Tuesday, July 26, 2005


I'm a fan of improvisational stealth performance art. Mostly, I'm a fan because it's funny, but part of it is also that the people who do it are clearly doing it as a creative act. They're pushing at the boundaries of mundane reality, not by writing a song or painting a picture, but by their actions. The art is in the moment of performance, and everything beyond that is simply secondhand.

This has led me to think about those rare individuals who, while clearly artists, are arguably masters in the medium of personality or social interaction. No one can know if a conversation with such a person is really a performance piece - indeed, these guys never seemed to let down the facade. More, perhaps their true nature was one of constant performance.

Dali is probably the classical master of the form. No one who achieved celebrity has been more continuously and calculatedly loony. Though shunned by the Paris Surrealists, Dali succeeded in making everyone around him a prisoner (or guest) in his own surreal (or even absurdist) world. Ironically, he seems to have been motivated by the most profound sense of iconoclasm. He seemed to adore money, but apparently only because it was taboo for artists to work for money (constituting "low art"). He painted Hitler, apparently to scandalize his contemporaries. He agreed to the making of a documentary about him, but flatly refused to answer any of the filmmaker's questions.

Andy Kaufman is probably the other modern master of this medium. His portrayal of "Tony Clifton" (sometimes played by his brother or his friend Bob Zmuda) maintained a ruse for an extended period that Clifton was, in fact, a different person. Amusingly, thanks to Zmuda, Clifton lives on (albeit for brief periods) well after Kaufman's death.

So, it is art? Well, I've seen a man wrapped in saran wrap writh on a stage and be called "dance," so I'm willing to call it art. But it's especially difficult to see where the artistry ends and the art begins. If such a line matters.

Here's a list of the people who I think need to up the ante and really startt to blur the line. These few have the potential to really "go nuts" and pull off some hilarious stuff: Robin Williams (It's not too late! Just go nuts!), Tom Cruise (All he has to do is turn around and say, "You thought I was a Scientologist? Fooled you!" and he'll go down in history as someone who wasn't just brainwashed and crazy), and (collectively) the Gorillaz (They don't exist. Anything they do is a little miracle).

Some people, though, are just nuts... or bad with grammar... I haven't figured it out...


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