, not only do certain kinds of images get reiterated, creating a potentially endless stream of the same kinds of images from the internet on into IRL, but they make possible an easy structure for performance. unwittingly, it is possible to fall into a way of making that relies on the timing, energy shifts, and aesthetic values that already exist within the information we have received. Thus we make a structural as well as aesthetic impact on ourselves as artists when resort to the recognizable in order to ‘communicate.’
Nothing is new, sure. Certain things ‘work’ in a performance, modalities of creation and performance that we learn to ‘use’ to engender certain types of responses.
communicating is a problem; it’s based on the audience ‘getting it’.
yes maybe you are ‘making a comment’ on the thing you are quoting; but are you using your imagination? or simply letting us know that you know how to use twitter?
where is the trust in the audience when all is recognizable? when everything is something we’ve already gotten? what about the unknown, what’s beyond us, what makes us break apart at the seams and try to think beyond ourselves? We assume our audiences are on Netflix all the time, or that they want to see something (god forbid) beautiful.
it is burned into the minds of curators and application panels to see something recognizable. it is much easier to take 5 minutes and say ‘yes i see she is making this comment about rihanna’ than ‘well this state looks like it is deep but i’m not sure what it’s about.’ the reasoning that these panels use is that the work was ‘incoherent’–which could just as easily be tranaslated into not ‘about’ something, then, ultimately, assumed to be ‘irrelevant.’
yes, art needs to talk about what’s happening, what’s going on. but sometimes the overall societal malaise, structural ineptitudes, systemic sludge manifests in the body, in the state, in the texture and felt quality of the work, rather than the content. it shuts out the work to only consider what already-existent image objects it might be a signifier for.
and then the recognizability of the artist’s body becomes an issue. When a body that is not expedient for the purposes of building capital, or is in a class-privileged position to comment on just about anything, where does that body go? Who is allowed to make art, or have it be seen? what kinds of ‘diverse’ people do we really want around, the ones that want to be upwardly mobile?
In our work we must deal with what we aren’t doing or talking about.
That mandate makes us inappropriate, especially in institutional settings.
The seduction of content, of what the work is about, is special proof of this. And of a capitalist art system, in which product and identity are intertwined. You are what your work is, it’s how we understand you AS a product. So if that product changes, it’s harder to understand you, harder to pin you down and get you.
And it’s more difficult to see the imagined whole we want to see.
In truth, everything we make and do is a fragment, is in fragments. To maintain a presentable whole gives us a sense that we are meaningful and that truth and beauty is possible.
We are the wreckage of a shit world.
How about art as self ruination: a mess on purpose. Hard on purpose. Makes curators look away: revulsion. Revulsion is a looking away, but also a squirming away. A visceral and visual response. A very real one as well. A response that I seek, especially as a woman from a fucked up class background, I have had many experiences of revulsion, and grew up in a situation that would repulse most artists. Also part of why I do a lot, because you can’t possibly see everything I do. As much of a narcissist as I can be, I will always maintain some invisibility.