Vestibule Performance at The Fridge: A Reaction by Deena O. Hyatt
First of all, I’d Iike to state how ashamed I am to have taken any part in hitting the humongous papier mâché head representing Ghandi. Things were getting pretty intense, people with crow bars and seriously bashing. A local comedienne yelled out “I hate you Dad!” and people continued to pass the crow bar. Your time to shine, everyone’s looking, camera’s rolling, here’s the crowbar, what are you gonna do? I think I was reacting to the intensity and wanted to lighten to mood by making a comedic appearance. See, I’m on crutches right now, knee problems. So I went up to the huge Ghandi head, hopping on one foot and took light blows with my crutches. Laughing later. Then, back to being an observer, I was starting to get disturbed. There were a few children there and I duly noted their reaction as they shrank down in confusion. No, they didn’t want a turn bashing the head in.
What I should have done was hugged the head, placed my back to it and my hands up in the air looked around and said stop the violence.
After arriving on time because Vestibule’s heavily promoted performance stated explicitly to start at 7:30pm, we were left outside in the heat for what felt like a long time. Maybe a half hour. Then we were allowed in and we all naturally faced the stage, ready for the performance to start. It had started, as noted on the projection behand the performers revealing a timer. Three women of varying shapes and sizes dressed naked in beigh leotards performed yoga poses to an iphone app leading them through position with a robotic voice ominously stated “now relax” and so on. From the promo, I had already keenly sensed that Western appropriation and bastardization of Eastern culture was on the menu. Fittingly, the women intermittingly checked their cell phone during yoga. Sometimes slamming them on the ground. “Table pose,” we hear the robot voice call, and the performers stressfully hurry to get into position. I don’t need to explain to you what this means. You know, yoga came from the East. It’s a spiritual practice, and it’s just as much about breathing as it is about stretching. The way these ladies performed yoga, holding their breath all tensed up with an end-gaining attitude and determined faces, well, we got the idea. There was even a NY Times article about it recently. They did their yoga to the projections for a long while as we waited. I do wish we were walking around and looking at the art during that time.
Then about forty minutes later, the projection changed to live footage of a mob of Indians during some kind of parade celebration where colored dust adorned the air. Music played and the three women began a beautifully choreographed and well exucuted dance. Broken bodies, lovely modern movements, scared and intense gazes into the audience. The stage and floor below the stage, lined with piles of different colored sands, served as a fantastic face palette the performers as fell and covered their faces in colors. White women now colored in spices of the East. The moving modern dance came to a close too soon, then the performance suddenly shifted focus to the large Ghandi head where a Vestible representative screamed “is this art?” and he began the bashing ceremony.
Now let’s go ahead and state for the record: if that was a real person there’s no way I would have taken part. I know that sounds obvious but I do want to make a distinction and I know that for a fact. This was a performance and I felt like I should participate. It showed how people in mass react to a spectacle destruction; how the ferver spreads and amplifies until you’ve got people ripping it down, yelling, and pouring beer on it. How we joined in, or why we didn’t. It worked. Sometimes it’s fun to just break things, especially after waiting around for so long for the performance, then watching stressful durational yoga, people had some built up tension. But it was just a big paper mache head, it wasn’t really Ghandi, or any other living being for that matter. Right? It was an image, a symbol, a representation; it wasn’t real and that’s how we can justify our behavior.
A few days ago Clint Eastwood addressed an invisible chair representing President Obama during his own performance art piece for The Repulican Convention. I wonder, were his insults meaningless because Obama wasn’t actually physically sitting there. Or are we offended nonetheless?