Performance Art and Sweaty Crotches

By Sean Alday

Walking up to the door of Brooklyn Fire Proof for a portion of Vis-a-Vis Festival, I was naively surprised to see well-coiffed ladies attached at the arm to designer suits with bodies inside them. But the surprise quickly gave way to understanding. This was one event among several strategically timed after Bushwick Open Studios so as to not be lost amongst the weekend, but still attract some of the curious rubber-neckers who came back for more.

It’s usually the case with good-hearted performance art during the summer that the aroma of sweaty crotches hits you at the door. There’s nothing to fear in pheromones and it really added to the ambiance. The watchers were seated in a large circle under the art curated by our own Jen Hitchings, and there were quite a few in the standing room section. It was packed enough that I may have knocked a little boy on his head with my notebook as he ran to the bathroom.

It’s pretty simple to hang a light bulb from the center of a room, get some cloth and a few dancers and call it performance art. But that’s the cynic talking. The choreography was very start/stop and served to heighten the tension between the audience and the performers.

By tension I mean subtle flicks of ears and grasping the wall inches above someone’s head. People were trying to look non-plussed but there was little room to hide. An original-ish score by Matthew Siffert was interpreted on a clarinet, piano, cello and recordings including the refrain from “Send In The Clowns.”

I can’t claim to know what they were getting at. But a pretty obvious interpretation is “we are all beings running fore and aft while the light dangles.” I cringed writing that sentence in the darkened room. I don’t know how much of the beginning of the performance I missed.

Normally I’d advocate nude performance art, and I’m not disavowing it here, but the shawled performers made the audience uncomfortable emperors in this context. Which was appreciated at least by me.

Maybe this report sounds a bit crabby. I blame the heat, my crotch is sweating.



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