The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'performance art'
The Village Voice has a profile piece on the Satanic Temple, the new group pranking the US Religious Right in the name of the Prince of Darkness, and the latest manifestation of the long and somewhat varied tradition of Satanism; this time, as détournement. This particular Satanic Temple seems to have been founded by a Brooklyn-based journalist named Doug Mesner (who goes by the name “Lucien Greaves”, his legal name being presumably insufficiently Satanic-sounding), possibly emerging out of a mockumentary project about “the world's nicest Satanic cult” praising right-wing Christian politicians in Florida, but since then has gone on to hold a “pink mass” on the grave of the mother of anti-gay religious preacher Fred Phelps, posthumously turning her lesbian, and commissioning a rather handsome-looking statue of Baphomet, to be placed outside the Oklahoma State Capitol alongside the Ten Commandments monument, testing the sincerity of state lawmakers' commitment to religious freedom. In fact, most of their work seems to centre around turning the US Constitution's neutrality on actual religions and the entrenched privilege of the Religious Right (as seen in recent court rulings, such as those allowing corporations to have religious values which override their employees' rights) against each other; they campaign (on constitutionally-protected grounds of religious exemption) against corporal punishment in schools and, most recently, have used this angle in a campaign against restrictions on abortion.
Unsurprisingly, the Satanic Temple gets a lot of hate mail from the usual good ol' boys. Perhaps also unsurprisingly, though, their most strident (or at least coherently so) critics are other self-identified Satanists; namely, the Church Of Satan, the Satanic sect founded by Anton LaVey in the Sixeventies, and since inherited by one Peter Gilmore, who has nothing nice to say about the new kids, and keeps saying it:
"When a fellow in horns — with an adopted moniker fit for a 1970s hairdresser — tea-bags a tombstone while some 'goth' rejects swap spit on the grave, it seems to us to be a parody of Satanism rather than a representation of some actual philosophical or religious organization." Those lines were written by Magus Peter H. Gilmore, leader of the Church of Satan, on the Church's official blog. It's one of several denunciations Gilmore has issued against the Satanic Temple in the past year.One would expect the Church Of Satan to resent upstart groups on its turf, especially ones whose activity and media-savviness is making the older group look tired and past its prime. (And the Church Of Satan does not seem to have done much since Anton LaVey died; apparently the older Church, whilst shunning publicity, does have private events for those who have earned entry to them; they do not say what sorts of events these are, so they may just be exclusive hot-tub parties with septagenarians who have first-hand stories about the wild old days). The generational divide also shows a chasm of values; the Church of Satan, founded in the 1960s, was both a product of the explosive “youthquake” that upended the authoritarian, conformistic values of 1950s America, and also a reaction to its mushier peace-and-love aspects; its philosophies of hedonism, pride and vengeance against one's enemies borrowed from Nietzsche and Ayn Rand (who wrote a foreword to its The Satanic Scriptures). The Satanic Temple, meanwhile, is a product of the current age; more liberal, more media-savvy, and essentially humanistic, to the point of being conspicuously (and, some would argue, contemptibly) nice. If LaVey Satanism was a reaction against the suburban docility of Eisenhower-era America and namby-pamby hippie crap, then might Greaves' Satanism be a reaction against the equivalents in post-Reaganite America: the sort of Randian dog-eat-dog values embodied both by the political/economic mainstream and the old Satanic counterculture (who, to be fair, were into them first)? If so, the Church of Satan comes off rather badly, looking like an aging hipster whose countercultural stance has succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, infusing the mainstream with its values and leaving them with just some tatty old clothes which no longer fit and the claim of having done it first.
A Welsh artist is recruiting people to stand outside Cardiff City Hall looking miserable tomorrow from 1pm to 2pm. Barrie Davies intends the "sulkathon" to "capture the mood of the moment".
Santiago Sierra, the Mexican conceptual artist who, in the past, hired labourers to masturbate, created casts of prostitutes' genitals and invited patrons to an art opening which was blocked off (thus demonstrating that they were more concerned with free champagne than aesthetic experiences), is back. His latest project involved turning a former synagogue in Germany into a gas chamber:
The Mexico-based artist has parked six cars outside the synagogue and attached their exhaust pipes to the building using plastic tubes. It is then filled with deadly gas. Visitors are invited to go inside one by one wearing a gas mask, escorted by a firefighter. Before being allowed in, they have to sign a disclaimer stating they realise the room is full of carbon monoxide.Sierra claims that the installation, titled 245 Cubic Metres with chilling blandness, is a protest against the "banalisation of the Holocaust". Germany's Jewish groups, however, don't see it that way and have denounced the exhibit as "scandalous". Visitors' reactions have been mixed. The exhibit has since been suspended until Sierra meets his critics to discuss the project.
The comments in the Guardian's blog raise some interesting points, with some claiming a second subtext, equating personal automobiles with genocide, and others comparing it to a notional installation spraying the inside of a mosque with pigs' blood.
A 24-year-old woman committed suicide by jumping from the window of an art gallery in Berlin; the day before, she went to the gallery and was filmed by artists saying that she planned to commit suicide. When she jumped, bystanders thought it was performance art.
(Which brings up the quesion: if she hadn't killed herself, would it have been performance art? And just because she did, does that automatically make it not art?)