Category Archives: grotesque

What do you think horror means for feminism?

Image

Today my short horror film Red Blob Massacre was screened at a student-organized feminist fair at the University of Michigan. After the screening, there was a question and answer period. One of the questions asked was:

What do you think horror means for feminism?

It was a difficult question to answer. Sometimes I’m not even sure what feminism means. Sometimes I have a hard time answering difficult questions like that on the spot. So, I gave the best answer I could. Thinking about it afterward, of course I always think I could have said something better. Why didn’t I think of this in the moment? Oh damn, I should have said that…

My answer in the moment was, in a somewhat jumbled way, that I think the grotesque of horror allows anyone, male or female, to release something that is pent up inside. it’s an outlet for violence and anger, and also for insecurity. With females portrayed as being such beautiful/pure/perfect people in the media, perhaps horror is the juxtaposition of that. It’s the bloody of the feminine….

What do you think?

Image source:

Terror Cult: The Pains of Being a Gal, Flowering

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Visual Aesthetic

Hello readers,

It’s been so long since I’ve posted on this blog! So much has been happening these days. In celebration of being active, I thought I’d write a short post on my own visual aesthetic. I got an MFA in Studio Art after doing my undergrad in Theater & Original Works because I knew the importance of both the theatrical and the visual in my work. I create objects for theater and theater for objects. When I write, I see images. This translates into performance and film projects (often both at once) that are stylized and visually bold. Below are a few inspirations that I use frequently in my work:

1) RED CURTAINS
Face Off
IMG_4588
Mamma Donna Falls in Love
MamaDonna
Buoj iz Jeb, Professional Figure Model
IMG_8972

2) POLKA DOTS & STRIPES
Isabel Jukes Karaoke
Isabel1
Red Blob Massacre
IMG_5836
Red Blob Massacre storyboard
Scene 4_1

3) Sexual Body Parts
Ode to the Boob
Photo 71
The Dick Tater
P1000671
Red Hole Circus

Buoj iz Jeb, Professional Figure Model
IMG_7538

4) Cardboard & Foam
Hot Ripe Burning Sex Parts
IMG_9262
Red Blob Massacre
IMG_4875
Beneath the Concrete
_MG_8835

5) The Grotesque
Red Blob Massacre
Red Blob Leg
The Shooting

Face Off
Sequence 1 010346;22

6) Influences
Food by Jan SvankmajerBe Nice to Me by Pipilotti RistLighting Strikes by Klaus NomiPsycho Beach Party

Die Tomato, Die!!!

Last night I performed a piece, Die Tomato, Die!!! at the Performance Laboratory, which is a bi-monthly performance event I co-curate at the Contemporary Art Institute Detroit. The theme for this month was Death.

I performed Die Tomato, Die!!! for the first time last April in a seminar in grad school, then titled Tomato Smashing. Here are some pictures from that performance:

It was a successful performance, and I made a lot of discoveries by doing it. One of them was that smashing tomatoes with a hammer was more difficult than I thought (they roll off the table, especially if they’re not ripe enough). Another, that the juice sprays everywhere, including on the audience, who in that particular space space (an empty studio space) was in close proximity. As they were sprayed with squirts of tomato juice, my peers grabbed a plastic sheet on the floor that just happened to be there, and used it to protect themselves from the bursts. There were plenty of  yelps and squeaks as I worked away with my hammer. It was hard to be serious even though I was trying to be- I really didn’t know what would happen, and everything was unfolding in the moment.

The performance was aimed to be an exploration of the RED BLOB, which has been a theme I’ve been experimenting with in my work over the past year. I’ve done all kinds of experiments around the idea of what the red blob might represent, without wanting to define it too specifically as one particular thing. In the tomato smashing context, the tomato represents food and cooking (and a female doing it), there is something quite gorey about it as it is smashed, and it has an interesting context in a performance, especially with me, as the performer, smashing it. Usually it’s the audience members who throw the tomato at the performer…

So, with all these things in mind, I recreated this performance last night at the Performance Laboratory for The Death Show. And it went really well! In the context of death and horror (two other themes I’m working a lot with right now), I wanted to continue with the seriousness of the piece, choosing atmospheric ‘scary’ background music. I chose a costume that was a bit more ‘glamorous’ than the previous one, and was a red color just a bit deeper than the tomatoes, but would be partially hidden behind my white apron. I also added a timer, that I set to 10 minutes long, which is the duration limit for each piece at the Performance Lab. I added rubber gloves, which accentuated the horror effect and made a lot of people laugh in nervous anticipation. And lastly, I handed out plastic bags to the audience members in the first row, who were in close proximity to my table. Oh, the anticipation!!!! AND, I waited to enter for added suspense- just the audience staring at those shiny red tomatoes and a hammer with plastic bags on their laps, waiting for something to happen….

Here are pictures from the performance:

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I have to say, this is definitely one of the most satisfying performances I’ve ever done in my entire life. There is something so incredibly liberating about covering an audience in tomato juice. And even though it was a serious piece, there was a lot of laughter, a lot of participation, and a continuous dialogue between me and the audience. This is still a work-in-progress, and I plan on continuing to develop it for more future performances. I feel so thankful to have the Performance Laboratory as a continuous forum to try things out and experiment. I couldn’t have asked for a more willing and accepting audience, one willing to get covered in tomato juice for the sake of good and experimental art. I don’t know if this would happen everywhere… it would certainly have to depend on the context, and the space that I performed it in.

You can read a review of the Performance Laboratory’s Death Show on the Midwest Theater Review: http://midwesttheatre.wordpress.com/2011/10/22/detroits-performance-laboratory-journey-to-the-interdisciplinary-fringe-a-review-by-edmund-lingan/

For more info about the Performance Laboratory, please visit our facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Performance-Laboratory/139602749441643. I co-curate this event with collaborator Carrie Morris. It takes place at the Contemporary Art Institute Detroit (CAID) every other month, featuring short works by artists and performers that explore what performance is, and what it can be.

On second thought, food IS art.

So after I wrote my blog post yesterday about how I was much more inclined to cook up some food than make some art, I realized that I had neglected the fact that food, indeed, is a bona fide ART FORM. In the context of yesterday, food was more about EATING for me than making anything artistic. However, I agree that food in itself can be an awesome outlet for artistic expression.

In lieu of that, today’s blog post is dedicated specifically to the amazing ART of FOOD. Included below are some impressive food art examples:

Artist Carmen Wong’s pizza in a pill, part of her artwork Tactile Dinner Car, an immersive interdisciplinary art and food experience:

For more information about Tactile Dinners, visit this website: http://www.banishedproductions.org/portfolio/tactile-dinner-long-view-gallery/, along with a review: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/14/AR2010051405170.html.

La Figa Visions of Food & Form by Chef Tiberio Simone with photography by Matt Freedman:

Tiberio is a friend of mine from Seattle and has been working on his La Figa book project for several years. Born in Southern Italy, Tiberio runs his own catering business La Figa Catering, wowing arts and public audiences alike with his amazingly delicious food creations and artistic sensual food visions. Find out more about his book here: http://www.lafigaproject.com/the-book, along with his catering company: http://lafigacatering.com/home.html.

Food Fight: An abridged history of American-centric warfare, from WWII to present day, told through the foods of the countries in conflict:

Not only is this video an excellent combination of food and stop motion animation, it also provides a breakdown of the actual battles portrayed in it. For the breakdown, visit the creator’s website: http://www.touristpictures.com/foodfight/index.htm (tourist pictures). AND, stay tuned for more stop motion and food amazement down below.

Here are a few more images of the ways that food has been artistically manipulated:

And lastly, I can’t go without including the work of one of my favorite artists of all time, Jan Svankmajer, who amazingly explores the themes of food and consumption in most of his work:

Jan Svankmajer: Food, Part 1 (1992)

Jan Svankmajer: Food, Part 2 (1992)

I LOVE Jan Svankmajer’s work. It’s absolutely amazing. I could watch his Food videos over and over again.

And that, my friends, is my blob post dedication to the ART of FOOD.

Image Links:

http://eyelevel.si.edu/2011/09/luce-center-pizza-in-a-pill.html (Luce Center: Pizza in a Pill?)

http://kate-campbell.blogspot.com/2011/08/food-as-form-decorating-human-body.html (Food As Form: Decorating the Human Body)

http://www.worldoffemale.com/food-as-art/ (Food as art)

http://weirdspy.com/food-art/ (Food Art)

http://www.digitalbusstop.com/greatfood-art/ (Great Food Art)

http://www.deepfun.com/2004/03/edible-art-and-aesthetics-of-fun.html (Edible Art and the Aesthetics of Fun)

Stop Motion + Lo-Fi Awesomeness

I am IN LOVE with stop motion animation mixed with live action in film. I’m also obsessed with lo-fi quality, the kind of lo-fi that is obviously fake but offers the magic of using your imagination (*gasp*) to believe it. Here are a few of my favorite examples:

Alice in Wonderland by Lou Brunin, 1949. This film is magical. The cardboard sets are so theatrical, the flicker of the film so old. The scene where Alice is swimming in her tears is amazing- so obviously green-screened and yet so wonderful. The young actress who plays Alice’s hair is obviously bleached blonde. The world of the Queen, all red, is fantastic. Watch this whole film. Go on, watch it. It’s worth it. Move over, pixel animation!!!

Food, Part 1 & 2 by Jan Svankmajer. Czech surrealist filmmaker Jan Svankmajer is my idol. I LOVE LOVE LOVE his work. It’s the perfect combination of live acting and stop motion animation. It’s dark and humorous. It’s disturbing and beautiful. I have watched his films over and over trying to figure out how he does it. Truly a brilliant artist. Watch his films. Watch all of them. Now.

The Blob, 1958 version. Oh, the Blob. How I love it so. It’s like a cross between a big piece of red jello and strawberry jam. And yet, it keeps getting bigger and bigger! Here’s a horror film that I’ll actually watch. Why? Because I can still believe that it won’t actually happen. And despite that, it still holds the exciting suspense that horror films should, without the grossness of being too realistic. I’ve seen the advertisements for the newer 1986 version of The Blob, and it just looks disgusting. Yes, perhaps I should actually watch it to know for sure, but I prefer the older version, there’s just something about it and lo-fi films in general that excite me more than the newer ones.

Has the art world progressed too much for its own good? Has increasingly fancy technology turned it to the shit? Or, am I just too nostalgic for the past? What do you think?

 

Buoj iz Jeb hosts the Water Show

Well, the Performance Laboratory had another great monthly event last night. What was fabulous about this time around was that we staged it mostly outside in the backyard of the CAID, with each performance in a different area of the yard. I’m becoming more and more drawn to site-specific performance as opposed to performing on a standard stage setting, and having the Performance Lab outside added a new exciting dynamic to the performances and event. Besides the fact that we had to mow a completely overgrown lawn a day ahead of time, and that there were mosquitoes nipping at everyone’s skin for the entire event, it was AWESOME. Great performances, nice theme of ‘water’ to tie it all together and a fabulous audience. The Performance Laboratory really does just get better and better. The more we learn from each month’s event, the more we grow as organizers, performers and a solid community.

As for my own performance, well, I went kinda crazy. And it was so much fun. See, I’ve been performing this character since approximately November 2010 named Buoj iz Jeb. Buoj iz Jeb is an old man with a dirty mouth and a foul sense of humor. He’s not afraid to talk, and despite his raunchiness, he’s a pretty likable guy. The thing about Buoj iz Jeb is that he likes to take his clothes off. That’s what he does for a living. He’s a professional figure model, and more recently, a stripper and swimsuit model as well. His first big break took place at the Work: Ann Arbor Gallery in downtown Ann Arbor on November 19, 2010. He showed up with an easel, some props and his own body to be drawn by the art show attendees in an interactive performance, which took place in the front window of the gallery, exposing itself both to those on the inside of the gallery, as well as those on the street passing by. Each time an ‘audience member’ drew Buoj iz Jeb, he taped it to the window facing out to the street to display. By the end of the night, the window was full of drawings of his naked, old man body.

This time around, Buoj iz Jeb was the host of the Performance Laboratory. Going with the theme of water, Buoj modeled a different swimsuit between each performance. Each swimsuit was peeled off to reveal the next, until by the end of the night he was completely naked, transforming into a nudist swimmer. Each swimsuit had a theme, and music that he played out of his boombox to go along with it. There was lots of audience interaction, and in the end Buoj collected money in his socks for the show. It was a big success! For this performance I hadn’t had a lot of time to plan ahead, as I didn’t commit to performing until a week before when we realized we needed more performers to fill the show. Slowly over the week my ideas developed, but nothing was ever set into stone. Even though the performance wasn’t completely planned, I had a structure and idea of where it was going from one point to the next. I also had a lot of thoughts in my head about what I might do, which naturally came out in the moment. The majority of the performance was improvisational- responding to the audience and situation. What I love about playing Buoj iz Jeb is that all the things I am unsure about or question ahead of time naturally come out in his dialogue- he has the ability to communicate what’s working and what’s not, and make that a part of the show. Basically, his character gives permission to be completely chaotic while still having a throughline and end point, which most of the time is to take his clothes off. What’s the point? Well, to make the audience uncomfortable, and yet completely enjoy the absurdity of something that would not usually happen in most cases. There’s something about Buoj taking his clothes off that people totally get a kick out of, in many ways because it’s pretend- it’s not real. Buoj’s body is not a real naked old man body, it’s my female body dressed in a nude unitard that I have designed to appear realistically as a male body. However, it’s still obvious that it’s not real. Therefore, the removal from reality makes a generally grotesque and disturbing action turn into a fun, still grotesque, but raucous and hilariously disturbing event. If we were gonna talk concept and theory, we could say that the performance plays on the stigma of male sexuality and body image, in particular that of an old man, in society. It challenges the audience to view something that normally they would feel extremely uncomfortable viewing in a completely different context. It also challenges gender ideas: me playing drag in reverse.

To view Buoj iz Jeb’s figure modeling performance, go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJGQjEkMarM (3-minute excerpt), and here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8volCSH8STU (9-minute excerpt)

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