Most so-called art performance is predictable, tedious and, worse yet, pretentious. There are few surprises, delights - or shocks to the ossified artworld system – left in the squalid old genre. Most art performance is a case of hitting shopworn, pre-set, marks (hip ‘stations of the cross’) inside a black box or clean well lit space … complete with an audience of hushed, uncritical, and reverent hipsters.
Hipsters and performers alike, genuflecting at a series of pre-dated, hip, signifiers and arbitrated social agreements, around what is or what isn't art-performance ( Robert Wilson’s staged productions, Marina Abramovic’s institutionally embalmed late works, and Rachel Rosenthal’s metaphysical mish-mashes typify the genre's permanently mummified status).
Whenever someone comes along carrying real fire (Karen Finley, Vito Acconci, Gina Pane, early Ulay & Abramovic, The Kippers, some of the Vienna Aktionists, Mike Smith & Doug Skinner) and the audience shows up, half-asleep, expecting the usual lukewarm 'avante-garde' leftovers, it is a sight to behold.
I was fortunate enough to catch The Kippers at The Kitchen, Karen Finley (somewhere way downtown), and Doug Skinner and Micahel Smith at Dixon Place (a real NYC firetrap) and their audience-delighting, crowd-terrifying, performances are intact in memory.
Oddly enough Finley and the Kippers toured Europe together, and I reckon the continent is still talking about it. Considering Finley and The Kipper’s economy of means it is still, hypothetically possible to make galvanizing performance – for young folk still inclined. Pray do, children. Pray do.