P.S.1 Responds To Censorship Claims Following Incident
Tuesday, March 02, 2010
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 Artforum.com 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."