In order to write this blog post I must admit something very embarrassing and personal…
Sometimes, late at night when I can’t fall asleep, I look at Kim Kardashian’s instagram feed. DON’T LEAVE ME! Please keep reading. I promise that this transgression does not negate any intellectual or artistic sensibility that you might have assigned to me. We all have our weaknesses, right?
Anyway, last night was one of those sleepless nights and when I open Ms. Karsdashian’s feed I was met with this:
If you’re not sure who Marina Abramovic is you can (oddly enough) reference any number of celebrity encounters – a music video with Jay-Z, a stress management consult with Lady Gaga, a James Franco bio-pic. I first encountered (through books and video) Marina in a classroom at NYU, History of Performance Art. In both a school and a program (Performance Studies – sometimes calling itself post-disciplinary or interdisciplinary) that prides itself on challenging boundaries, definitions and labels – Abramovic was introduced to me, quite stably, as the “Grandmother of performance art” – performance art being another one of those porous anti-fields, challenging theatrical, spectatorial, and embodied assumption that might construct boundaries and police behavior – rife with not so subtle feminist undertones. Performance artists, Ms. Abramovic included, have often staged the hyper violent and aggressively sexual in order to re-appropriate the naked, female body from a public and a media that has demeaned it, silenced it, and tossed it aside.
That said, what to do with this instagram photo?? Kardashian captions it with a cool blue heart and Ms. Abramovic’s name. It strikes me like a high school yearbook signature – HAGS! Loved having science class with you….
I would like nothing more than to conclude that Ms. Kardashian’s photo is one of Abramovic’s greatest performance works to date. Posing for the photograph and cosying up to Kardashian -a celebrity figure who embodies so much of what Abramovic’s works have challenged – is a satire. I would title this work “Kimmy + Marina BFF 4eva <3”
But alas, it seems as though celebrity and mainstream fame is endlessly intoxicating – even for those that have the patience to live in an art gallery for 12 days without water or privacy. My late night keeping up with Ms. Kardashian’s photos seems somehow less transgressive than Marina Abramovic’s red carpet ladies night. But why and is that even fair?
Here’s another personal admission – I’m a feminist. I believe in an equality of men and women and I resent how my gender is portrayed in the media and policed by its government. While my own performance practices have not taken on these issues as directly or as aggressively as Abramovic, I stand in solidarity and in awe of her incredible body of work (pun intended). This discord between her defiantly staged body (see here for example) and the one that passively appeared on my iPhone screen last night is frightening. Of course, both people and performances change overtime. Identities, like the academic disciplines that brought me here, are unstable and continuously shifting. I just have my fingers crossed that Abramovic will shift right off that dangerous, red carpet…