And This Is War

Saturday I was battling a really toxic hangover, and it snowed. I basically did nothing all day. That's not entirely true-- I cooked myself brunch and I painted my fingernails with that Chanel Peridot green/gold color I like. I watched this old Liz Taylor movie, Reflections On A Golden Eye, which I liked a lot. I ultimately decided not to go out dancing or anything that night, if only to avoid another nasty hangover. So, once the sun set and I finally felt fortified with enough coffee and magickal snack to leave the house, I donned my nicest outfit and I went uptown to the Guggenheim for this event, called "The Last Word" which was part of the closing of the Maurizio Cattelan retrospective (retrospectacle?). The event, which was free, was an almost exhausting seven hour conference, with a laundry list of visionaries from the worlds of art, culture, literature, music, and some lovely philosophers and a very nice economist man. I got there about halfway through the evening, so I don't know what the opening remarks were like, but it seemed like everyone was speaking on the subject of endings, finality, sometimes death and sometimes much less mortal forms of "ending". Drew Daniel, who might actually be the Most Adorable Boy In The World, gave a really witty and engaging talk about the endings of songs in popular music. It seems like some people were asked to address specific prompts, and some people spoke a bit more extemporaneously. Before coming to the stage, each speaker had an epitaph they'd written projected onto a screen behind them, as a means of introduction.

There were some real highlights, among them Rick Moody, Steward Home, Amy Hollywood, Sarah Murray, Tehching Hsieh, and Matmos, who performed "Germs Burn for Darby Crash" live (it was serene and beautiful). They screened those Proenza Schouler & Harmony Korine videos, which, I'm sorry, were horrifying. Tracy Emin had a really sweet video letter to Maurizio, about ending, breaking up, etc. It was nice. The real reason I was there, though, was because Courtney Love was scheduled to be the headliner.

I did have my doubts that she would show, or show up on time. I am glad to say that these fears were unwarranted. The evening ran a bit late, but she had been more than prompt (I saw her come in and watch the presentations for a good half an hour before her turn). The epitaph on the screen as she came onstage said "AND THIS IS WAR." She spoke for about 20-30 minutes, and was actually really smart and sweet and thoughtful. She also said some deliberately inflammatory things, bragged about having grown up with a trust find and made all her dreams (however poorly thought-out) come true. The basic premise of her talk was that we live in a culture that wants artists to be dead, and that to want to be an artist and to be alive is an act of rebellion, and constitutes a lifelong war, against nonexistence. It was really interesting and I am so glad I went. I saw Hole play in 2010 and she basically didn't say anything at all between any of the songs, and this kind of made up for that experience. One note, is that she looked really great, embodying every bit the Hollywood movie-star trope the claimed to be "reluctantly" returning to (she also said "I love tropes, I'm all about tropes"). She wore a very very short skirt, and stockings with a big (undoubtedly) deliberate run in them. She spoke from a microphone and music stand in the middle of the stage, wearing her glasses, and peering over them when she wanted to make a point.

One thing I wanted to note, though, which I thought was brilliant, was that as soon as she got onstage, she asked if anyone here was an artist. Some hands went up. Then, she asked if anyone here was an academic, some more hands. Then, having taken the mic momentarily from the stand, she spoke into it as she crouched at the edge of the stage. Literally everybody in the auditorium (or watching the live video feed online) could see her underpants. She continued, "okay..." she said "but there's not anyone from Page Six here, is there?" She shielded her eyes from the stage lights, as if she might recognize Lynn Hirschberg in the audience. She was ostensibly asking because she was debating with herself to recount a personal anecdote involving a man she assured us was a very famous movie star but who she couldn't individually name (and she didn't name him-- but we all knew exactly who it was). The point is, she began her performance by immediately doing some pantomime, clown-gestures, to "undermine" or complicate the authenticity of her message. If there had been anyone from Page Six, crouching onstage and revealing her crotch would've been a bad idea (or whatever). She was sort of commenting on her role/character and the type of performance she was going to give. She took the position of exposure, of defiant "I don't care if you can see my underpants" and from this position asked if the event was being documented, by a tabloid. Of course, the event was being documented, and any number of the Artists of Academics in the audience could totally go off and write about her speech (as I am doing now), but she wanted to go through the charade of asking about it. Addressing and neutralizing the tension. Asking a question, and then immediately answering the question herself, and forcing the audience to wonder to ourselves whether her answer was correct or not. It was really subtle and brilliant, and I was so star struck. She also claimed to have never had any idea what performance art was, prior to the Marina Abramovic retrospectacle at MoMA last year. Personally, the Marina show (while spectacular, yes) made me less certain that I knew what performance art is. I was moved by Courtney's speech, and tweeted about it as I was leaving the museum (at 2:00am). Less than three minutes later, as I was walking to the train, I got an e-mail:

Totally nuts. Maybe not that nuts.

Afterward, instead of going out to a bar, I went to Hana Food and got a sandwich ('Still a Virgin') and came home to watch America's Funniest Home Videos in bed. Another one of those nights that made me so grateful that I live in New York.

And hey, speaking of performance and brilliant things that seem to only happy or mostly happen in New York, Tuesday night there's a really cool event at the Kitchen, which is also free. The Varieties of Performance Experience: A panel discussion with authors Judith Rodenbeck and Shannon Jackson. The event promises to be an interesting discussion on the nature and uses of performance, and I am particularly looking forward to it because Judith Rodenbeck was one of my absolute favorite professors in school, and whose thinking totally blew my mind. Speaking of rock stars.

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