© Carlie Ester Pipe
On Saturday, November 19th Fresh Milk offered Barbados a taste of performance art. Coming to us with the distinct Venezuelan flavour of Sandra Vivas, an inspirational performance artist from Caracas, we were given the opportunity to consume art in a whole new way.
Performance art, is an abstruse concept. In my humble understandings (for I’m a writer, not a historian) what I will ignorantly-just-for-this-essay call “regular art” is easier to define and therefore control. It’s trappable between the edges of the canvas, the brushstrokes that are created at 4.55pm on Tuesday are then frozen in time and so remain until they are destroyed. The author will not outlive her work, and she may hide from it, reject it, and walk away from it. In essence, “regular art” is a tangible, touchable creation that is confined to a four sided parallelogram that may never be altered from the day it was birthed, and may be viewed in exactly the same state by anyone, anywhere, at any given moment.
Performance art, on the other hand, is intangible. The author IS the performance, and for that reason she can never walk away from her piece. She is the piece. She is not confined to a canvas, she is only restricted to the 3D limitations of our perceptions of the realm in which we live. Though her performance may be viewed (live) again and again and again…it will never be the same twice. What we viewed on Saturday, she may well have performed in likeness elsewhere, but given the environment, audience, available props and humanity of the author, it was unique.
Sandra’s piece was the first act of performance art that I have ever encountered in person. For those of you unfortunate enough not to be there, this is my opinion of what happened:
Sandra stood in front of a wooden table with two dozen eggs. One by one, she cracked the eggs on the table, and poured the raw, slimy viscera over her face and lamented loudly:
According to you, I’m the bad one. Your poisonous words have hurt me, your vampire speech has hurt me, and according to you, I’m the bad one.
That’s not verbatim, that’s the gist. Her speech was in Spanish and her movements methodical. The eggs, a symbol of dreams not brought to fruition, life that could not be fulfilled, are dashed, cracked, and she is punished as the slime which symbolizes the hurtful words of “you” are poured all over her. There is pain in the relationship between herself and this “you” she refers to. We the audience are feeling her anguish, and watching her be mocked in this monotonous and repetitive punishment.
But, there is a catch. Sandra says, “I came out ahead.” Repeating this line at the end of her verses, her pain suddenly changes into pleasure.
The eggs she cracks allow her to break out of her shell, and away from this tormentuous “you”. She’s no longer pouring slime on her head, she’s nourishing her body and mind with yolk. Sandra becomes more confident and slowly but surely, she has cracked twenty-two of the two dozen eggs. The two remaining eggs are left in opposite crates, alone but separate. This separation represents the separation of herself, from “you”. By the time the final egg has been cracked and fed to her body, she is lavishing in its maternal yolk, and welcomes it into her mouth. Then, with a cheeky lifting of her skirt to show off glowing panties, she taunts the audience and reminds us that she indeed came out ahead.
The raw and hurtful words that “you” inflicted upon her, in the end only made her a stronger woman.
Sandra’s performance was the icing on the cake, but it certainly wasn’t all that was on the menu. Fresh Milk also presented to us an idea of what it is like to be an artist in residence, with talks by Ewan Atkinson, Sheena Rose, Mark King and Joanna Crichlow, as well as a video presentation by Annalee Davis’ final year fine arts students at BCC. Though they all had varied experiences, suffice to say that being in residency sounds like a vacation of creation. Yes, “creating” can be hard work, but how many of us have the privilege to be a full time artist? Quite a few of us, myself included, are full time clerks-managers-sales reps-whatever and part time when-we-have-the-time artists. Listening to these four artists recant their experiences in residency was inspirational. It made me think of how important “space” is to an artist, and more importantly, how important our space should be to Government and society on a whole.
Artists, in order to all be able to explore, create, inspire and develop our culture, need spaces to inhabit, and there are simply not enough. Thankfully, we have Fresh Milk to continue to nourish our intellects and souls with its food for thought.