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Performance art without art is vaudeville

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Milo Moire’s "Performance # 1 - A Birth of a Picture" at an art fair in Cologne, which likens the labor of delivering a baby to that of making art, is infuriating. My familiarity with both efforts impels me to call this a cop-out, an escape from the real work of birthing either painting or life.

What you see (YouTube has the video) is an upright nude woman dropping paint-filled eggs as if out of her birth canal onto a blank canvas. You can hear them drop – plop, plop – breaking open and spilling pigment, mostly blood red.

Granted the couple of time I gave birth isn’t recent, but the intensity of those times was too momentous to forget. Most memorable was the unstoppable-ness of it, like riding a souped-up car without brakes or steering wheel. You’re in the driver’s seat, but you’re not driving. Pushing new life into the world is hard work and you come to know why it’s called labor. Nothing in Milo’s performance art is about exertion. Plopping paint balls, aiming them and watching them spill out is child’s play.

That said, there was one plausible thing in her performance that’s seldom mentioned when delivering new life: expelling the placenta, the afterbirth. That’s what Milo’s painting looked like – like the bloody remains of a disgorged placenta.

Overall, though, “Birth of a Picture” was an offense to creating anything. Milo never broke a sweat. And the biggie of all, her process was wholly volitional. Clearly she missed the point. Even in painting a picture, you’re not the driving force.

What’s more, her point was too specific, too particularized to be art. It would have been better if she didn’t title her “painting,” and let viewers figure out for themselves what they saw. When you specify, you need to meet specifications.

This performance art, then, amounted to a sideshow, an attention-getter. No surprise, there. Milo has been known to ride public transportation in the nude - also in the name of art. Giving art a bad name is more like it.

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