View all 6 weeks of the festival on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/performancearthouston/
WORK BY: David Ian Bellows/Griess+April Vendetta (week 1), Brittani Broussard (week 2), Elaine Thap (week 3), Dominique Duroseau (week 4), Raki Malhotra (week 5), Sierra Ortega (week 6) as part of Performance Art Houston’s IG performance art festival, produced by Julia Claire Wallace, this year’s edition (2019) curated/framed by Esther Neff.
CURATORIAL COMMENTARY #1: David Ian Bellows/Griess+April Vendetta
David Ian Bellows/Griess watermarks their 1080X1080 images and video (many featuring April Vendetta) with the words NON COMMERCIAL USE ONLY and dollar sign symbols struck-through. What is, some peevish consumers of this Instagram content demand to know, April’s vendetta, exactly? Many artists seek to monetize their work, to sell their images (content) in whatever way possible. For performance artists, this means selling documentation of themselves, or even directly selling themselves (our bodies, presences, actions). Cultural production, one may claim, is labor that produces commodities (artworks). Labor is exchanged for money, and/or commodities are sold to consumers. This is how capitalism works. This is how the world works.
In the space between capitalism and “the world,” however, Bellows/Griess is discontent. Many of us are discontent. This world is post-consensual and yet not totally compulsory. Capitalism does not “care” about us, yet we are given (controlled) formats through which to demand care. We are (all) in a triage situation, some more wounded, some closer to death, than others. “The world” is an emergency room wherein capitalism’s lack of care, its autonomous, homogenizing fatalism and pursuit of capital accumulation at the expense of life itself has literally lit our planet on fire and divested millions of people of freedoms, rights, and survival. Regardless of the vocal “heel doggy, grin and bear it” commands of (let’s be honest) CSWM (who themselves may find their cultural senses-of-self valuing strong, stoic self-determinations threatened in confrontation with their own post-consensual positions), we are (all, more and less) bleeding out onto doggy pee pads. Capitalism (“capitalism” is not an agentic entity but a dehum*nized and dehum*nizing ideological specter that assumes the manifest mantle of “nature” itself) seems empowered, strengthened, and even pleasured by imminent submission, forced bondage, and suffering. From within the clamor of demands for attention and care and those chastising others for asking for care and attention, Bellows/Griess’s discontents are diffractive, spilling out through archival images, found texts, documentation of performance and street actions, VHS tapes, postcards, wearables, objects, and trans*formations, (un)maskings, and public stagings of the artist’s body.
The work first evades commercial commodification via conceptual fugivity and cascade failure, producing a massive amount of aesthetically-branded yet initially abstract-seeming content. A superficial “art historical” lens might see the work in lineage with Dadaism, remarking on the juxtaposition of images (an overturned forklift dolly, plastic soldiers, a TV showing static perched on a toilet, the artist coyly lifting a pink toile dress to reveal a rubber chew-toy remote control in their crotch, glittery red shoes…). An art critic might further excavate some emergent “messaging” about the general abusiveness of binary gender, some conflation of hum*n(ist) conditioning with the training of pets, and describe how Bellows/Griess’s use of dom/sub binaries in doggy play BDSM comments on comfort and control (the artist has also produced stickers using such terms), use and abuse, pleasure and pain, caretaking and domestication. A trans* feminist scholar might tease out perspectives on capitalism and “feminizations,” discussing how care, affect, and (con)sensuality are seen as weak, submissive, and effeminate in contrast with masculine manifest destiny, coercion, nihilism, and quests for dominance. The artist, however, who is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Moving Image Archiving and Preservation at NYU, frames the week of posts with text about information and data rights. Posting texts by Aaron Swartz against the privatization of knowledge and towards Guerilla Open Access, and by David Wojnarowicz on how oppressive policies masquerade as “taste” and “morality,” the core of the work for Bellows/Griess seems to be “content itself;” data, “information,” video, and images. This focus draws attention to the platform (or “mediation schema”) of Instagram itself.
As social media empires rose in the early 2000’s, much was written about how Facebook (which owns Instagram) heralded an industry of “content-less forms.” Rather than producing commodities or commercial (purchasable) services, social media platforms seemed to mediate the contents of users without producing any content of their own, rather profiting off advertisers (like a newspaper or syndicated TV channel). In the past 5+ years however, we have come to see that the forms of mediation are indeed ideologically encoded and that the Facebook corporation does indeed traffic in “commodities” as well as services:data is, as Cambridge Analytica executives notoriously told Congress in 2018, the most valuable commodity in the world. Markets for data—data about our identities, preferences, behaviors, consumership, user-pathways, and more—in conflux with capitalist, white supremacist, and other analogically-structural ideologics and algorithmics, are deeply entangled with totalitarian turns around the world and have helped elect dictators and suppress voices of resistance, censure and censor queerness (as well as Blackness, fatness, and many other “othernesses”), thus strengthening networked, structural oppression. In recognizing social media corporations as part of data industry we are well beyond complaining about how Instagram uses our data to target us with ads. Our individual participations in social mediations are political; our every click, upload, and like directly models and informs our conditioning and strengthens the abilities of corporate and commercial industries to control our world(views)s and our public “(dis)appearances” as (non)hum*n beings. Via the reduction of our behaviors to data (some call this the “demographic turn”), we cease being producers of content and become the content itself. We become the salable (enslaved) products of corporate capitalism and oligarchy, forced to consume/purchase back our selves (our own knowledges, cultures, self-recognitions) in order to survive, trading our attentions and love for kibble (like pets). Military and prison industrial complexes are further enmeshed with the data industry in ways that many, many books and texts (most behind paywalls) clearly describe. My rhetoric here is intentionally bombastic but also commonplace. This is all both very serious and very silly. Why not just log out if you’re so worried? Can’t we just learn to recognize what’s propaganda (the term of the left) or fake news (the term of the right) when we see it? Does it matter that our use of Catchpas is training military drones? So what if the NSA knows that I’m queer (or undocumented)? (!) (!)
Clearly, we (those who care/those who are targeted/all those who will likely be targeted with more than just “consumer content”) are only just now beginning to experience the very concrete and (no shock) violent consequences of these data and information paradigms. Bellows/Griess’s work is steeped in such concerns and also in concrete experiences with transphobic, anti-queer, puritanical censorship. Further, their work is asking if any public appearances or productions of “contents” can be seen/made visible (at all, to and by any “public”) without being immediately metabolized by commercial/corporate mechanisms, without inevitably leading to e-valuation of hum*n beings and re-information of existing hegemonies and ever-deepening (eugenicist) fascism.
Bellows/Griess participated in this festival as an artist but no longer participates in social media. They are invested in non-commercial and open source archiving and information-dissemination. Whether excluded from mainstream(ing) social media(tion)s via censorship or moved to other platforms by ideological, ethical, and political concerns, “cultural producers” and especially “performance artists,” such as Bellows/Griess and the other artists in this festival, crucially maintain cultural appearances and exchanges outside of those dominated by commercial interests. These appearances, exchanges, and performativities are the content(s) of cultural liberation movements, which demand (e)valuations that de-centralize (diversely, complexly) whiteness, straightness, cis-ness, pain, purity, monetary value, industry, power, dominance, competition, and consumption, in favor of nurturance, pleasure, presence, community, reciprocity, vulnerability, femininity, queerness and gender fluidity, other-wisdoms, biotic entanglement, and respect for difference, complexity, and care.
CURATORIAL COMMENTARY #2: BRITANNI BROUSSARD
Brittani Broussard’s performance takes place in two parts. First, the artist makes herself available over the phone, inviting people to call her to talk about “Art Concepts.” She depicts herself as a figure in a glossy advertisement, lounging on a couch in a wholesome but potentially sexualized manner. A rash of exclamation points reflect the hysterical enthusiasm of ads for goods and services; Follow Me! Like My Photos! Check Out My Hashtag! I’ll be Waiting! This framing of the artist as herself a luxury product or service has complex implications. Transparently offering herself up within economies of attention the artist is directly “selling” herself to her audience. This action demonstrates how cultural capital is given to a cultural producer (provided via clicks, likes, hashtags, and other recognizing and realizing (inter)acts) in exchange for personal contact, (con)sensual discourse, and potentially, intellectual enlightenment and aesthetic pleasure(s). “The Artist,” theatrically played as a role (by “actual” artist Broussard), has something to sell, and that something is available for the low low price of attention (Act Now!). This role-playing begs the question: what do artists have, make, or do, that is of value to others? Of what sort of value is an artist? What sort of commodity is the artist, her speech, actions, images, ideas, and presences/presentations? Further, how do artists have to perform in order to be seen as Of Value, to whom, and in what way(s)? Broussard’s transactive self-positioning also theorizes that performance artists are dependent on attention in order to be seen as performing at all; without “demand” for their product(ion)s, without a gaze or consumptive frame, performance or performer can’t be seen as such. Instagram seems to offer us each (regardless of whether or not we are performance artists) forms of spectatorship which existentially value and affirm our selves as performer-participants within public spheres, economies, and spaces of legitimacy.
Broussard then takes it a step further, complicating the role of “The Artist” with that of “The Influencer,” a role (or even “job”) that has arisen through social media to commodify an individual’s online presence and performativities. “Influencers” make money by being paid by corporations and other entities to be seen by their followers as consumers of particular products; the influencer’s online presentations-of-self (presenting “lifestyle,” brand, image) are used as advertisements akin to commercials showing actors pretending to go about their daily lives while wearing certain shoes, taking certain medications, enjoying certain beverages, etc. Viewer-consumers are meant to identify with the influencer, desire to be like them, and therefore consume/purchase/seek the product shown. Broussard chooses Coca-Cola for her influencer ad-style content, pretending (?) to seek corporate sponsorship as a performance artist. By choosing potentially one of the most infamously unethical companies in the world, Coca-Cola (a company constantly incurring lawsuits and fines for air pollution and illegal animal testing, constant health and labor violations for racial discriminations and worker conditions, known for investments and operations in apartheid states, and of course, contribution to obesity crises via advertisement through product placement in films and television for children, not to mention their assaults and murders of union members and protestors in the early 2000’s), Broussard brings the problematics of operating as a “professional” participant in commercial spheres into hilarious yet pointed view. Is there any way to be seen as “Of Value” as an artist, cultural influencer, or person of any kind that is not (like consumption within capitalism) totally unethical? Is all money blood money?
Meanwhile, comments from viewers of Broussard’s performance on IG and Facebook seem somewhat unawares of the irony of the work, or at least of Coca-Cola’s infamy. A conversation about how to monetize performance art and make money as an artist dominates; personally I become a bit confused about whether or not Broussard’s performance is indeed critical and ironic, or if she really in fact does think she would like to be sponsored by a company like Coca-Cola (or actually, Coca-Cola, specifically). The ongoing captions provided by Broussard, “We do everything together” (referring to the artist showering, picnicking, driving in a car with the artist and a can of Coke wearing cute matching black hats) and “how would performance art change if it involved corporations?” indicate (at least) two interesting perspectives: first, our lives are already inundated by products, and therefore our Instagram posts and stories (regardless of whether or not we are paid as Influencers) are always advertising our clothes, our make up, our brunches, our vacation destinations, our vehicles, and everything else we own and consume (further, social media is already a corporatized platform that profits from usership and the contents we upload). Second, the knowledge that performance art is traditionally “anti-commodity,” for many reasons and that intentional, direct sponsorship by corporations would somehow shift, affect, and alter the discipline as a whole; if a performance artist were to be sponsored by Coca-Cola, Broussard acknowledges, the work would be irrevocably changed (how so, specifically?). The commenters in the threads however seem more interested in listing performance artists who make money and brainstorming ways for artists to make money, as if making money is obviously the goal of life and ultimately the marker of success (for a performance artist or any person). I realize that I’m not very good at telling if people are joking, and this is another issue with social media; sometimes our “ironic” memes look and sound like the very statements and perspectives we are criticizing. I want to believe that people are joking when they say they want to be sponsored by corporations, because I respect artists a lot and refuse to believe that any artists actively, intentionally want to participate in the exploitative, ecocidal (and often directly genocidal) paradigms of corporatocracy. But maybe this is a wake up call for me, and many people do simply want to “get ahead” and win at the wargames, even if that means complicity with a corporation that, for example as with Coca-Cola, pollutes and depletes water across the global south.
Certainly, issues of capital dominate discussions of performance art, and the questions that are raised and responded are indicative of the perspectives, values, and beliefs of those asking the questions. Questions as to how we (performance artists) can survive, how we can make our lives work are different than questions as to how we ourselves can profit from the operations of corporations. When Marina Abromavic partnered with Adidas, many performance artists were excited that performance art could be seen as a commercial entertainment, akin to pop music. They saw dollar signs, and a new market that could elevate their labor value through framing of experience and presence as luxury commodity. The rest of us saw performance art die, feeling the loss of ways of imbuing inherent value to acts and processes that resist the objectification of bodies and the reduction of humxn experience to transactive competition for survival across marketplace Earth.
Beyond this same old discussion about “selling out” and survival (i.e. whose and how) Kaia Gilje brings up a new question; instead of asking how performance art would be changed by corporate sponsorship, she asks the reverse, how are corporations benefited (or changed?) by sponsoring performance art(ist)s? When companies “greenwash” their products, for example, by placing lower-plastic bottled water in the hands of Influencer-“activists,” they are both palliatively adjusting their corporate image and somewhat spreading, normalizing, and promoting the idea that less plastic is good and right. Greenwashing 1) raises senses of brand ethicality (whether or not these senses are accurate) therefore marketing the product to people who make consumer choices based on environmental concerns, 2) normalizes environmental concerns, and 3) maintains conceptions that consumption can be ethically performed and that mere consumer choice is an effective and meaningful form of change-making. Through this lens we can ask, 1) why and how would our “brands” be of service to the images of corporations? Would we make them seem “cooler,” more socially just, more artsy, more “cutting edge?” to whom would products using performance artists to sell them be sold? 2) What ideas, concerns, and images do performance artists represent that would be normalized and spread via mass marketing? Would any cultural ideations be shifted or changed via mass-cultural-epistemic “inclusion” of those images and ideas? 3) what processes of “authentic” cultural change, epistemic shift, political and systemic operation would be summarized, palliated, and reduced to mere consumer choice-making?
Ultimately, I am unsure of the position taken by Broussard’s skillfully executed contents, and of course, no “clear message” is necessary; art often raises more questions than it answers, opening up cans of worms (pun intended) for debate and discussion. Hopefully, many viewers took advantage of Broussard’s availability on the phone to discuss the myriad concepts presented by her week of (dis)content(s).
CURATORIAL COMMENTARY 3: Elaine Thap (September 16-22)
Astrology is an augury. That means it’s a “key” or system for reading meaningfulness from or into observable patterns. The patterns used for astrological analysis are the movements of astral bodies, including planets, stars, and constellations. Constellations, planetary bodies, and transits themselves are Pareidoliac, that is, they are ways of reading (and naming) patterns, shapes, images in clusters of “random” stars. Auguries have been used for divining purposes by many different cultures throughout the centuries. Reading tea leaves, palmistry, light and water scrying, and haruspicia (reading the guts of animals) all use auguries, or systems of symbols and their references to meanings, to read meaning into past, present, and future experience. There are many different types and schools of astrology; it is a particularly complex array of auguries and divination methods using astrological horoscopia, some immensely popular. Astrology, in its most common, contemporary forms in the USA, is also interesting in that it usually focuses on relationships with the patterns present at an individual person’s time of birth (a “natal chart”), which gives astrologers a way of reading how movements and appearances of astral bodies may differently affect individuals at different times.
I interpret Thap’s work as dealing with auguries and the derivation (or divination) of meaningfulness “itself.” The work, simply described, is a series of six sonic videos. Some involve electronic drones and bitcrushed noise (reminiscent of recordings of pulsars), others involve what sounds like electronic guitar, the last (and shortest) involves sounds that remind of recent recordings of Saturn. Much has been written about how the definition of sound as “music” requires cultural (and other symbol-and-significance-constructing) contexts to be heard as such (as “music”). Where some hear melody, others hear “only” noise. Where some see colors and experience textures and tastes when they hear sounds, due to varying degrees of synesthesia, others have isolated sensory experiences that maintain firm boundaries between “the five senses.” So much has been theorized and explored regarding connections between sound and meaningfulness that it’s difficult to pull in particularly pertinent critical analysis here in a brief essay about Thap’s work. Let’s just say that questions about meaningfulness and emotion, instinctual signals, internal states, and auditory phenomenon are evoked via the pairing of sonic pieces with senses of astrological significance. “Music” could maybe also be seen as a sort of reverse augury, or abstracted augury (dealing more with affect?), especially when it involves notation and other symbolic-linguistic systems, instruments, and electronic devices that allow musicians to re-create particular(ly meaningful?) sounds and patterns. What sorts of “meaningfulnesses” are there?
Thap’s sonic videos are accompanied by undulating colors and amorphous shapes that remind of sunlight playing across water and behind the lids of closed eyes, as well as of early photos of the supernovas and clouds of gas that populate the universe. In earlier days of humxn life, we are often reminded, with no electric lights to block out the sky, the milky way and other halos of light and reflection would have been vividly apparent, as would millions of suns, moons, asteroids, and configurations of these. Astrologers read the pulsating, glittering sky like a map of meaning, using transits, conjunctions, and other astral events to mark time and predict change. Battles were fought, monuments built, childbirth induced, and crops harvested based on readings of astrological relationships and patterns. The very distant astral changes (and how they appeared from locations on Earth) were applied to concrete socio-political and personal action. Today, we can choose our perspectives on astrology, either throwing it out en total as nonsense, or relating it with science showing how the moon’s relationship with ocean tides, for example, deeply influence the experiences of living beings on Earth (not only because we are 80% water ourselves, and many of us menstruate)….personally, I use and enjoy astrological discourse, especially appreciating how it helps those who use it to communicate about ourselves, perceive temporality, and respect differences in personal attitudes and behaviors, as well as provide “cosmogenic” conceptualizations.
Above us and far beyond us, we may see the stars communicating information, but other “mystical” phenomena such as dreams, hallucinations, and other internal qualia are also used to inform experience and action (and similarly run the gamut of believability and meaningfulness for different people, cultures, societies, etc). In the late 1950’s psychologist Klaus Conrad drew attention to the humxn tendency to extrapolate meaningfulness from perceived patterns and connections (often things that others might see as “random” or “unrelated”). He noted how the onset of schizophrenia, which over-activates the Wernicke’s area in the brain (the area that helps us make sense of utterances, transforming sound and thought into legible/shared language) increases propensity to “read into” patterns. Conrad called this propensity (or capacity) “apophenia,” nodding to the relationship between pathologized hearing of voices and seeing of signs and ancient, spiritual ways of making meaningfulness. Who’s to say how meaningfulness “should” be made? While some ways may be seen as “real,” others are seen (often by the powerful, self-ordained as definers of reality) as too imaginary, spiritual, magical, feminine, feral, pagan, indigenous, “queer,” even insane. When we hear the voices of spirits, angels, or deities, (also theorized by Julian Jaynes as the operations of a bicameral brain’s dual Wernicke’s areas in periods of history preceding written language) we can frame them as “real” or not, as significant or not. From far without and from deep within, meaningfulness seems to emerge from the most unknown and unfathomable depths, from both inner and outer spaces.
Thap’s first video shows what looks like two black holes orbiting one another, as well as Mars, Pluto, a small bouncing pyramid, and a timestamp. The caption reads “Come into your power today and tonight. #succeed #rawpower #strategize #execute #marstrinepluto.” The astrological event of a Mars trine Pluto is identified, and the pattern #hashtagged (this relationship between Mars in Pluto, the “transit,” is said to give a surge of ambition). By drawing attention, by marking or tagging, by assigning meaning, persons may feel a sense of power and ability to act agentially, via the form of knowledge about “what is happening” that astrology and other auguries seem to provide. Nothing is perhaps more central to anthropogenesis than the ability to make decisions, to execute plans and intentions, based on ‘readings” of the environment in which one finds oneself, whether that environment be a political climate, the weather, “inside” the mind, or as sketched by ancient methods of divination.
Thap seems to be asking us to consider what we each use now to make decisions and extrapolate meaningfulness. How do we locate ourselves in timespace, and derive significance from and for our existences? In the context of Instagram we may also wonder, is the use of “raw” data, the interpretation of meaning from clouds of clicks and likes, any more “accurate” or “really significant” than the movements of astral markers and bodies? The “reading” of data also uses auguries, known collectively as demographia. Demographia is considered a form of apophenia, a way of forming conclusions about what’s happening in the world, what people will or should do, and so on, based on assignment of significance to patterns.
The final post of Thap’s weeklong performance shimmers with blurry lights and winking stars, registering somewhere between dream, aural phenomena, and documentation of the spaces both “out there” beyond the Earth’s exosphere and “in there,” inside the body-mind of a humxn being. Both of these spaces may be seen as cosmic and generative of meaningfulness. The caption reads “There’s been a lot of confusion lately. Sorry I haven’t been posting as much. I’m lost. Grand Trine the last couple of days Sun in Virgo, Moon in Gemini, Neptune in Pisces, and Jupiter in Sagittarius. #mutable #mutablesigns” The sound is globular and choral. The astral bodies (Sun, Moon, Neptune, Jupiter) can be seen moving through the houses (or Bhāvas) of the Zodiac, each representing a different area of life and each linked with a sign (these latter are the more popularly known “horoscope” signs; horoscope means “time observer”). The astrological importance or interpreted meaningfulness of these locations is not provided, rather we are provided a personal statement from the artist (and/or a reading?). Though versed in the meaning-making augury of astrology, a maker of music and noise, present and visible via the Instagram platform, the humxn being is still lost, significance mutable. We are each so small, and the meaningfulness of our existences left up to our diffractive, culturally located, yet singular, private interpretations.
CURATORIAL COMMENTARY 4: Dom Duro (September 23-29)
Dominique Duroseau’s first post shows the artist’s face is close to the camera wearing an apparatus that may be a CPAP mask for sleep apnea strapped to her nose and mouth. We call this type of shot a “selfie” when posted on social media, though elsewhere it might be called a self portrait; photographic portraits of herself and of others run throughout Duroseau’s practices, and performance art and photographic self-portraiture have long been intimately acquainted. Performances for camera, whether live or in public yet oriented towards documentation, or wholly staged (without public audience) a la Cindy Sherman or Kalup Lindsey, are often a performance artist’s real bread and butter, as photographs can be used in a portfolio, distributed, sold and exhibited as part of visual arts market-based contexts. “Performance art” for camera—especially posed or staged photography—sometimes seems like a threat to live work, as it can also merge seamlessly (aesthetically, commercially) with fashion shoots and advertisements, as well as overshadow the physical actions, conversations, conceptualized temporal and spatial formats, and uses of language involved in live performance art. I mention this because I am thinking of an analogy between photographic performance, as a very determined, captured version of a person vs. the temporality and multiplicit presence of a living person and “a sexuality” or “sexiness” as a sort of captured, marketable, branded version of a person’s ongoing, ever-changing experiences, sensations, desires, and embodiments. Is “sexiness” always a posed, captured, constructed thing? Is “sex” a constructed bracket that stages particular interactions as a certain type or array of acts?
Because Duroseau (like the other artists in this festival) often works in live performance art and sees this week of Instagram account takeover as a live performance, several conceptual layers and contextual frames are centrally involved, complicating how selves and social interactions are mutually constructive of sexiness, sexuality, and “sex itself.” Duroseau is staging not only self-portraits but self-recognizing and self-expressive actions, from the perspective of a live artist whose work is always thinking in relationship with living, breathing spectators, participants, and witnesses as well as with socio-cultural spectatorships (e.g. “the male gaze,” “the white gaze” “the sexualizing gaze” etc). “Performing as sexy” here becomes analogous to “performing as art;” intentionalized, attended-to, culturally constructed.
Both the more casual “selfie” shots and the studio-lit self portraits for which the artist sits partially undressed, her face often partially or wholly obscured by checked fabric, a wig, gauze, her signature black mask, are a part of several larger, intertwined projects. Two of the self portraits are black and white, and all of the portraits in this week-long performance have advertisement-like (or meme like) words on them, lending the vibe of magazine graphic design, specifically, an article in a “women’s” magazine about sex. Several of the posts also involve music recommendations, and almost all involve an invitation to viewers to post and respond with their own experiences and/or music choices. This performance is participatory on multiple levels. Video works, with audible conversations about sex with friends evoke the sociality of sexual self-recognition. Listening, conversing, space holding, and caretaking are also a part of the artist’s ongoing practices.
At the heart of these conceptual layers linking self portraiture and self-recognition with societal self presentation and dialogue, Duroseau searches for intimacy, especially sexual/sensual intimacy. For some, her inquiries into the smell of genitals (and how to tell your lover that they need a wash?), the size of cocks (in an audio-recorded conversation with Ayana Evans), and verbal stimulation, may seem wholly light-hearted, titillating in that “Cosmo quiz” way. Humor and fun are present. Yet, some of the questions posed, such as “Have you ever stopped yourself from physical intimacy due to your self-consciousness?” (Uh, yes! Say commenters on this post) and caption texts with statements like “many things can be triggering and at random times” are deeper envoys into what it feels like to be in a body, to be a being with sexual feels, to crave intimacy (even, or especially, if the intimacy desired doesn’t involve “traditional” sexual acts of penetration, oral, or genital contact). Partially remaining “self portraiture,” as Duroseau speaks from her own experience and from within her own body and desires, the work also seeks mental and investigative intimacy between the artist as a person, her friends, and strangers over the internet. The performance is both “juicy” (a term perhaps universally used by teenaged girls to describe sex talk) and poignant, reminding us that discourse about sexuality is both designed by and designs our senses of pleasure and sexiness. How can we “feel sexy” if we believe we are not judged by others to be sexy? How can we each come into our own senses of sexual liberation when that liberation is constantly advised, informed, and demanded by cultural mythologies of perversion, fetishization, and repulsion? What does it take to be honest with oneself and with each other about our most intimate feelings and needs?
Amidst floods of sexily-posing nubile influencers and articles that demand that we each be more sexual, more open, more confident, Duroseau acknowledges that trauma, shame, and fear are also a part of sexual becoming. Personally, I experience this acknowledgement with relief, as “sexual self-recognition” as a sort of brand, (are you a top or a bottom? Are you gay or straight? Cis or trans? What toys do you use?) interfaces with being deemed “of quality “ (sex-y) as a lover. What if we don’t know ourselves that well? What if we need to explore, play, change, question, and cry? What if it takes us well into our 30’s, 40’s, 50’s to “come into our own” sexual being, dragging with us all of the historic, personal, and cultural baggage of rape culture, compulsory heteronormativity and monogamy, white supremacy, thin-fetishization, and gender role-playing? Duroseau brings sex talk out in the open, rescuing it both from the “closet” or dark, private room, and from the flashy, glossy sphere that demands marketable success in self-love and self-knowledge from “every body.” Sticky, painful, and tender elements of emotional, psychological, and physical intimacy are less put “on display” for consumption here than they are affirmed and affectionately, intimately explored. Here, the sexual self is less possible to “capture,” rather inter-active self-sexualizations and self-recognitions are directly performed through humxn interaction and thus framed as a way of transforming trauma into something pleasurable for those present, admitting that those transformations are not always easy; like art, interactions must be crafted, intentionalized, creatively addressed. In her second to last post, Duroseau notes that she is redesigning a sex/smut board game “to be a fun aid for all of us humxns to use as a way of regain oneself post sexual trauma, sexual awkwardness, to communicate freely, to build up confidence for oneself and/or with a partner or partners…[etc].” This idea of a “game” reinforces the interactive performativity of the project. I look forward to hopefully getting a chance to play this game in the future (nudge: live art/social practice curators).
CURATORIAL COMMENTARY #5: RAKI MALHOTRA
Is your mind an auto-focusing lens or can you put it on manual? What happens if you give your thoughts, your “consciousness,” let’s say, a specific idea to focus on? What if this idea or concept is labeled, hashtagged, named, by a single term, with plenty of space-time around it, would you be able to conceptualize, stabilize, and use the concept? What if you shout, Look! A Leopard!
A concept-idea is captured by words (a single word, an image, a short phrase, a term, an acronym) and brought into view, for use. This process is the subject of this “online performance art festival” at large, referred to generally as “memesis,” which itself is conceptualized and stabilized in many different ways throughout art, science, and philosophy. Our old (old, old—pre-photography, video, or the www of course—) friend Plato used the term “memesis” to discuss theatrical (dramatic) imitation: he describes how something “real” is taken up, represented or made repeatable, but only via artistic capture that “merely” copies or “touches upon” a small part of, or upon the gestural, emotive, affective nature of that/those “thing(nesse)(s),” bringing, as if through a mirror (an art-ificial reflection), phenomenal “natures” into indirect yet meaningful view and possibly into use, possibly into function as a mediating narrative element, fact, or other recognizable Known and Useful to selves and/or within “society.”
Raki Malhotra’s first word is “SOCIETAL,” presented in black all-caps amongst a brown and beige sea of speaking emojies and silhouette human head emojies. Rather than triggering a swarm of associations or generating further abstract conceptualizations, this word and Raki Malhotra’s act of posting it seems to narrow focus, spotting and pointing out: Look! SOCIETAL.
Something feeling-full is represented, named, mirrored, affects are drawn out and together, passed through the mirror of the screen and made into portable, functional matters of attention. A coherent concept-object is materialized. The emoji, the word, the hashtag, are mechanisms which materialize objects of attention out of/from sensory chaos. Generally, the study and practice of structuring objects of experience and consciousness may be called Phenomenology, or art (is that right?).
(I swear I saw a matching post with the word FAMILIAL, but maybe I dreamed it, or maybe Malhotra took it down.) (The first thing they did do to begin their performance was delete my post with their initial “press” image and bio, replacing it with a post of a screenshot of that post, skewed at an angle. She then messaged me, asking me to put hashtags on their posts [which I regret now making a joke about and then not doing, I think she was asking me to collaborate, but sometimes I don’t “get it”].)
Sometimes I can’t see the leopard. Sometimes we can’t catch it in time.
Malhotra’s work has a way of emphasizing a single word, a single phrase, and making these directly mimetic (not to be confused with “memetic”). The mirrors (ipad, phone, projector) are all at angles, refracting, deflecting, and diffractively patterning the artist’s homespace, her face and hands, plants, and here, leopard print, green netting, and a video that repeats throughout the performance, of a leopard panicking as it evades capture, leaping and jumping throughout a city in India. At one point in the video a person tries to catch the leopard in green netting. Some (different) green netting is also in a pile on a wood floor in Malhotra’s apartment.
An example of mimesis and the process of memesis conjoined: a few years ago (maybe only one year ago?) Malhotra made a performance at The Ear in Brooklyn and materialized some ideas of “pressure” in situations (re: The Today, and The Now). Though the artist now says she’s trying to move away from this idea (it was brought up again in a live video chat on the last night of her @performancearthouston performance), the labels “HPS,” “LPS,” and “NPS” (High, Low, and No Pressure Situation) have gone “viral” in and through some of us, feeling-concept-terms like “FOMO” or “SMH” that mirror, capture, and then help to disseminate and normalize a crucial feeling-concept. These terms help us communicate. (Is being expected to perform for a week online a “HPS?”) What does it “do,” in art, to reference a sensation, experience, feeling, social problem, or phenomenon, to overlap words and images towards a condensation of representation?
Samuel Taylor Coleridge writes that memesis is engendered through interfusion, a patterning of “media and materialities” which then reveals a “unity of essence” (a “meme” being this unified representation of something “essential”). While we may not believe in “essential” natures (of nature, or experience), certainly when phenomena are teased out, captured, termed, they are materialized in ways that can ease narrative communication (diagesis), and help us understand ourselves, each other, and our multiplicit sensory vigilances. There is a condensation, or a pressure (from a forces of attention) that transform chaos into some*thing: becoming a “thing” is neither good nor bad, essentially, but there are certainly repercussions, affects, consequences, and implications for different types of matter(ing)s and materializations.
We seek capture, we evade capture, repetitively catching and releasing our selves and our mental and emotional experiences.
Such “fight or flight” and “evade vs. capture” movements are themselves the central concept (I feel) that is “captured” and turned into a mimetic concept-term-object-“matter of attention” by Raki’s weeklong performance here. The “meme” is the concept-term-word HYPERVIGILANCE:
Malhotra posts: Your Story (leopard print background, mirror onscreen) “hypervigilance breeds hypervigilance”
The people are taking photos and video of the leopard. It leaps onto them, pushes off of them, using humxn bodies just as it uses concrete and stone walls. The leopard moves above and beyond the physical capabilities of humxn beings. That which evades capture is liberated, but also doesn’t belong and therefore is in danger. The people and the leopard are all in danger.
Many of Malhotra’s posts are now deleted. The livestream videos have evaporated. The stories have dissipated. I captured one or two shots of Raki performing live, in one she is wearing the green netting over her head, growling and baring her teeth.
“Hypervigilance” is a matter of attention, a state of being unsure of which stimuli should be captured and contained, and/or a state of being able capable of capturing and containing any stimuli; responsiveness is high, this is nether “good” nor “bad.” “You are not a bad person” Raki tells us over live video, “you are not a good person. There is no good. There is no bad.”
< Seen as a symptom of PTSD, hypervigilance is a constant scanning of surroundings for threats, a raw-nerved overstimulation, and inability to sort and parse which sounds, images, smells and other elements of an environment are representative of meaning and which are “background noise.”> < Seen as the activation of “artistic” sensibility, hypervigilance is an ability to attend to, to take care of, and recognize the more subtle “background” and “underlying” sensations of an environment, an ability to select and materialize those elements which are too often seen as “background noise.” >
The mind-brain-body of an animal uses its senses to detect danger and to form a narrative of experience: what is happening here? Am I in danger? What is meaningful, semiotic, mimetic, narrative here? There is something here about Hypervigilance being-feeling feral. It is a wilding, we are wild. We are in the wild. This is the wilderness, even the city, even the internet. Do we believe in “humxn nature?” Are we (still) animals? Is there a “we”? Is there a species? Are we all “just” trying to survive? Do we decide how to perform the process of memesis, the processes of detecting and selecting “important” (good, or bad) elements of sensory experience, trying to decide how to describe our/them selves, how to differentiate ourselves from each other, how to see our selves and others?
If we identify “hypervigilance,” materializing the concept-term via mimesis, does it stabilize the device (the mind-brain or camera vitae)? Is this stabilization, or “capture” the goal? Is “functioning” the goal?
The internet tells us that hypervigilance is a problem and decreases ability to function, if only because it is so exhausting. Further and similarly, memesis can become a “problem” because it causes “mise en abyme,” a putting into the abyss (memes capture and reduce sensations to one image or phrase, on object, these objects accumulate until they must themselves be reduced, then these accumulate until they must be reduced again, and so on, like the painter painting himself painting himself……….)
Shall I be very still, or shall I attack?
What I wanted to write about with regards to Raki Malhotra’s performance was René Girard, and his merde about how humxns use mimesis to become more and more like each other (anthropologically, via fetishization, mimicry, emulation, and [often forced] assimilation) and then suddenly panic and try to differentiate themselves, afraid (I guess) of becoming all one amorphous, gelatinous mass of cultural flesh, at which point, memesis triggers violence and processes of scapegoating and “ritual sacrifice” of that and those deemed “Other.” I wanted to contrast this point of view (and his absurd idea that this process is “natural” or “essential”) with Gayatri Spivak’s discussion of how “the subaltern” (that and those which/who are deemed “background noise”) are excluded, divested, and denied access to memetic and political forms of representation. That and those which/who is/are differentiated is in danger.
One (who?) might insist that the need to communicate with “o/Others” (small and large “o-O!”) is not just a desire, it is also necessary to our individual and group survivals as SOCIETAL animeaux. If we do not belong in the city, we will be hunted, chased, and netted. If we do not identify our phenomenal (internal, private) embodied experiences and communicate about them, we will seem wrong and bad, and we will lose friends, at the very least. I am not angry! We may need to say, I am experiencing HYPERVIGILANCE ! I am like you, I like you, you may experience hypervigilance, too.
Why do we almost cry when we join a live chat with our friends, that moment when recognition and in-communication breaks the flat mirror ad we see each other?
Acts of using performance (the intentional “bracketing out” or capture of images, words, actions, time-space, sites, sights) to differentiate the “essential” and “repeatable” from the background/wild are the substance of the social, the familial. That and those which/who is/are differentiated can also be essentialized, materialized, made functional. When we see each other, we materialize each other’s existence.
Here, against a gray background, the leopard’s spots make them stand out. In another context, the leopard’s spots make them blend in. One is either the leopard or the one spotting. One is spotted, spotting, or not.
CURATORIAL COMMENTARY #6: SIERRA ORTEGA (and closing words)
Thank you for posting, commenting, engaging, following, watching, listening, and participating across the past weeks!
This final piece of curatorial commentary contains more discursive content as it culminates the six-week festival for Instagram, (Me)me (Dis)content(s). Commentary on Sierra Ortega’s work is threaded throughout.
The High Schoolers where I’m teaching this quarter in St. Louis are given a textbook called ArtTalk. This textbook has gone through four editions since 1994, with the newest edition released in 2015. Leafing through this textbook even I (who was homeschooled and never encountered such a book as a kid) recognize the language and bullet points through which “layperson’s” art talk is framed and the way this framing has informed the ways I think and write about art. Generally, we can blame this frame on that ‘90’s educational focus called “critical thinking.” It roughly goes like this:
- What do you see in this artwork? (ANALYZE)
- What terms should be used to describe the work and communicate about it? (COMMUNICATE)
- How does it make you feel? What do you think the artist was thinking and feeling? Why did they make the choices they made? (INTERPRET)
- What techniques and skills are employed? Does the work “do” something (function)? Does it “succeed” in doing these things? (JUDGE)
“Critical thinking” positions the witness, viewer, or critic as “objectively” as possible, tasking the critical thinker with analysis and evaluation. Even post-Sontag, art talk in newspapers and even most art magazines and journals leans heavily on this general frame for art criticism. Some critics and arts writers spend a bit more time describing their own feelings, acknowledging their own subjectivity and the lenses through which they approach the (objectified) work and many use complex art historical theory to communicate about the work and connect it within trajectories of intention, worldview, and cultural context. Largely, however, the critical thinker (cum arts writer or curator) must judge the work and determine whether or not it is of merit, use, interest, and otherwise OF VALUE to, within, and as part of the social “body” or “machine” from which the work emerges.
This ArtTalk “Critical Thinking” paradigm that I’m describing above is dependent on the absolute imperative to prove art “valuable.” Especially for performance art, where there are few auction records to use as proof of value, our explanations, analyses, and justifications veritably materialize the qualifications through which performance art even becomes “art” at all.
There is further urgency to justify the value of art and performance art, specifically. Without justification there is no grant funding, no attention and recognition, no provided space or time, no canonical inclusion. Without justification that what we are and what we do is valuable, we can’t communicate. Without some sort of critical judgment that deems us valuable, our voices, ideas, theories, images, and concepts can have no influence or relevance.
Here, my curatorial commentary is pre-decided on the subject of value. I already believe that these artists and their work are of value. Even besides the issues that I (and many other performance art folks) have with valuation schemas on conceptual and political levels, because I am the “curator” of the festival, I have already selected these artists because I believe their work to be pertinently performing inquiry into the specific matters drawn into focus by this particular project’s conceptual frames, problems, concerns, and questions (a different festival would include different artists; pertinence to framed inquiry at-hand is the dominant qualification and valuation schema for a performance art “curator” who adores and values hundreds of artists). Like a teacher or a textbook creator, this sort of conceptual “curation” assembles examples of artists and their work in order to provide viewers (or “students”) with opportunities to analyze, communicate, interpret, and judge in (juxta)position and conceptual context. Curatorial commentary then, (not unlike teaching) is structured to pursue and develop arguments as to how and why (p)articular work communicates, and in this case, the ways in which the work negotiates value(s) themselves.
What Instagram does best, I think, is capitalize on emotional and psychological urgency and desperation to be seen and deemed valuable. As we post, we may imagine a “critical thinker” positioned that “their end” of the message, poised to analyze, receive our communication, to interpret, and to judge. As a “free” and “open” platform (supposedly, though censorship is rampant), “content producers” are supposed to be able to enter a “free market” of popular “critical thinking” through which users are tasked with rewarding the “best” images, ideas, and people with attention and assignment of value. Attention is supposed to “objectively” equal algorithmic hierarchization. Of course, the problems with Instagram are the problems of the “free market” itself (there is no such thing, for example, as “free and open;” all forms, systems, codes, and algorithms have ideological biases and bases). The problems with Instagram are the problems of capitalism, and the ways in which existing ideological hegemonies (e.g. white supremacy, beauty, capital value, patriarchy, ability…) transform and reduce the emotions, perceptions, experiences, attentions, and (e)motivations of living persons to units of data (messages, codes, or data which themselves/itself then becomes a product worth far more than persons themselves). Autonomous value systems, like “objective” critical thinking schemas and capitalist valuation schemas, reduce existence to objects that do or not have value. They turn bodies and persons into property or components with (dys)functional properties, into objects that have the potential to NOT be deemed of value/use/meaning and thereby discarded. The stakes here are high: when we are seen as non valuable, as not mattering, discard can result in death. I think a good term for the paradigm that roughly describes and designs conceptualizations here is, most generally, Social Darwinism. According to wikipedia Social Darwinism has been “debunked” but epistemically its “ways of knowing and seeing,” are essential to capitalism as we know and experience it: Social Darwinism views all persons as competitive within “free, natural, objective” selection processes (generally promoting the idea that certain people become powerful in society because they are innately better, thereby justifying imperialism, racism, eugenics and social inequality), while capitalism determines the qualification and valuation system that will be used to select survivors (that is, capital value, use value, production value, property value).
For people born in the Global South, for poor people all over the world, for Black and/or Indigenous people, for POC, for womxn, for trans and queer people, for differently abled people, for sick and ill people, for children and the elderly, for neuro-diverse people (and etc, et al in intersectional complexity), obviously this special blend of brutalist ideology/epistemology and pseudo-science has been and continues to prove deathly.
Within the post-consensuality of such capitalist and socially-Darwinian conditions it is, painfully, still possible to be aware of and resistant, even to divest partially from such epistemic determinations and conditions (as with David Ian Bellows Griess/April Vendetta’s work). It is possible to be ironic, humorous, and reflexive (as with Brittani Broussard’s work), to propose alternative schemas for interpreting value and meaningfulness (as with Elaine Thap’s work), to directly value embodiment, intimacy, and tenderness in the face of schemas that devalue and exclude these (as with Dominque Duroseau’s work), to emphasize specific terms of engagement and analyze our conditions poetically (as with Raki Malhotra’s work) and it is possible to use these conditions, conceptualizations, and qualification schemas themselves as materials for performative artworking(s), as with Sierra Ortega’s work. If our central conceptual question for the festival was about how and to what extent performative agencies can and do bend, dismantle, infiltrate, infect, and intervene in the coercive, exploitative, and objectivist platform that is Instagram, we experienced six attempts to practically ask and attempt such questions and their compound variations.
Sierra Ortega’s weeklong performance is not just “about” agencies of survival, their processes embody and (re)present an array of performativities and theatricalities used by their specific body and person to survive, utilizing dialectical theoretics of survival on the part of queer, trans* and/or differently-abled persons. The analogy here is a familiar one to those who read and/or are immersed in queer and trans theory, feminist theoretics, and/or disability studies; first, “public” or “political” society is analogized as a body (the body politic) or a machine. Those who do not “function” within and as component “incorporated” parts of this body or machine are seen as diseases, as cancerous, or as glitches, errors, or broken parts. This “dysfunction” is reified and reclaimed, however, positioned as agency and capability (largely in order towards survival of the will, the psyche, and towards emotional well-being). To become a “ghost in the machine” or “a virus” is reframed as a way of holding and embodying forms of other-wisdom, power, and/or “mutant/mutated/mutable” survival (or at least deconstructive) agency.
The politics of “dis-ease reification” (so termed by Eula Biss), or “immunity politics,” deals directly with eugenics as the “endgame of the machine.” Such theory often argues that Social Darwinism and capitalism are not “natural” processes, but mechanistic/measurement-based paradigms (constructed ways of knowing and seeing) willfully designed to serve and empower certain bodies at the expense (and extermination) of others. Further, “body” and “machine” analogies for humxn societal processes are framed as theatricalizations, and thus subject to (re)conceptualization, (re)staging, and (re)configuration.
Ortega, who has a background (and practice) in theater as well as performance art, uses a range of semiotic and textual devices, including manipulated digital interfaces that look like Block or Allow pop-ups, text messages, and error alerts to parse theoretics of illness, queerness/trans* and disability as “glitch,” virus, failure to (bear the) “load,” or error in machines both socio-political and (in)corporated. Ortega’s own body, framed by these dual analogies, “jams the neurobiological computer,” using analogy to display and practice tactics for disruption, critique, and self-empowerment.
The use of body politic and machine analogies strengthens their “actuality.” The extent to which society is “really” a body (with a head [of state or of mind]) or “actually” a computer or machine is dependent on the mentalities and worldview(ing)s of that society’s subjects. Configuration of “a society” in any case is dependent on subject(ive)s seeing themselves as participants in such a “thing.” Agency (the ability of someone, some thing, some idea, some matter to do some thing) hereby is centralized; who can do what? How does “co-construction” or “intra-active materialization” work, between persons, cultures, technologies, beliefs, laws, concepts, and other “elements” (e.g. “matter[s]” both of attention and matter, as in the “stuff” of the universe)? What do we have the “power” to change, and what is beyond our influence? How are we each both conditioned and conditioning, made of matter, and mattering?
If there is a “message,” “thesis,” or “point” to both Ortega’s work (and/or that I hope can be “taken away” from this six-week festival) is that ways of seeing themselves, that is, these analogies, descriptions, terms, and ways of naming paradigms and epistemic processes are themselves the measurement and qualification technologies and tools that (actor-participants in our own experiments and the experiments of others who usually do not have our best interest and health or even survival in mind) materialize physical and conceptual matter(s.)
This worldview that I’m summarizing here (in a layperson’s manner) has a name too, generally, Agentic Materialism. Critical skepticism of this trajectory is well worthwhile, but at the moment the diverse theoretical sphere that is Agentic Materialism (roughly) is having quite an impact on performance art (and hopefully vice versa). Central texts include Karen Barad’s Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning, Alexander Weheliye’s Habeas Viscus, Jessica Riskin’s The Restless Clock, and many other works by Stacy Alaimo, Rosi Braidotti, Bruno Latour, Diana Coole, Donna Haraway and others. Problems, personal positions, and inquiries here are “diffractive” (another choice term), that is, convergent and mutually informative, yet involving and respectful of difference and divergence.
Such dialectics, both in theory and in art, can give “critical thinkers” forms of agency that push beyond and outside of pedagogical location, from which we can push through and move past “ArtTalk” style conditioning that urges us to:
1) See our “site for sight” as an objective position, observing “the world” as outside of and distinct from our bodies, seeing artworks as “objects” >>> rather than as intra-active processes and performativities that “do” (are agentic)
2) attempt to receive a “meaning” or “message” from the work, to be apart from “the objective art object” and see it as a vessel or medium >>>> rather than as agentic performativities that are mediating and mattering already as elements of world(view)(ing)s we do and do not share
3) experience our feels and interpretations as “products of” or as “caused by the work” and our conceptualizations of the artist’s intentions, views, and statements as projections >>>> rather than acknowledging that we co-construct meaningfulness with and as part of creative materialization processes and performativities
4) assume that an artist and their work are trying to function within and as part of a machine or body politic, judging and justifying value (or the lack thereof) within a Socially Darwinistic and capitalist schemas for value >>> rather than empowering the agentic capacities of performance and artists to define, design, and materialize ways of seeing, forms of value, schemas, analogies, terms, materialization methods in and of themselves
Of course, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to theorize, make, discuss, analyze, and experience art. Our ways (theories, methods, motives, intentions, practices), however, are a large part of how and what that work then “is,” and those ways and means do have implications; they are agentic, they do matter. Further, we can see and conceptualize our own ways of experiencing. For Ortega, conceptualizations of their existence and embodiments as glitch, virus, error, or wound have affective (emotional and psychic) power, as well as theoretical agency to interrogate what forms of economic and political institution, cultural sensibilities and value judgments, and technologies are deemed “healthy,” or “healing,” “whole,” or “functional.” What I personally value in Ortega’s work, and through and as part of the work of the other five artists in this festival, is a resistance to nihilism and a rejection of worldviews that entirely capitulate to a totalitarian sense of a monolithically impenetrable and unchangeable single world that we can only “use” or be producers “within.” There is perhaps only a “conceptual” line between seeing ourselves as “raw materials,” as being used by a system, merely as content and content producers and consumers (who are either functional or dysfunctional, included or excluded), always and forever being objectified and forced to reproduce the system regardless of our (lack of) consent, and on the other hand, a more “optimistic” or “hopeful” way of seeing ourselves as variously constructed by and constructing, materializing/materialized and mattering/as and of matter, constitutive, substantial and substantive, and therefore at least partially capable of resisting, reforming, remaking worlds. Performance artists I think are often moving back and forth across this conceptual(ized) line, potentially instantiating other “options” beyond product/producer, used/user, artist/art, participant/situation, object/subject binaries and dualisms. VIA what one may at least perceive and sense to be intentions and agencies to choose how to see, perform, conceptualize, create, and criticize, one (or “we”) may become both more and less “integral” to systems and structures, thereby potentiating agency to disrupt, transform, work around, and reconfigure alternative, ancestral, agonistic, and “new” processes; performance art and performance artists can be seen debating how and to what extent “agencies to world” are performable, and these six artists can also be seen to be directly practicing, testing, enacting, and embodying such agencies.