Yes. Rebecca Goyette. If you haven’t seen her work, been jilted and dumbfounded by her refreshing take on being an artist in Bushwick, life, performance art and the lobster—then you might be living inside of a seashell. I’ll let the words, the interview, and the motions speak for themselves….
Ana Roman: We live in a world that’s in dire straits right now. Sometimes the last thing I want to see is dismal art. Do you think your performances bring a lot more humor into the art world, and where in particular does that come from within you?
Rebecca Goyette: Hmm, dismal art…it reminds me of John Baldessari’s piece made in 1971, where he wrote over and over again like a kid getting punished in school would have to write on the chalkboard: “I will not make any more boring art, I will not make any more boring art, I will not make any more boring art.”
To me, boring is dismal. However, I do not set out to make funny art – but by dealing with human sexuality, there is so much raw id and chance for physical comedy. I am usually motivated to explore an area of my mind, libido and preference that I do not understand or get at in real life.
AR: Do you believe that Bushwick will play an important role in performance art or act as a new Chelsea?
RG: Well honestly, Bushwick is a great testing/proving ground for new ideas. The DIY outposts of Bushwick are where many come to get juiced. There are some galleries in Bushwick that participate in the international art market, and some who play to a more local crowd. But in Bushwick, local cannot mean yokel, because of it’s proximity to Chelsea and the art market, so the work does get seen by a big cross section of folks.
The freedom to experiment can help fresh or more off-beat, less market-driven ideas to grow. This is very positive for art. Bushwick can also run the danger of being isolationist, situational or scene-based at times. I think it’s important that there be a fluidity between Bushwick and other areas where art thrives, be it in other parts of New York, or internationally. That’s where my mind is at, at least.
AR: Do you feel a sense of community here with other artists in Bushwick or do you generally think artists are islands unto themselves?
RG: Artists are definitely not islands. My support network of artists includes many in Bushwick, and from all over the place. My studio is in a small warehouse building in Bushwick, full of artists. This is where I have the chance to contemplate not only my own work, but those around me. I get to watch their work grow as well as my own. The proximity to artists I really respect and trust means so much to me.
AR: Do you see any differences between the performance art in New York vs the rest of the world?
RG: I see differences in art around the world. I was doing a project in Greece last summer, and got to know many artists there. There was a seriousness in their demeanor that’s different from New York. Culture definitely shapes us and our beliefs. That is totally fascinating to me. We are products of our environment as well as unique individuals.
The video I made in Greece, Lobstapus/Lobstapussy will come out soon, and I think people will agree that the Greek men were a bit serious in the lobsta double-dick-speedos and lobsta-claws I provided them with to perform with me.
AR: What other artists living currently and from the past do you admire and learn from?
RG: First of all, I learn most from artist friends and through all sorts of studio visits with curators, collectors, gallerists and with my performers and crew. And this is because of the direct connection we have in the present moment. But art history has other juicy lessons. My lobsta porn series draws a lot from surrealism with obvious connections to Salvador Dali. I also have gotten so much from Paul McCarthy and his transgressive sensibility, and his use of sploshing, food and dramatic performance. I love thinking about Carolee Schneemann, Cindy Sherman, George Kuchar and John Waters in connection with my practice, as well.
AR: If you had a kid and they told you they wanted to be a performance artist when they grow up, would you try to exorcise the demon?
RG: Well why is that a choice between the two? Performance art is an excellent way to exorcise your demons! I just had a lobstapus (lobster/octopus combination) baby and he was born into performance, the cameras were on him from the start! And seriously, performance art’s popularity has to do with how we all “perform” in life to some extent. Social media itself is so performative.
Also children need to be encouraged to become whatever type of person that they feel passionate about becoming. I was encouraged to be an artist by my parents, and for that I am grateful.
AR: You teach workshops in Performance Art at MOMA and I consider you to be one of the best and foremost experts in this medium. You’ve inspired me a lot. I’m curious though, have you seen many performance artists in Bushwick and what impression have they had on you?
RG: Yes, I teach performance art as well as other forms of art-making at MoMA. It’s a wonderful privilege to share these ideas and methods with people in conjunction with viewing the museum collection and exhibitions. My view on art is so influenced by being immersed in this atmosphere. Through working there, I got a chance to meet Marina Abramovic, on of my heros. I was in the midst of preparations for a performance I was leading, which also involved 20 other performers, at Winkleman Gallery, and I told her all about it. She passionately exclaimed, “Keep going! Keep performing! I salute you, artist does not just mean ‘painter who sits there all day staring at his canvas smoking a cigarette, drinking coffee!'”
I had to laugh, because I still have this weird inner-painter guilt, since I went to RISD for painting…even back then, I was creating performances and videos “on the side” while I struggled with painting. I am now much happier creating sculpture, video and performative works. So I actually have a similar chip on my shoulder as Marina. But I really love my painter friends and painting. I actually can’t help it. It’s in me.