Art F City
by Art Fag City on September 6, 2010 · 15 comments
Wow is right. Can anyone address this statement? “Itâ€™s possible that Ms. Youngâ€™s followers invest in her as a substitute for the avant-garde they seek but lack.” I’m curious sitting here in Chicago whether New Yorkers feel like they are lacking an avant-garde at the moment? If so, why?
This review is entertaining, but it’s statements like those that also make Macaulay’s take look a little pedestrian. There’s a lot of crap art out there obviously, but not all of it’s bad. I’m not sure I buy arguments like, there was no dance, so it was bad, there was no defecation on cue, so it was bad. I mean, I believe it wasn’t very good, but it seems like an audience “in” on and complicit in the show was a problem for the Macauley, as was the length of the performance relative to what was being done. Billing defecation on cue as a talent and then failing to produce it isn’t awesome, but also doesn’t seem like a massive issue.
Art imitates entertainment imitating art. Mr. Show wins, of course:
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Eh, I think he might be on to something. After the PS1 “pee in the pan” incident, a lot of people in the art world seemed to respond to Young’s cries of censorship by lionizing her and her work — she was given a number of opportunities to perform in quick succession (Triple Canopy/177 Livingston performance mentioned in the Artforum article, the Issue Project Room performance Macaulay reviewed, A.L. Steiner collab at PS1) and a great deal of media attention. However, in the months since the original PS1 disaster, very few people (if any, before Velasco’s Artforum piece) seemed to be really looking at her work critically — it seemed, in many cases, that people just assumed that the work must be interesting because it had been censored. In all the buzz surrounding the PS1 incident, very few people seemed to consider whether the performance was any good, instead solely focusing on the fact that it had been cut short. Now that she’s been “uncensored”, so to speak (in being given a number of high profile performance opportunities, including an opportunity to return to PS1) people are actually being forced to look at her work for what it is and to consider the performances on their merits alone. To me, ALY’s work is basically just shock art; aside from being boring, shock art only functions when people are, indeed, shocked. Since everyone already knows her shtick by this point (in this sense, the media attention actually seems to have worked against her, in a roundabout way, in that it removes the confrontational/shock element — this is something Velasco touches on in his article) there’s almost no point in actually watching it. I’d like to see an ALY performance in which no one in the audience engages her whatsoever — no one laughs, screams, gasps, responds to her taunts and provocations, etc. — to see how she reacts and whether or not her work functions at all when she’s not getting a rise out of her audience.
Alistair Macaulay’s review of Ann Liv Young’s “Cinderella,” displays a remarkable lack of awareness on the part of the Times itself. Why would the Grey Lady send a reviewer so ill-equipped and/or ill-prepared to review Young’s work? He clearly seems to have anticipated dance with a capital “D.” Hasn’t he read other Times own coverage of Young that refers to her with hyphenates that invariably include “performance artist?” In that context much of Macaulay’s criticism seems ignorant even as he trumpets his bona fides with a seemingly endless parade of references to other artists. Does it even occur to him that Young’s reading of text, notes and lyrics might be a choice? That the sound distortion and telling “her audio technician to change things” might also be deliberate? (In fact Young admonishes her sound technicians as frequently as Sandra Bernhard berates Joe’s Pub in her regular appearances there. It has little if anything to do with the actual sound conditions.) Beyond this, I can’t help but wonder at the Times’ oddly perverse fascination with Young. This is not the first Times review to question Young’s talent and skill. Claudia La Rocco did that in her review of “The Bagwell in Me” while admonishing Young to “learn her history.” Ironically Young would have to look beyond the paper of record to learn much of that history – especially when it comes to performance art. Penny Arcade, an artist who not only knows her history but has actively worked hard at “Stemming the Tide of Cultural Amnesia” (the title of her film with Steve Zehtner), has received scant attention from the Times over her 30-year career. As the director of last year’s HOT! Festival at Dixon Place, I commissioned Arcade’s “Old Queen” which ran as a work in progress (open to review) for 3 weeks. The newspaper of record let the event pass without remark. The veteran performance artist who started her career under the tutelage of John Vaccarro as a member of Playhouse of the Ridiculous, the youngest of the Warhol starlets (appearing with Candy Darling and Hollywoodlawn in “Women in Revolt”), has had less coverage in the Times in 30+ years than Ann Liv Young has had in the last 3 months. If indeed Young is possessed of “startling ineptitude” (an assertion I take issue with), why cover her every almost-bowel movement? Perhaps the Times should take the advice of its own critics and begin to understand the history of the New York underground and its present-day manifestations, so it can stop bemoaning the lack of an avant-garde.
I agreed with Macaulay also especially at the grossness of an audience so quick to passively consume such trite behavior. I think everyone is finally seeing her behavior for what it really is now that she can no longer hide her content beneath the guise of a censorship claim.
p.s the Times fascination (re the above comment) was attributable to one author only previously to Macaulay, it was Claudia La Rocca who wrote all other Times articles on Young before his, maybe they finally realized it was sensationalized writing, maybe they also smartened up enough to contact the artist she attacked at PS1 in the last article that re-capped on her performance “lecture” where Young’s remorseful pandering is highlighted.
I saw this show… it was awful. We left while the audience was crowding around her to help her poop. It was stunningly boring. Screaming, jumping up and down, and getting sweaty doesn’t make you an interesting performance artist. Her *authorship* was lazy. I found the audience (chock full o’ hipsters, btw) reaction to be bizarre… I’m surprised more people didn’t leave. I giggled through it for the sheer ridiculousness of the whole situation. Not once was I truly riveted. Not once did I feel she really even deserved my attention, which she was working so hard for. I would hardly even call her a feminist. One of the most poorly wrought performance pieces I’ve ever witnessed.
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