Slide Show - Images (mostly) from The Illustrated History of Painting


Sunday, November 1, 2009


Performance art is, as a rule, a dismal, squalid, self-indulgent exercise - and that's just describing the good stuff. Truly bad examples of performance art are far beyond the worst, cringe-inducing, earnest theater piece.

Performance art, as depicted in mainstream film, is Hollywood shorthand for the excesses of the artworld. For example Steve Buscemi's turn as the 'other' (performance artist) boyfriend in Scorcese's segment (Life Lessons) of the New York Stories trilogy.

One good thing about the New Zealand art scene is its relative lack of performance art. Andrew Drummond did some interesting early work in that genre but nothing else of note comes readily to mind....not that I know shit about the history of NZ art. Though, lord knows I've tried.

I've been dragged to, wandered into, came out of a black-out to find myself in the audience of a whole lot of performance when I was serving my time in Gotham. I've gone to performances with women I wanted to rack, have gone because it was politically expedient, and have gone out of pure entertainment error, but I can think of only two examples of going precipitated by folks insisting (rhapsodically or in-agog) that I go. Karen Finley and the Kippers.

I've seen: most of the Fluxus bunch doing (or should I say undoing) their thing, Carolee giving it a late career go, Claes' X, Adrien P angry enough to vibrate herself and her audience out of existence, Linda Montano reading fortunes, and Karen Finley scaring the beejesus out of a knot of suited floor traders who'd shown up (via word-o-mouth) to see her take her clothes off....and too many more to mention without beginning to sound like an insufferable name-dropper.

The 1 performance act I saw that I've raved about ever since was the Kippers ( also known as the Kipper Kids) - two barrel-chested, hirsute fellows wearing (inflating and deflating) condom noses, false chins, tight rubber swim caps and goggles. Their attire also included rubber inner-tube skirts held up with suspenders and athletic supporters.

Martin Rochus Sebastian von Haselberg & Brian Routh did a lot of touring in Europe (sometimes accompanied by Karen Finley) and while doing so developed a sort of private vocabulary - a kind of autistic-twin lexicon of mutually understandable nonsense - which they thereafter employed in their various stage incarnations.

The pair parted ways sometime after one of the two ( can't remember which - but somehow think it was the guy with the von honorific) hooked up with Bette Midler.

Rather than going (hopelessly) on about what they did (to perfection) here's some snippets for your de·lec·ta·tion......