Reality TV for Pompous Idiots (Season 1, Ep. 1)

Performance art: Progressivism made tangible. Bland hatred for self, life, and the individual, combined with a snake oil salesman’s chutzpah, in a naked emperor’s play for money and fame — all of it masquerading as the revelation of truths hitherto unimagined. Artifice at the apogee of absurdity, droning on for hours and days, all the while claiming to be more real than Being.

Performance art is, in short, reality TV produced by pompous idiots, and aimed at the gullible, the confused, those tired of the vacuity of pop drivel but not yet able to discern that pop drivel in the nude is still pop drivel, and every bit as vacuous as the mainstream kind.

How pompous? How idiotic? How progressive?

I offer the following, from the grande dame of the movement, Marina Abramović, from a 2010 interview conducted before her famous “performance” at MoMA that year, during which she sat in place all day, every day — oh yes, she even urinated into a pot under her chair — while random visitors paid to sit across from her and let her stare at them:

To be a performance artist, you have to hate theatre. Theatre is fake: there is a black box, you pay for a ticket, and you sit in the dark and see somebody playing somebody else’s life. The knife is not real, the blood is not real, and the emotions are not real. Performance is just the opposite: the knife is real, the blood is real, and the emotions are real. It’s a very different concept. It’s about true reality.

Take a moment now — not seven hundred hours, as a performance artist might expect, but just long enough to turn those words over in your mind a few times: “To be a performance artist, you have to hate theatre. Theatre is fake.” 

Now keep that insight in mind as you read the following, from Henry Ford (1916), the great industrialist and one of the leading lights of early American progressivism:

What do I care about Napoleon? What do we care about what they did 500 or 1,000 years ago? I don’t know whether Napoleon did or did not try to get across and I don’t care. It means nothing to me. History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker’s dam is the history we make today.

And now, balancing those two important testimonials of progress in your mind — the Diva of Exhibitionist Self-Loathing and the Seer of Assembly Line Civilization — allow me, ever so gently, to place this last thought on top, from Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World:

“You all remember,” said the Controller, in his strong deep voice, “you all remember, I suppose, that beautiful and inspired saying of Our Ford’s: History is bunk. History,” he repeated slowly, “is bunk.”

He waved his hand; and it was as though, with an invisible feather whisk, he had brushed away a little dust, and the dust was Harappa, was Ur of the Chaldees; some spider-webs, and they were Thebes and Babylon and Cnossos and Mycenae. Whisk. Whisk–and where was Odysseus, where was Job, where were Jupiter and Gotama and Jesus? Whisk–and those specks of antique dirt called Athens and Rome, Jerusalem and the Middle Kingdom–all were gone. Whisk–the place where Italy had been was empty. Whisk, the cathedrals; whisk, whisk, King Lear and the Thoughts of Pascal. Whisk, Passion; whisk, Requiem; whisk, Symphony; whisk…

“To be a performance artist, you have to hate theatre.” True. And likewise, to live your life in continuity with three thousand years of civilization, you have to hate performance art.

The Philosopher’s Scream

You may also like...