But is it art?

Morning teamsters, here’s yesterday’s Sunday Times column, just in case you missed it. Hope you enjoy it.



As I write this, a South African performance artist living in Paris is preparing to go to court for dressing up like a bird, tying a live rooster to his penis with a ribbon and dancing around the Eifel Tower, earlier this year.

Unfortunately there’s no video evidence, which is a shame. For surely if nothing else, the cell phone video capability function was invented for just this kind of sightseeing.

Steven Cohen managed to dance with the cock attached to his cock for about ten minutes before he was arrested and held by Paris police on charges of indecent exposure. Cohen was released later the same day and will be appearing in court next Tuesday to defend the charges, where hopefully he’ll be wearing a suit and tie over the cock attached to his rooster.



According to the artist he was trying to ‘evoke his situation’, which is ‘being split between two countries.’ His native land, South Africa, and France, where he lives now. Don’t worry it’s performance art, you’re not meant to understand it.

Wikipedia says that performance art may either be scripted or unscripted, random or carefully orchestrated; spontaneous or otherwise carefully planned and with or without audience participation. It can also be either live or via media and it can happen anywhere in any venue or setting for any length of time. And the performer can be present or absent. So there you have it, clear as mud.

By that description, I hereby declare this column performance art. My hair today is also performance art, as is the old tea bag lying next to my sink that I keep forgetting to throw away.

Is it really art, or is it just a bunch of crazy people looking for an excuse to run around the streets dressed like a llama, taking interpretive dance to a whole new level, and then casting their bowel movements in resin and forcing people to examine them.

And they always have these strange descriptions of their work. That it ‘explores the relationship between performer and audience, and limits of the body, and the possibilities of the mind’. When in actual fact it’s just a turd in a box.

As with any industry, not all of it is nuts. Performance art has been around since ancient Greece, and some of it really does unlock some interesting debates. In 1974 Marina Abramovic sat passively at a table covered with 72 objects ranging from a rose and a feather, to a whip, scissors, a scalpel and even a gun and a single bullet. For six hours she allowed the audience to do whatever they wanted to her. At first the audience was cautious and gentle but soon they started to inflict pain on her. They cut her clothes, pricked her with rose thorns and someone even pointed the gun at her head. After six hours she stood up and walked towards the audience, who ran away, not wanting to face any kind of confrontation.

It brings new meaning to the term struggling artist.

I suppose we may not always understand performance art, as in the case of Steven Cohen. But just because we don’t understand it, doesn’t mean we can’t be entertained or intrigued by it. Between crime, global warming, and hunting debacles, the world is in a bit of a bad way right now. So what’s the harm in a bit of nuts? Just think of it as an acid trip without the drugs, or large-scale entertainment without the vuvuzelas.

And things are probably only going to get more insane. With social media at it’s current zenith, it’s getting harder and harder to get noticed. These days unless you’re painting a penis on the president, or dangling a cock from your cock, it’s nearly impossible to trend on Twitter for your art.

Speaking of nuts, a 52 year old Colombian Poet, named Raffael Medina Brochero (his name could be performance art) tried to sell his testicles earlier this year for $20 000, to fund a tour of Europe. He came up with the idea after he found himself stranded in South America in 2012, and had to sell his wedding ring to get home. The real miracle here is that he has any testicles left to sell after his wife found out that he got rid of his wedding ring.

Brochero, a father of one (hope he’s alright with that because there won’t be any more after this excapade) claimed he would hand his balls over to the first person who offered him the cash. He said they could transplant them onto their own body, or use them to make a potent soup for all he cared.

I couldn’t find any follow ups on whether there were any takers for his nuts, but it just goes to show, you couldn’t pay some people to go to Europe, yet others would give their left testicle to go.

3 responses to “But is it art?”

  1. Peter Terry says:

    No. This is not art. It’s onanism. Actually calling it onanism conveys upon it an undeserved dignity. It is insanity / stupidity / self-indulgent rubbish. This gives art a bad name, which helps nobody, because enough people already think all artists are wankers. This plays right into their hands. I think calling crass stupidity art is seriously damaging.

    • Paige says:

      Yes, but don’t you think that as is the case with so many things, one or two nutters ruin things for the rest of us. Not all performance art is nuts, some of it does open up debate, don’t you think?
      And even if it is shit, isn’t there a place for it as entertainment, and head shaking, and watching it feeling grateful that you’re sane, in comparison?

  2. david says:

    Good on you for remembering Marina Abramovic, highly provocative … also holds the record for the longest kiss if i’m not mistaken.
    Peter really doesn’t like it, but i’m thinking we need more seriously whimsical bizarre in our lives. Imagine seeing that on the way to work, for better or worse you will not have a normal day, you will need time to re-adjust to conventional insanity, such as it is …
    peace and love P

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