Do We Need More Performance Art?
I HAVE BEEN SURVEYING THE WORLD OF PERFORMANCE ART.
It’s not hard to do –just look in your local newspaper for listings under “Live Entertainment and whenever you see something that boasts only one person doing the show, you’ve found it. But beware and tread carefully.
Most of the “Performance Art” solo performers that I’ve met over the years have been solo because nobody else in their right mind would get on a stage with them. Would YOU want to share the stage with a guy smearing ice cream all over his body? Not unless you brought the chocolate syrup and a spoon. But that would also call for a very low passable sense of culinary hygiene.
If you are looking to me for an explanation -you’re outta luck.
There are different classifications of “Performance Artists” and the folks who wear that label. Some are out of work legitimate actors who do a solo show for the money. Then there are those who picture themselves as dancers, but have neither talent nor skill, so they go the Performance Art route just to get stage time as catharsis.
Then there are those who are desperately in need of approval. At the age of four they danced and sang in the living room for the family. Now, twenty years later they paint themselves blue, wave their arms and bay at the moon. There’s not much call for that outside of mental health clinics and hostage situations.
There are also a large number of Performance Artists who are just your garden variety exhibitionists. These are the people who will do things onstage in front of a paying audience, things that, if there was no paying audience, would probably get them arrested on a variety of charges.
For a while I was doing solo performing of monologues I had written for that purpose. My background was in live theater and there were times when I had trouble finding parts. That’s just reality.
I had one piece about a jazz singer that got onstage in music clubs. I would go up when the musicians took a break. I wasn’t sure how I would be received, but it all went over very well. I hit a responsive nerve with both the audience and the musicians. Those were good times.
I met a number of folks who considered themselves strictly as “Performance Artists.” They never auditioned for anything with theater companies. Most had no real training. Of course, doing what they did, they never rehearsed, saying that to do so would, “Destroy the spontaneity.” I think they were just lazy and got onstage for their own jollies and the audience was there to cut down on the echoes and get them a few bucks. I think it also gave them something to tell their parents. “But, Dad, I’m an artist. Mom saw my last show. By the way, how is she feeling now? She must have eaten a bad clam while she was visiting with me.”
It must be a difficult chore to be the parent of a child who performs naked while skateboarding on a well-lit stage. (I’m not making up that one.) Mom and Dad shelled out beaucoup bucks for Junior’s college education only to have him come home for Christmas Break with more body piercings than everybody at Little Big Horn.
Personally, I don’t think we need more Performance Art. We could use a few more Therapists who specialize in dealing with the truly whacky among us. I don’t see these performers as potentially dangerous to others. They might hurt themselves while trying to do an Interpretive Dance on a floor covered with about fifty dollars worth of Par-Kay Margarine, but they aren’t creative enough to come up with anything that might injure someone else. That’s about it.