Performance Artists Talking in the Eighties: Sex, Food, Money/Fame, Ritual/Death

Performance Artists Talking in the Eighties: Sex, Food, Money/Fame, Ritual/Death

Performance Artists Talking in the Eighties: Sex, Food, Money/Fame, Ritual/Death

Performance Artists Talking in the Eighties: Sex, Food, Money/Fame, Ritual/Death

Synopsis

Performance artist Linda Montano, curious about the influence childhood experience has on adult work, invited other performance artists to consider how early events associated with sex, food, money/fame, or death/ritual resurfaced in their later work. The result is an original and compelling talking performance that documents the production of art in an important and often misunderstood community.

Among the more than 100 artists Montano interviewed from 1979 to 1989 were John Cage, Suzanne Lacy, Faith Ringgold, Dick Higgins, Annie Sprinkle, Allan Kaprow, Meredith Monk, Eric Bogosian, Adrian Piper, Karen Finley, and Kim Jones. Her discussions with them focused on the relationship between art and life, history and memory, the individual and society, and the potential for individual and social change. The interviews highlight complex issues in performance art, including the role of identity in performer-audience relationships and art as an exploration of everyday conventions rather than a demonstration of virtuosity.

Excerpt

This project began when the anthropologist Diane Rothenberg invited me to her “Anthropology of Food” class at the University of Southern California in 1979. It was then that I started to gather slides of food performances, which led to a series of ten interviews with performance artists who use food in their work. Those interviews were printed in High Performance in the early 1980s as part of the magazine's food issue. After food, I explored other themes: sex, money and fame, ritual and death—all things I wanted to know more about. I realized that performance artists were addressing these topics, so I talked to them, sometimes intermittently, sometimes intensely, for the next ten years.

After each artist chose one of the four topics (sex, food, money and fame, ritual and death), I asked him or her essentially the same question: How did you feel about (food, sex, money, fame, ritual, or death) as a child? It has always been my personal belief that the themes artists employ are born in childhood and that an artist's work explores, transforms, perpetuates, or makes the information from that time understandable and manageable via symbolic acts—art. Some artists I talked with are not interested in that connection and expressed this in our conversations. Some discovered it again or for the . . .

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