As I type this, playwright Neil Ferron is sitting blindfolded with his hands bound in the Hedreen Gallery/Lee Center (on 12th, alongside the Seattle University campus) and he's eating a lot of food and drinking a lot of booze.
Ferron is in the middle of his five-hour performance Asshole, Party of One, in which he will be fed an entire day's worth of meals backwards, starting with scotch and a cigar and chewing his way through a strawberry cream tart, a sirloin dinner, shrimp cocktail, sandwiches, and so on until eggs, sausage, sparkling wine, and a glass of OJ. (The entire menu is below the jump.)
Ferron said the performance was, in part, a reflection of his 10 years working in the food-service industry. He also likes to eat, likes to drink, and a lot of his work—such as Fabulous Prizes, which the Satori Group produced in 2011—is about excess and domination. What better way to play with those themes than to be a young white dude in a suit, gorging himself without having to take the trouble to touch his own food?
- Neil Ferron surveys the damage he's about to do to himself.
"I like to drink," he said, surveying the table (which includes booze with every course), "but this could get pretty gross."
Asshole, Party of One is part of the Yellow Fish Epic Durational Performance Festival, which I wrote about in this week's paper.
Durational performance is in a strange moment of its history right now. It started among 19th-century artists like composer Eric Satie (who wrote a piano piece titled Vexations that would take 18 hours to perform—John Cage and a relay team of other pianists ran that marathon in 1963) and has had its waxings and wanings in the public consciousness. But it's hit a celebrity skid since Marina Abramović’s 2010 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. Now Lady Gaga, Jay Z, and James Franco are getting naked, rapping for hours on end, and getting covered in gold leaf (respectively).
Meanwhile, Abramović, often called the godmother of durational performance (for her most infamous work, in 1974, she laid 72 objects on a table, ranging from grapes and bread to knives and a gun, and gave people permission to do whatever they wanted with her body—things got ugly), has become a third rail in the art world. She's more popular than ever but is increasingly reviled in the inner circles of critics and aesthetes who say that she's a sellout, complain that she treats her assistants poorly, and are scandalized that she made a commercial for Adidas that cannibalized some of her earlier work.
I like to think—with what is probably willful naiveté—that as an artist who's worked extensively with mutilation and effacement, these acts are just another 72 objects, laid out on the table, for her public to use in the service of kindness or cruelty. The only thing Abramović has not yet mutilated is her own reputation. It's her final frontier.
Or, you know, maybe she just wants to make a buck.
At any rate, in the time it took me to write this, Ferron has probably become pretty drunk and pretty full. Things are probably getting gross right about now—so if you want to check out some durational performance and see what the fuss is about, now is the time.
For a full schedule of the Yellow Fish performances, which run through Aug 2, see this calendar entry.
- An asshole prepares.