POST BY PADDY JOHNSON
(Photo by Peter Cramer) Image via: Gothamist. Please note the video of Morty Diamond originally posted here was removed by Andres Bedoya at the request of the artist.
Why did P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center cut the power on the Brooklyn is Burning event this Saturday? Organized by Andres Bedoya and Sarvia Jasso as part of the Saturday Sessions program, the function went awry when artist Ann Liv Young began her performance by criticizing that which immediately preceded her own. Said piece was executed by Georgia Sagri, who played the role of “Jane”, a woman claiming Sagri was unable to make the event but that she, Jane, had an important (never announced) announcement to make.
What follows is a recount of the event offered by an AFC tipster.
Ann Liv Young asked the audience what they thought about it and what it meant, direction some questions at the performers themselves. Lead performer, Georgia Sagri, was visibly annoyed. Young at one point stripped down, and was lying on the floor in front of Sagri and masturbating. Sagri left the room, and later came back, yelling and giving Young the finger. Young was unperturbed, and continued her performance. Shortly thereafter PS 1 cut the power to the room and the performer had no working microphone and the lights went out.
No announcement of any kind was ever made to the audience. Young’s performance ended with her carrying around pan of her own urine. She tripped and fell, spilling some of it. The rest she poured over herself and the performance was over.
Lights and sound were still out when final performer Morty Diamond was supposed to go on. Diamond’s performance was about being transgender, and involved a naked Diamond walking back and forth over white paper on the floor, making statements followed by the audience response “yes!” Diamond needed music and the lights and power came back on briefly, but then went out again. Again, no announcement of any kind was made. Audiences tried to use their cell phones to illuminate Diamond.
There was booing and audience disapproval for PS1’s censorious actions.
Diamond persevered and the show ended at 6pm as security ushered audience members out, since the museum was closing.
PS1 Director Klaus Bisenbach was asked by someone why he cut the power. His only response was to ask “Who are you?”
A couple of things based on this account:
Thing #1. I can only assume a warning was posted at PS 1 alerting audiences to the fact that the work might not be suitable for children. It certainly was not.
Thing #2. Based on everything I’ve seen, there’s a good chance the performances were awful and at least in one instance crossed a few lines. Even if you go by the name “Demon Master”, as Ann Liv Young‘s website clearly indicates, it’s not particularly surprising to see a museum react unfavorably to harassment in the form of masturbation. That said, this is not the first time Ann Liv Young executed her urine performance. If PS 1 doesn’t support art work that involves spilled pee and getting a rise out of people, it probably wasn’t a good idea to invite Brooklyn is Burning. This distinguishes the case from stunts by artists such as Alexander Brener, who interrupted a panel on curating at the ICA in London, by shitting in his hand and offering it to panelists.
The performance better resembles a 1995 piece by Gordon Isnor at Mount Allison University’s Owens Art Gallery, in which the artist played a small tune, before introducing two partners, who shed their clothes and attempted to have sex. Although Isnor displayed no aggression towards fellow performers, he did not speak with the museum or curators about the content of his piece prior to its execution.
Thing #3. PS 1 has a fairly recent history of urine performance art. Around 2003, Wayne Hodge commanded performance artist Clifford Owens to drink his own urine in a piece in which Owens followed the commands of anyone who visited his space. Apparently the two are still friends.
Thing #4. Andres Bedoya has put a statement up on the Brooklyn Is Burning website. UPDATE: This statement does not reflect the opinions of all the participating artists or each curator.
Brooklyn Is Burning is an event that promotes artistic expression without restraint or limits. It is an event that encourages collectivity and the building of an artistic community.
PS1 acted alone in it's attempt to shut down the event and censor an artist. We reject censorship in any form and disagree with PS1's actions.
Despite the lack of power, the curators of Brooklyn Is Burning insisted that the event continue in total darkness. The full program of the event was presented from beginning to end.
RELATED: A first hand account from Bee Sting Brose.
UPDATE: From Kathryn Garcia, a participating artist in the video portion of the program:
I’d like to say on the record that Ann Liv Young’s performance was aggressively directed at Georgia Sagri in a way in which I perceived it as act of empty violence. This may be the nature of her performative “character” but in the moment it felt like a personal attack. She was unrelenting, berating Georgia and her performance. I completely stand by Georgia’s reaction, and I feel that I have to say this in her defense.
Ann Liv’s since talked about it and explained that it was just a character…She’s spoken to Sarvia about it, and I get it, but in the moment I don’t think it could have precipitated any other response from Georgia. I think that needs to be mentioned in Georgia’s defense somehow.
UPDATE FROM THE RUMOR MILL: Marina Abramowicz’s book signing occurred simultaneously at PS 1. Word of mouth has it Bisenbach didn’t want Young’s antics disrupting it, hence the power outage. If that’s the case, it’s no small irony.
STATEMENT FROM P.S. 1:
The decision by the Director of PS1 to curtail the performances near the end of Saturday Sessions was made to safeguard the audience, performers, and PS1 staff from an escalating and potentially volatile situation. The performers’ actions were not previously discussed with or planned by PS1.