Category Archives: Performance Art

The Circus Comes to Town

Every year, the Smithsonian holds a Folklife Festival on the Mall in Washington during the last week in June and the first week in July. This year was special, because 2017 marks the Smithsonian Folklife Festival’s 50th anniversary.

Most of the recent festivals have followed a similar format, celebrating a US state or region, a foreign culture or area, and/or a traditional occupation. In 2016, for instance, the two main themes were “Basque: Innovation by Culture” and “Sounds of California.”

This year’s festival was easily the most fascinating and entertaining I’ve ever visited, because the main attraction was a tribute to…Circus Arts!

And it was wonderful!


One of the displays was this classic Circus Wagon.

You could watch close-up performances by clowns and jugglers…

…and not-so-close-up performances by acrobats and trapeze artists.

In addition to the open-air displays, the festival included full performances in its own Big Top, and in one of the Smithsonian buildings. But for me, the best part was the panel discussions featuring circus people talking about their careers and training and lives in the circus. Heard some awesome stories during my two visits to the festival.

The Naked Man at the Met Gala (Mildly NSFW — Brief Nudity)

“Art Is Anything You Can Get Away With”

That quotation is frequently attributed to Andy Warhol, and it certainly sounds like something he would have said, but it was Marshall “The Medium Is the Message” McLuhan who actually coined the phrase.

Sometimes, for some artists, Art Is Anything…whether you get away with it or not.  Take Russian artist/provocateur Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich, for instance.

Here he is doing a performance piece called Os Caquis (The Persimmons), outside the School of Visual Arts in Rio de Janeiro in 2015.


That’s Pavlov-Andreevich, sitting naked on a tall plywood chair at the entrance to the museum. His assistant is offering very soft persimmons to the visitors, who are invited to throw them at the artist.

The goal?

“By the end of the performance the artist and the podium will all be covered in the orange pulp from the more or less successful attempts of the visitors to hit the artist.”

Ah! That explains it!

And then there’s Fyodor’s Performance Carousel-II, a hard-to-describe collaborative performative installation he orchestrated last year in Vienna.

This is all leading up to what happened last Monday night at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


The Background

The Met Gala is the big annual fundraising event for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. It’s an evening packed with celebrities—this year’s honorary chairs were Katy Perry and Pharrell Williams—and with the very, very rich.

Vogue editor Anna Wintour—the presumed model for the “Miranda Priestly” character in The Devil Wears Prada—is a trustee of the Met, and oversees the annual 700-person guest list. Those not on the list can buy individual tickets to the Gala for $25,000.

It was only $15,000 until 2014. They raised the price to keep out the riffraff.


Enter Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich

Fyodor’s most famous—maybe notorious is a more appropriate word—performance piece is called Foundling. Over the past two years, he’s staged it, uninvited, at art-related events in Venice, Moscow, London, and São Paulo. On Monday, 1 May 2017, he completed the five-part performance art project at the Met Gala in New York.

Foundling is easy to describe:  Fyodor gets completely undressed and curls up inside a clear plastic box. He’s tall, and it’s a tight fit. The box is then sealed and transported to the event du jour. The artist’s assistants deposit the box, and the naked artist within, at the selected site.

Here’s how it went down in New York:


The Aftermath

Despite the fact that the Gala attendees and staff shown in the video were amused rather than disturbed or offended, Pavlov-Andreevich was arrested on a bunch of bogus misdemeanor charges, including  public lewdness, criminal trespass, and disorderly conduct.

So much for New York’s celebrated reputation for sophistication and tolerance for eccentricity—the police were never called in at any of the previous four performances of Foundling, and Fyodor has never been arrested anywhere else.

The box remains in police custody. “If anyone cares about the box’ fate, it’s under arrest as well,” Pavlov wrote on Facebook.

Free Fyodor!  And free the box, too!  

Je suis Pavlov-Andreevich!


All photos and videos came from the artist’s website, linked above. It’s well worth a visit.

Artomatic 2017, and the Joy of Discovery

Artomatic, the free-floating exhibition space that pops up in Washington every two or three years, has made a welcome return. This year, more than 600 artists and performers are taking part in the seven-week-long show.

Artomatic is non-juried. With no gatekeepers to evaluate quality, pretty much anything goes.* As a result, you can find yourself wading thought some truly horrendous amateur art. But every once in a while, you’ll stumble over something beautiful and inspired. The joy of unexpectedly finding something that gives you pleasure is what makes Artomatic so much fun.

The location of Artomatic changes with each show, moving to a different building “in transition”. This year, it fills seven floors of a currently unoccupied office building in Crystal City. I was able to tour four of the floors before museum fatigue kicked in, and I plan to return to see the rest of this year’s show before it ends on 6 May 2017.

Here are some of the things that caught my eye during yesterday’s visit:

 


There’s more to Artomatic than the visual arts. The event also features music, video, film, poetry, performance art, dance parties, and the occasional magician.

Here’s today’s events schedule:


*I’ve never seen the artists’ agreement documents, so I don’t know whether there are restrictions on content. The show stipulates that it’s designed for adults, but there were plenty of families with children touring the exhibition yesterday.

Because I Haven’t Posted Any Cristiano Ronaldo Fanboy Stuff Recently

Being in Madrid reminded me of a video I’d seen about a year ago.

As part of a promotion for ROC headphones, a heavily disguised Cristiano Ronaldo wandered into the Plaza del Callao in central Madrid and started messing around with a soccer ball. He went undetected for about an hour.

Then he unmasked.


The Biggest Winner: Little Nicolás, who will be telling stories about this for the rest of the 21st century.

The Biggest Loser: The girl who turned CR down when he asked for her phone number, who will be kicking herself for about the same length of time.