P.S.1 Responds To Censorship Claims Following Incident

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

As I mentioned yesterday, something seriously strange went down at P.S.1 on Saturday. The museum cut the power during Ann Liv Young's performance to stop one of her typically outrageous shows.

Young gave me a thoughtful account last night, as did Andres Bedoya, one of the curators of Brooklyn is Burning, which organized the performance art event. You can also find numerous accounts online, like this one.

P.S.1 has only released a puzzling two-line explanation: "The decision by the Director of P.S.1 to curtail the performances near the end of Saturday Sessions was made to safeguard the audience, performers, and P.S.1 staff from an escalating and potentially volatile situation. The performers' actions were not previously discussed with or planned by P.S.1."

But from what I've been told, no one was in danger during Young's show except for Young, who sustained deep cuts on her legs as a result of the glass someone broke before she came on. And how does turning off the power without actually ending an event make things safer? Doesn't it make things worse?

"It brings up the larger issue about the way a visual art institution deals with performance practically — like there is no stage manager around to clean up the broken glass on the floor. There is no one tending to the medical needs of an injured person. The electrical cables aren't taped down," said Ben Pryor, an indie arts manager who has represented Young. "The stakes are higher when you are dealing with a MoMA affiliate. I kept thinking about insurance and the institution filling out some sort of incident report, none of which happened to my knowledge. If you can't deal with/aren't prepared for what an artist brings into your space then maybe you shouldn't be a curator or maybe you aren't doing your research regarding what that artist is really after."

P.S.1's statement aside, it's unclear whether the museum shut things down because of the profane content (though P.S.1's new director, Klaus Biesenbach is well-versed in body-based art) or tensions between Young and the previous performer, Georgia Sagri, who reportedly grew incensed by Young's public questioning of her work. After the show, Young said, she was the one pressed for an explanation by Brooklyn is Burning curator Sarvia Jasso, who was apparently angered by Young confronting a fellow artist.

Jasso declined an interview, but posted a statement online.

"You know what, this is live performance," Young recounted, emphasizing that her work often brings up discomfort with aggressive women. "I don't have a set of moral standards that say this is what youre not allowed to do."

"Maybe it's the fact that I am making the stuff and am in it; people go, 'oh she's really a horrible person,' Young continued, with obvious frustration. "I don't want to hurt Georgia's feelings, but as a performance artist, I don't care. It's not as though I went to her in my street clothes and said, 'Why did you make that crap?' A lot of people have real questions in life and make them into the framework of their art."

Young, who was inhabiting one of her personas, like the uncouth Sherry, added that the solo had been a success. Everyone I spoke with agreed.

"I think people didn't necessarily understand it was a role," said Editor David Velasco. "What's amazing to me is that she managed to control the whole situation, even though she ended up being censored. In a way, both the other artist and P.S.1 acted predictably in the situation."

What wasn't predictable was the way the audience rallied around the last artist, Morty Diamond, who was also forced to perform in darkness.

"The crowd went wild basically in their support for Morty, lighting him with their cell phones," said Bedoya. "Turn off the lights and you might as well have nailed their feet to the floor. The audience said 'no, for now, we own this space, thank you very much.' Once the event was over, people filed out calmly and left."

For his part, Diamond was taken aback by the entire episode at P.S.1 and how it prompted lot of positive feedback, too. Many said the outburst was "the most real thing they had seen at a museum in a long time."


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Comments [19]

b.b. from ky

why did Sagri come back with the 'finger'? maybe they both set this up for publicity? Sagri could have just walked away 'hurt' and make some statement later on or sue Ann Liv Young

Apr. 21 2011 08:07 PM
Vive Sherry! from your anus

@Victim- Puh-lease Gia Kourlas has a brain the size of a pea. She can't even write about ballet or mainstream modern dance, how could she possibly analyze performance art?

Vive Sherry! Klaus could never aspire to a koochie as nice as yours! He's just jealous!

Mar. 04 2010 03:40 PM
Claudia La Rocco

Thanks, Sherry. The Klaus/Wizard of Oz comparison is brilliant.

Mar. 04 2010 02:30 PM

Mar. 04 2010 01:37 PM

Mar. 04 2010 01:37 PM

Mar. 04 2010 01:36 PM

"Sherry is nobody's victim"

I disagree. The most cogent, interesting point about Ann Liv's work is, in my opinion, one that Gia Kourlas makes-- "Young makes everyone the victim".

From what I've seen, I agree with that reading & find that aspect of ALY compelling.


Mar. 03 2010 04:58 PM
No Biggie from Hell's Kitchen

The lights going out did seem to increase a sense of anarchy, to my delight.

But the whole event was really quite underwhelming . It momentarily satisfied our hunger for insurgency, for realness, for the possibility of breaking new ground.

Too bad it was not scary, confusing, or oppressive.

In my experience, the lights going out on ALY simply supported her nihilistic routine, the way throwing a spotlight on Earth Kitt would make her sequins sparkle, lend the lady that extra showbiz kick. ALY was pissing, yelling, trying her damnedest to cause a ruckus. Why can't some goofball at the museum flip a switch and add to the mayhem?

PS1's puzzling (but fun) decision to pull the power gave us an institution to rail against, to kvetch about, to demonize. This lets us momentarily distracts ourselves from an actually frightening reality: A distressing aesthetics of half-assed-ness that dominates much of contemporary performance.

Marina Abramovic sauntered in at a certain point, carrying a bouquet and a purse, watched for a moment, turned back around and zipped out of the room. Is it possible that she can handle walking on hot coals but not the Brooklyn is Burning performance? Or was the whole affair a bit of a yawn?

Mar. 03 2010 02:42 PM

I think it is interesting that someone would state that the "other artist" acted predictably, and yet there seems to be little empathy toward said artist. Maybe it is too much to ask that artists performing together in a presentation be respectful of each other whether or not they are "in character." And we are not even talking about disrespect, but what might be perceived as a violation. This piece is focusing on the performance getting shut down as a result of nudity or profanity, but not giving much detail of the attack on another artist. Do you want to be invited to perform somewhere and then be masturbated at and humiliated? How would you respond? Artwork, or no, censorship or no--who is asking why Sagri's response is understandable (rather than the rather patronizing interpretation of it as predictable)? Where are the human beings here?

Mar. 03 2010 10:08 AM
Ben Pryor

Body - you need to chill. Her knee was not bruised. It was cut open on broken beer bottles that were left unattended to after a previous performance. Her knee was cut, her foot was cut, her ankle was cut - AND she did ANYTHING but cry about it. She continued her performance for at least another 7 minutes - blood dripping down her legs. That is some serious commitment. Sherry is nobody's victim.

Mar. 02 2010 05:14 PM
body from Manhattan

Wait a second ALY is crying about her knees being bruised after she rolled on the floor and poured piss on herself? Seriously honey, if you're gonna get down and dirty, just do it. Don't cry. pffft. "playing the victim" yet another typical female stereotype, was that a performance too?

Mar. 02 2010 05:03 PM

Firstly, I wonder why Brooklyn is Burning would ask ALY to be part of the performance if they weren't prepared for nudity, masturbation, smack talking and crudeness. NONE of her previous work suggests that they would be seeing anything other than exactly that. I would hardly call the work unpredictable, the elements are generally the same, at least since I first saw her work in 2004.

Secondly, I completely agree that turning off the lights seemed to do nothing but aggravate the situation and put people in danger. Ben is right, a gallery doesn't practice the same safety precautions with regards to live theater as a traditional performance space would. No theater would turn out the lights on a performance leaving the audience to fend for themselves in the dark. As much as she may infuriate the other artists I do not think that ALY would have inflicted physical harm on anyone that was there to watch.

Whether or not you like ALY's work, it seems the real issue here is that someone didn't do their research. Otherwise they would have known exactly what they were getting into with her and her performance style. I would argue that it would be more shocking at this point to see no nudity or inflammatory speech/actions during an ALY performance. If we are talking about what's real here...

Mar. 02 2010 05:02 PM
philip trevino from New York, NY

I find it ridiculous that ALY is being attacked for verbally attacking another artist as part of her performance. As a criticism on how hostile the art world is towards itself and individuals, I find it apropos. The censorship that ensued is proof.

Mar. 02 2010 04:59 PM
countercritic from Censorship Island

And now I realize I could have just spaced the letters out.



Mar. 02 2010 04:56 PM
countercritic from Censorship Island

PS. I tried to use the word S H I T, and got this annoying pop-up message: Watch your mouth! The words "s--t" are not allowed here.

LAME. Talk about censorship! How RETARDED!!!!!!!! RETARDED!!!!!!!!

So I substituted "ANAL WARTS" for S --T. Apparently there is no problem with that. Or with my use of the word "RETARDED".


Mar. 02 2010 04:24 PM
countercritic from By the sea

I think there's an interesting assumption that Ann Liv Young is challenging when she insults other artists (in character or out - I've seen her in a video interview talking smack about collaborators; she should own up to this). The assumption being, shouldn't "fellow artists" stick together and not take each other down?

I don't know. There is this sense of all-in-it-togetherness that gets floated around out there. It probably has a lot to do with the employment of the word "community" regarding dance and downtown performance.

Young, via her personae, absolutely smashes through this unspoken agreement. Whether by intention or not, it does make us reconsider what we believe artists should mean to each other, what they owe to each other, and when they should call each other out on their ANAL WARTS.

I'm more engaged by this than turned off. Of course, I'm not currently at the receiving end of her wrath. (Knock on- ANAL WARTS. My cubicle is made of plastiiiiic!!!!)

Mar. 02 2010 04:22 PM
body from Manhattan

A boring persona of Young's symptomatic of tv culture & hegemony, a catfight really? How hetero-normative is that. Also, symptom isn't production, btw it's conditioned response, and so is chasing after the press for negative attention.

Mar. 02 2010 04:04 PM
Todd S

ALY is unpredictable. and that's why I go and see her perform. She plays with issues of trust-- sometimes childishly, often intelligently, but always provocatively. For PS1 to censor her is the "perfect" response to her work, which led some to think it was staged. but really, ALY wouldn't go out that easily.

Mar. 02 2010 03:57 PM

This is all very very strange. Aren't things always scarier and more confusing (and obviously more dangerous) in the dark? I don't see how turning off the lights would make everyone safer.

I've only seen ALY perform once (this summer at PS122), and her work is clearly provocative and predictably unpredictable. Even if her "actions were not previously discussed with or planned by P.S.1.", as they claim in their lame statement, wouldn't they have done some research to know what ALY had in store for them? And more importantly, since when do artists have to reveal every detail of their performance to a venue/curators ahead of time? The beauty of live performance lies within its unpredictability. Both the audience and the venue/curators have to be prepared for that.

Mar. 02 2010 03:16 PM

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Open to everyone, the Performance Club is a freewheeling conversation about New York performance of all kinds, from experimental theater to gallery installations to contemporary dance. We go, we talk (online and at bars and cafes, with artists and amongst ourselves), we disagree and, sometimes, we change each other’s minds.


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