Courage In This Now
Gio Black Peter performing at the Salacious Salon in NYC last month. Video by Naruki Kukita.
I've talked about it before, but I think Gio Black Peter is so rad. I saw this video of a performance he did, on his really cool blog. This video captures a lot of my favorite things about his work (paintings and performances and writing). It's sort of like his music, but without the music. But then I think it's also kind of non-musical, his rhythms are pretty fucked up, he's not speaking in iambs or anything, but he is clearly saying something that is familiar, practiced, composed by him. I was supposed to go to Salacious Salon that night and seeing this video I am a bit bummed that I missed it!
I wanted to talk about what I think is rad about this video, and Gio's work in general and I wanted to talk about it without talking about him being sexy, without discussing sexiness. I feel like some of the discourse around his work (/ what I hear people talking about, a small percentage of the time, when discussing his work) has to do with wanting to have sex with Gio, with thinking he's sexy. My first totally uncool reaction is to be like "No! That's not fair! That's distracting from a serious interpretation of his work if you just think he's sexy!". But I think that Gio is aware of this 'vibe' / energy. I would even venture to say that seduction and titillation figures into his work in exactly the way I am talking about. One of my favorite things about his work, after thinking about it, is the way he sort of incites the audience / viewer. You have to decide whether or not you think he's (among other things) sexy, and organize the logic around that. He's aware of being onstage and in fact commenting on it. That's one of the things that I think is so uncanny and brilliant about Gio's work, he's the ultimate bait-n-switch, a queer golden boy simultaneously inhabiting the onstage space of his viewer's fantasies, and at the same time totally dangerous, potty-mouthed, possibly crazy. This tension is very exciting, and inspiring to me.
Two things I love about this video:
a) It kind of controls it's own discussion, in the way that very good punk rock art does. It's sort of like Freud: if you have a resistance to it then you must (according to Freud's logic) have some kind of inborn problem with yourself that keeps you from experiencing it. It makes it's own kind of sense. I do not think I am being hyperbolic when I compare Gio Black Peter's striving for singularity of voice to, say, Kate Bush. It's totally nuts and doesn't make sense except compared against itself.
b) It's also just so fucking brave. Seriously. Do you have the guts to give a kind of personal, kind of difficult-to-speak poem / spoken word performance to a hotel room full of art snobs? No? What about with your shirt off? If you do have the guts to do it, then go ahead and please do it. If you don't, then maybe shut up.
I think GBP is very savvy, very smart and careful in the way he composes his messages. The juxtaposition of, say, muscle bodies, communist beret and american flag boxers could be really over-handed. Black Peter is in this way very sensitive to his audience. He doesn't beat you over the head with his symbolism. It belies a certain trust in the viewer to connect the dots of what he's working with. And if you don't connect the dots, if the symbolism is lost on you, then that's okay too. But this availability of meanings, the multiplicities he (seems to) casually drop imply a willingness to participate in the crowd that goes beyond the roll of performer. It is generosity to the point of psychosis, and it's a dare to the crowd.
It also reminds me of this Kathleen Hanna wordcore performance: