'our creation is that guru; the duration of our lives is that guru; our trials, illnesses and calamaties is that guru. There is a guru that is nearby and a guru that is beyond the beyond. I humbly make my offering to the guru, the beautiful remover of ignorance, the enlightenment principle that is within me and surrounds me at all times.'
Guru Stotram

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

What’s needed now is a toy boy. My friend’s got one. Hers is great. So now I want one. She kept telling me hers was twenty-eight, but eventually it popped out he’s not twenty-eight until next birthday.
“And when’s his birthday?”
So that’ll be twenty-seven then. Any discernible twist of bitterness in my voice is exclusively down to the fact that I am green with envy. And I’ve noticed lately that getting older doesn’t necessarily mean getting smarter. Was it Tom Stoppard who said “wisdom is a high price to pay for getting old”? And let’s face it, not everybody’s in on the kickback. So why bother? Well ones got to of course. And that’s ok. I don’t think I mind that so much. Well actually that’s nonsense. I mind terribly. Who wants to get old and saggy? And who wants to die? Be honest. Nobody. But there’s no getting out of it, and I’m certainly not about to have an industrial strength hoover attached to the back of my head to suck the skin out of my eyes and take my brain with it. So I’ll just have to learn to live with it. Aging that is. And in that light, a toy boy will do nicely. It’ll be liberating; moving away from the drab idea of getting married that everyone seems to be so sold on. Even the nicest, apparently brightest people seem eventually to succumb to this bizarre eccentricity, this anomaly of the twenty-first century. Do I sound like some sort of hairy arm pitted bra burning lesbian? Probably. Oh well. My meditation teacher told me on Sunday (the new one, the old one’s Benny Hill moments were starting to get up my nose) that the point of meditation is not so much to make yourself a better person but to make yourself more accepting of the person you are. So sometimes I run the risk of sounding like a hairy arm pitted lesbian. So what?

And whilst I’ve already dug that particular social grave for myself I might as well crack on and tell you that I went to an exceptionally brilliant evening at the ‘Tate Moderna’ the other week-end – Once More with Feeling – an abbreviated history of feminist performance art curated by visual artist Oriana Fox, supported by The Women’s Art Library and Goldsmiths’. I could wax on for hours about this. It’s so my bag. But I’m vaguely aware that boring an audience rigid with tales of what fun something was is not the way to their hearts, so I’ll keep it brief. If I may I’ll just impose upon you one tiny art historical aside for the benefit of those who may be interested but not especially au fait with performance art, and that is that performance art at its inception, ie around the 60s, was lassoed by women artists, mainly, or rather partly, because performance as a medium was young enough to avoid carrying much of the baggage of historical male colonisation that say painting and sculpture unavoidably came and continue to come with.

The first thing I saw at this extravaganza of feminist performance art history, besides a sea of eccentric looking women of all ages, was two women in wedding dresses, one strapped to a cardboard model of a nuclear missile holding up a placard reading: ‘This demonstration is the happiest day of my life.’ I knew immediately I was at home. Entitled ‘Brides Against the Bomb’ this was first performed by Shirley Cameron and Evelyn Silver at Greenham Common and this re-enactment at Tate was the first time it had been seen inside a gallery. Without wishing to sound ungenerous (although if I do, so what!??) the fact is, if you don’t get this then nothing I can say will help. So I’ll leave it with you.

The rest of the evening was a series of updated honorific references to performance work by a huge range of women artists from Orlan to Yayoi Kusama to Yoko Ono to the brilliant Cunt Cheerleaders, whose performance at Fresno State College in 1970 involved the four artists donning satin cheerleader costumes adorned variously with the letters C U N and T and chanting light-hearted transgressive cheers to women – an attempted re-appropriation of a slang term for a fairly harmless and thoroughly indispensable part of the human anatomy that has somehow found itself the most offensive word in the English language. I’m not sure whether or not it worked but the performance was hilarious and very cheering.

Another high point was an homage to Linda Montano and Tehching Hsieh who bound themselves together by way of an eight foot rope for one full year in 1983/4. Oriana Fox added an interesting twist to the reproduction in asking her divorced parents to play the protagonists – although for one evening only this time, not one year. Over from stateside for the week the estranged old pair seemed a little baffled but game enough to have a go. Towards the end of the evening I spotted Mr Fox standing on a chair trying to get a better view of a particularly gripping performance piece, whilst the much shorter erstwhile Mrs Fox was left standing on the floor looking at the back of the tall fellow in front. One began to see why divorce might have found itself on the cards for that particular famille.

Or perhaps we girlies have brought it on ourselves have we? Perhaps, as we’re often told by people who apparently know about these things, perhaps chivalry and feminism don’t make particularly compatible bedfellows. I rather disagree. I think feminism and chivalry have a lot in common. Both have much to do with respect and generosity towards oneself and other. Or perhaps it’s me who doesn’t get it is it? Perhaps. But then… so what?!

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