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Drowned Alive: Performance Art or Performance Stunt?

Monday night, the magician David Blaine attempted to break the world record for holding one’s breath. He also tried to do it underwater after living for seven days and seven nights in an eight-foot transparent sphere designed by his partner Tom Bramlett. He ate and relieved himself through tubes, and visitors could observe and interact with him all week, 24 hours a day. The apex of his performance was aired Monday night on prime time television: Blaine attempted to hold his breath for over 9 minutes (in order to break the world record of 8:58) while trying to escape from 150 pounds of metal shackles holding him captive in the sphere. The commercials airing in between the antics cost advertisers over $120,000 for 30-second spots. David Blaine failed at his attempt at a breath-holding world record; in fact, he was unconscious and having convulsions when he was rescued from his 8-foot aquarium at the conclusion of the event. In the post-spectacle analysis, one newscaster remarked, with a quivering triumph in her voice, that David Blaine was the “ultimate performance artist.” I am not so sure.

performanceartist.jpg In June of 1990, four National Endowment of the Arts grants were vetoed by John Frohnmayer. The four individuals singled out were all controversial performance artists who had strong, polarizing political discourses, and the grants were vetoed after having been recommended for awards by the NEA peer review panel. Three of the rejected artists, Tim Miller, and John Fleck and Holly Hughes were gay and their work dealt with homosexual issues; the fourth, Karen Finley, was rejected because of strong feminist themes portrayed in her work. The endowment had been under attack the previous year, and had been criticized for funding supposedly “lewd” work. The National Campaign for Freedom of Expression rerouted NEA funds and other money to help support and fight for the artists. At the time, a spokesperson for the NEA said this would be a direct violation of grant regulations. In 1993, after an arduous court fight, the members of “the NEA Four” received compensation surpassing their grant amounts when the courts ruled in support of the artists.

I remember the first time I heard of Karen Finley. It was back in the mid-1980s, at which time she was primarily known for one action in particular: putting canned yams (out of the can) up her butt, in front of an audience. At approximately the same time, homoerotic photographs by the late Robert Mapplethorpe generated particular outrage among some members of Congress, including North Carolina Republican Senator Jesse Helms. Mapplethorpe also photographed subjects (including himself) with objects in their anus. But in as much as Karen’s work was sexual in nature, it was also fiercely “real”—it was performed as opposed to captured in still photographs.

Since the 1980s, I have been fascinated and intrigued by performance art; I scalped one lone ticket to Finley’s show wherein she covered her naked body in chocolate and bean sprouts, I saw the early work of Danny Hoch, Anna Deavere Smith, Annie Sprinkle, Ann Magnuson, Carolee Schneeman, and the musical performance art of John Cage and Glenn Branca. Many of these experiences left me emotionally shaken and incredibly inspired.

Here is a (very) brief timeline of performance art:

1908: The Futurists led by poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. Site for Futurist Manifesto of 1908.

1916: The beginning of Dada,” a small group of people that met for only a few months at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, Switzerland. Hitler negatively mentioned the Dada in his Mein Kampf. One of the groups primary performers was Benjamin Franklin Wedekind (also known as Frank Wedekind). Of the Zurich Dadaist’s there was Hugo Ball and Emmy Hennings.

1920s: The German Bauhaus. One performer from this period was Oskar Schlemmer.

1930s: The Black Mountain College, in North Carolina. Major performers were John Cage, Merce Cunningham and Buckminster Fuller. All of these performers subsequently became known for other artistic achievements but all participated in performance art.

1950s and 1960s: Kaprow’s Happenings . Happenings had a good run through the 1960’s. Robert Morris performed in 1965 and Yves Klein in the late 1950’s and 1960’s. One of my favorite artists, Joseph Beuys was associated with the art movement Fluxus, as was a young female artist named Yoko Ono.

1970s and 1980s: Performance Art became much more sexually political in the 1970’s and was propelled into the main stream media in the 1980’s by “Queer Theater.”

The 1990s is often considered the golden age of Performance Art. It “came out” of the gay clubs and into Lincoln Center, with Karen Finley’s infamous chocolate show. It is also a time when poetry readings officially morphed into performance art at the Nuyorican Poetry Slams in New York City’s East Village.

So you can imagine my curiosity and trepidation about David Blaine’s performance at Lincoln Center Monday night, 15 years since Finley’s Lincoln Center tour de force.

For those that might not be fully aware, the underwater breath-holding stint was not David Blaine’s first foray into mass-produced cultural “events.” An accomplished and rather impressive magician, Blaine’s previous public feats included balancing on a 22-inch circular platform atop a 100-foot pole for 35 hours, being buried alive in a see-through coffin for a week and surviving inside a massive block of ice for 61 hours, all of which were performed in New York. In 2003, he fasted for 44 days in a suspended acrylic box alongside the Thames River in London. During his recent underwater excursion on the upper West Side, he apparently greeted all his fans and witnesses through the water bubble he lived in. But some critics questioned the validity of Blaine’s attempt to break the breath-holding world record, as judges from the International Association for the Development of Apnoea (AIDA) would have had to attend Blaine’s attempt for any record set to be officially recognized, and they were not present at the event. Their non-attendance has not been mentioned by the Blaine or his publicists, probably because under the AIDA’s rules they would have had to spend at least two hours with him prior to his record attempt.

This is what The New York Times had to say about this spectacle: “If the performance seems a bit out of character for the environs of Plácido Domingo, Yo-Yo Ma and Suzanne Farrell, Mr. Blaine’s feat could also be said to explore the boundaries of art and commerce, encompassing the culture’s obsession with reality television while experimenting with the limits of human achievement. For a society growing tired of celebrities eating bugs and aspiring actors playing mind games with one another on a deserted island, Mr. Blaine’s placidly floating figure elevates spectacle to a sort of performance art.”

But was Blaine’s feat really performance art or was it actually a performance stunt? Tom Bramlett’s sphere was indeed magical, but as I frightfully watched Blaine held captive within it while holding his breath for 7 minutes and 2 seconds, I felt myself wishing for more. I wanted the stunt to have some context: a visual statement, a political message, the setting-forth of a belief, even something as simple as a point. I wanted to be transformed by the magnitude of the experience. I wanted the million plus dollars he spent on the attempt to…well…be worth it. At the conclusion of his program the only metamorphosis I felt was relief that he didn’t drown and a creepy kind of disappointment that he failed in his attempt to set a world record while the whole world looked on. Then there was a commercial break, and I started watching What About Brian?, the quirky new program scheduled on ABC’s prime time Monday night line-up.

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PUBLISHED ON May.09.2006 BY debbie millman
Andrew Twigg’s comment is:


I share much of your point of view. Blaine's antics are merely spectacle. There really doesn't seem to be anything more than the stunt.

This doesn't mean that I don't think his tricks are interesting, but I place Blaine in a lineage that contains Houdini and Copperfield, not performance artists.

On May.10.2006 at 08:37 AM
darryl’s comment is:

So sticking a yam up your butt is art, but living for a week in a water bubble is not? Let's just pretend that the bubble was a metaphor for the womb and make up some pro life/pro choice political gobbledegook about it. Would it be art then?

On May.10.2006 at 08:56 AM
Drew Davies’s comment is:

I know this simply goes back to the age-old (and never-ending) discussion about "what is art?" but who are any of us to suggest that what David Blaine did on Monday night is not "art"?

It's not art because it was commercially successful? It's not art because it didn't have a "deep message"? It's not art because it was boring and left us "wishing for more"? It's not art because he spent a bunch of money on it, and all of us could think of a better use for that kind of money? I'm sure I don't need to outline the examples in the art world that counter all of these points. The beauty of "art" is that different messages speak differently to different people. As they say, "it takes all kinds."

Debbie, I didn't find Blaine's "performance" any more fulfilling than you did. But I'd be pretty careful about implying that because you didn't personally appreciate it, it's a "stunt" and not Art.

On May.10.2006 at 09:33 AM
debbie millman’s comment is:

Drew--well it certainly could be a stunt and art, but I am still not sure. As far as Blaine being considered "the ultimate performance artist"--that I am more sure about: he isn't.

Daryl--as far as gobbledegook (sp?), this is from an interview with Karen Finley about her "use" of yams:

Looking at the art world right now you can see that it's still a small world for women. I feel it's my responsibility to bring up these issues instead of playing some kind of game. Naked bodies aren't shocking to me at all—I used to work in a strip club. In performance I try to present my asshole in an unsexual way. It's many men's fantasies to have a woman bend over and be fucked that way; it's a very sexual position. But when I take over it loses the sexual tension because the sexual tension comes from someone being degraded by that. I don't make it degrading. When I showed my rear end on stage and smushed these canned yams against it—an act that had a lot of repercussions in the media—I was using the body in an unsexual way. What I proved is that we're supposed to be so goddamn liberated and we aren't. We can't refer to other parts of the body the same way we refer to an ear or an index finger; our orifices are still for penetration or sexual pleasure. We really haven't gone very far beyond the bra-burning of the '60s in terms of sexual liberation.

On May.10.2006 at 10:11 AM
szkat’s comment is:

"So sticking a yam up your butt is art, but living for a week in a water bubble is not? Let's just pretend that the bubble was a metaphor for the womb and make up some pro life/pro choice political gobbledegook about it. Would it be art then?"

that's perfectly phrased. performance art is born of spectacle with an agenda.

can we discuss the event poster in the next speakup thread? it's a lovely poster, though maybe a little dramatic (and overpriced? do i really want to pay $25 to remember what could have been nine minutes?) but seriously, the poster's neat. it's obviously carefully considered, with styles echoing the 20s / Ancient Greek "naked = hero" / Salvador Dali. i'd suggest that's more aesthetically satisfying than the rubber ball, unfortunately.

On May.10.2006 at 10:22 AM
DC1974’s comment is:

Agenda art is SO 1978. ;)

When I was studying (and performing) with technology, installation and performative practice - I had several professors that encouraged us to look beyond the Karen Finley/David Wojarnowicz school of performance. There are wonderful minimalist performance artists. And a strong tradition of "extremes" like Blaine. That late 90s "trend" of live TV, assisted suicides is in the school of performance. Even Houdini was part of the performance art tradition. I find these "ism" lines totally inappropriate in a modern world. And limiting.

In school in the SF Bay Area, we tended to group things into what we called nonfiction performance. If we need a group, that seems to work for me. I think the best performers have always seen the interconnectedness of the performance tradition.

On May.10.2006 at 10:30 AM
John J’s comment is:

It's incredible how desensitized and mislead a people can be. I am referring to Karen Finley and her misguided attempt at orifice liberation. What ever happened to treating the body as something sacred? Of course working at a strip club probably doesn't exactly teach a high level of morals. Oh, but it's so liberating and empowering for women to strip in front of a group of men, right? That's why men go to strip clubs, to support the furthering of women’s rights. Um, maybe not.

Personally I support art that is uplifting and beneficial to mankind. What Karen Finley and others of her sort are doing is not helping. Do you think that she touched a lot of lives, for the better, by putting on such a degrading display? Do I, or anyone, feel more liberated in talking about our anuses? Even if I did, so what? What is that doing for us? Nothing. It's not beautiful. It's not progress. It is embarrassing and it is a few steps backwards in our civil progression.

On May.10.2006 at 11:04 AM
Tselentis’s comment is:

Spectacles are so turn of the 20th Century.

Why did Edward Wyatt label Blaine's work as art? Because of the 'emotions' felt, as Lincoln Center's Rey Levy stated? Or because of the connection to Christo's 'The Gates' according to 'Manhattan resident' Ann Sheridan, who doesn't appear to have any art credentials herself? Blaine's work has turned into Art by Definition, and as far as I can see, it's Mr. Wyatt and the New York Times who are crafting that definition with emotion and analogy as the defining properties.

But let's step back from the art discussion and consider the theatre of Mr. Blaine's performance, which really has captivated an audience in the same way as another performer did during times of war. Harry Houdini has influenced Blaine’s most recent event, and Mr. Blaine has learned an awful lot from how Houdini garnered audience attention. Blaine is an artisan because he understands the craft of spectacle and appreciates the lure of illusion. Not many people liked Houdini, in fact, he was arrogant and self-absorbed by most accounts, but Houdini drew crowds and played to the audience. Is Blaine doing anything different?

On May.10.2006 at 11:44 AM
Jason L.’s comment is:

I am a cynical bastard when it comes to performance art. While Debbie points to a long timeline, it seems like the performance artform is still in nascent stages. It seems childish and certainly relying more on spectacle than true thought.

As much as I like big butts (and I cannot lie) and yams (though,generally, not canned), I fail to see how this is a good idea - let alone art. There is a strong possiblity that I've just been witness to bad, art-school-diseased performance art.

All that said, the bubble was cool and creepy. Pushing the human body to the physical limit is impressive, cool and creepy. And nearly dying with your skin looking like it could melt away is disgusting, impressive, cool and creepy. So given my very myopic view of performance art, Blaine will do just fine for me.

keep the faith

On May.10.2006 at 12:08 PM
Diane Witman’s comment is:

Tselentis >

I completely agree with you. David Blaine constantly reminds his audience of Houdini and in a sense is keeping the "art" of magic alive. (In fact, the reason he wore pants in the tank and not swimming attire is because he saw Houdini like that and wanted to replicate that look) Some call it magic some do not, but he is still labeled as a magician or illusionist. He loves what he does and puts every ounce of his available efforts into it, that sort of passion is something I admire.

John J > I happen to agree with you on some level. Although I feel people should be free to what they would like, I don't see how her performance were liberating women in any way in the arts world. I personally would not want to see that, but I would not reprimand someone for wanting to see it. I support art in any shape or form, but that does not mean that I have to like all of it or agree with it.

My fiance doesn't understand the work of Jackson Pollack and the likes, but yet he still looks at their work even if it is with complete confusion.

As for the topic at hand, Howard Stern conducted an interview with David Blaine on his show while he was in the tank and offered a small piece of information into his performance. The network would not agree to just his performance of holding his breath for the 9 minutes while trying to free himself from the chains, they didn't see that as valuable. He then returned with the idea of living in the tank for seven days and the network loved it. I think there is something to say about the network in that aspect. Many people did not understand Mr. Blaine's week long stunt/performance, but it was not his original idea...it evolved into that after the need for more.

On May.10.2006 at 12:16 PM
Daniel Green’s comment is:

The question ‘is it art?’ has sadly been rendered meaningless sometime within the past half century. Legitimate attempts since the 19th century to expand the understanding of art have somehow accelerated to the point that the discussion drove off the edge of relevance and down the embankment of garbled rhetoric.

Ultimately, I think you have to ask yourself, “What do I personally want art to aspire to?”

Speaking personally, I want art to aspire to more than just a well-coordinated media event.

On May.10.2006 at 12:20 PM
Ped Xing’s comment is:

It comes down to evocation.

If the act of sitting in a bubble evokes an emotion in you, then it is art. Same thing with sticking yams in your butt.

Some people get really emotionally worked up by Thomas Kincaide, while others by Rothko. Does it make either one a greater or lesser artist?

Does a urine filled jar with a cross in it make you think? Does a gold leafed painting of a naked woman? Do either make you feel?

On May.10.2006 at 12:27 PM
debbie millman’s comment is:

Ped asked:

Some people get really emotionally worked up by Thomas Kincaide, while others by Rothko. Does it make either one a greater or lesser artist?

Is this a trick question?

my answer:

reasons why:
--Rothko was an innovator, he created work unlike any other artist before him
--Rothko was a master craftsman, a skilled and masterful painter and both a formalist and conceptual thinker
--Rothko is one of the most significant figures of Abstract Expressionism, and in fact, of 20th-century painting as a whole. His paintings epitomize classical modernism, the changed the world of art forever

Kincaid is a bit of a Hallmark Cards type painter, IMHO.

On May.10.2006 at 12:45 PM
Ruben Sun’s comment is:

Debbie I think we'll be hard pressed to witness an "ultimate" of anything, and such claims we can easily ignore.

I think we have a tendancy as message makers and crafters to want for a performance to mean something other than what they are, but we would be wrong to judge them based on an agenda that we ourselves have. We ought not to hijack another's message. (I think it's an entirely different thing to question whether that message has any value to... society... etc).

Blaine's performances / events have always had that subtext of the quality and nature of human existance. Each of his performances have to do with the depravity of an essential human need, and subsequently the potential for human person to persist despite those needs.

22 inch platform -- the depravity of rest
coffin -- death (as a metaphor), but also isolation,
block of ice -- motion / heat
acrylic box -- food
bubble -- air

so there is a message here... and the acts themselves are performance art. Is there a great deal more hype than we'd like... probably... if he had performed it within the parameters of the art world, would we have a different perception, maybe. If he, for example, fasted in a museum (which I'm sure has been done though I'm not sure to the lengths that blaine has) would we think differently.

Now I think meaningful questions might be how could he have made his message more pronounced, and you realize here that it's not a performance / art question, but rather that of possibly marketing but surely design.

On May.10.2006 at 12:48 PM
Ruben Sun’s comment is:

some people are asking whether certain art does anything... I think that's the wrong way to look at things.

does design "do" anything. no we are all meaning makers... what we can do is "frame" and "challenge" and "inspire"... but it doesn't necessarily "do" anything.

a good amount of 20th century art has to do with "what is art" from the enterprise point of view. Dadaists worked precisely to shake up the perceptions of whether one is an artist because of the background in art... the significance of Duchamp's submission of a urinal in an art exhibition is to suggest the absurdity in the authority of the curators of the "self-proclaimed" art world. if we are to legitimize dada as art, and many have and do, then we must challenge ourselves not to submit to that kind of authority.

On May.10.2006 at 12:56 PM
szkat’s comment is:

Ped Xing --

i've been waiting for a mention of Piss Christ. i'm so glad someone brought it up. studying that sparked a three-day heated debate in my first art history class. what a great discussion! it was a few years ago and i still remember it.

On May.10.2006 at 12:59 PM
Ped Xing’s comment is:

That is exactly my point - to you, accomplishments matter (or at least that was your justification for him being better). To other people, what matters is that it reminds them of the country and gives them a happy feeling.

I guess it depends on what we're discussing here. If it's what makes art - then I would say it's an emotional response from the viewer. Therefore if a person gets a more emotional response from one artist over another (positive or negative), that art is more powerful...

On May.10.2006 at 01:01 PM
Jason L.’s comment is:

Mark Rothko is great because those in the "world of art" see him as an innovator and thinker on top of being an artist (myself included).

Kincade is great because "everybody else" gets something out of it. Inspiration maybe, nostalgia, fantasy, I don't know. None of it hangs in my house.

Peter Max is great because he annoys the crap out of me on QVC and panders and makes money like Scrooge McDuck. I always piscture him in a onepiece bathing suit swimming in his pile of gold boullion.

The point being, in what can be seen as a repetative thread, is that it's the viewer that makes it art or not. With all that said nobody is the best or ultimate at art. Nobody's keeping score (except Peter Max who, by the way, is winning).

On May.10.2006 at 02:08 PM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

This discussion - Is it art or is it a stunt - has been circling around this site for weeks now like a dog at a fire hydrant. I've been catching up on my reading while I was dealing with a crashed computer that virtually wiped out all my artwork.

Have we come down to this? It's all Art and none of it is Art. Is this talentless self-indulgance taking the stage or are we giving up on making something more challenging than insult and shock? Piss Christ? Wanna be radical: Try Piss Mohammed and see how far you get with that one.

No matter how I try, I can't forget what Art is. Octavio Paz, the great Mexican poet and writer once said Art is the recognition that we want something of value to be saved from oblivion. Time makes us and then unmakes us. What survives us? What do we have to show future generations? Cell phones, laptops and ipods?

On May.10.2006 at 05:23 PM
felicks suckwell’s comment is:

I once played Karen in a torid game of ass ping pong. No, her balls werent chocolate or sprinkled with bean sprouts when they shot straight out of her ass right into in my mouth, yet her angle of trajectory.. well, I guess you had to be there. Mmm. Karen.

Anyway, looking forward the new video release of Anna Nicole back on stage with a stinky dried up old man weiner. If she isnt a piece of artwork I don't know who/what is.

On May.10.2006 at 05:52 PM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

Felix, Totally, dude. That takes the cake............laughing

On May.10.2006 at 07:53 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

Jason—No “art credentials”? Does that have anything to do with this discussion or are art credentials international?

Debbie—He’s not the ultimate performance artist? That means there’s going to be yet another one? Shit.

On May.11.2006 at 10:18 AM
Greg’s comment is:

I remember once getting into a discussion in a 3D design course about the difference between art and craft. I also remember being vehemently behind the "craft is not art" side of the argument. I'd like to think that since then, I've grown up a bit, but who knows.

Art is perception. Art is not Art, it is art. It doesn't need deification or definition. Art speaks to is audience, and to no one else. If I see a urinal, yam-stuffing, or piss in a jar as art, then that is to me and the artist has moved me. If I see Kincaide, Hallmark cards, or Dogs Playing Poker as art, it is then to me. I see a lot of people in this world trying to foist their own definitions of things onto others, but I always thought that artists would be the first to recognize individual perception.

On May.11.2006 at 10:19 AM
Pete’s comment is:

One man's art is another man's ridiculousness. I try to think of an artist as someone who attains a certain level of artistic skill that allows him/her to express themselves. How much discipline/practice does it take for a strip dancer to stick a yam up her butt? Wait, don't answer that. But you have to be off your rocker if you can put something like that on the same level as a Rembrandt or a Wes Wilson or a Paul McCartney or Lennon. Whether it moves you or not, it doesn't necessarily constitute something as art.

Blaine's thing is nothing but a media stunt, imo. To me, if he were to use it as the "embryo" concept someone spoke about earlier, it would come off more like a rationalization for the public than pure art. Same goes for the yam and female liberation.

On May.11.2006 at 03:50 PM
David E.’s comment is:

Art should be able to speak for itself. If you need for someone to explain the meaning of something in order to appreciate it, it can't be very good. It can still be considered art, however. There's good art and bad (and really bad). The problem is when people think that because something is "art" that it has some innate value. I don't feel that it does, but I think that if someone intends for something to be art, then it's art: good or bad.

Illusionists, tightrope walkers, etc. are creating spectacle. It's meant to be entertainment, even if there's an artistic element to what they're doing. Nothing wrong with that as far as I'm concerned. It doesn't need to justify it's existence by having a deeper meaning. Personally, I'd rather see a good entertainer than a bad artist any day.

On May.11.2006 at 05:18 PM
Tselentis’s comment is:

Jason—No “art credentials”? Does that have anything to do with this discussion or are art credentials international?

Clearly, I failed to see the qualifications in that article, and cannot locate anything in the link you delivered. Is this the actress Ann Sheridan? If not, and I am still far from seeing the qualifications, can you elaborate for us please?

On May.11.2006 at 10:48 PM
r agrayspace’s comment is:

Art should be able to speak for itself. If you need for someone to explain the meaning of something in order to appreciate it, it can't be very good.

I couldn't respectfully disagree more. Design should speak for itself. But Art is different in that it can and some would argue should get more enlightening as things are explained. Mainly because it has that affordance. It lives organically and can be appreciated with or without specific knowledge about the imagery. But my god, how much more rich it can become.

I think of Charlie White's, Understanding Joshua. Most people come to common reactionary conclusions when they see his work, but I found my interpretation expand wildly as soon as I heard the artist explain the imagery. It went from being needlessly weird to brilliant in seconds.

Sure artists like Jasper John are Rothko are beautiful on their own. And that is great. I would argue the main difference between Art and Design is that Art can and shold exist with both levels of appreciation, with and without specific knowledge.

On May.12.2006 at 10:27 AM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

UMD, sorry if that hypothetical idea was offensive, what I was pointing out is that offensiveness seems to be one of the strategies to getting noticed. My apologies.

One's deeply held beliefs have now become a battleground for radical art unfortunately. I'm sure a perspective from aother part of the globe is enlightening.

On May.13.2006 at 03:49 PM
Unnikrishna Menon Damodaran’s comment is:

UMD, sorry if that hypothetical idea was offensive, what I was pointing out is that offensiveness seems to be one of the strategies to getting noticed. My apologies.

Hi Mark
I agree. People do offensive things to get noticed.
no need for apology Mark.
It was not at all offensive to me.
Hinduism taught me to absorb and not to feel bad. i have noticed Armin removed my message. Not to worry.

But the recommendation to see the real performance art in Kerala, India still stands.

On May.14.2006 at 06:33 AM
Armin’s comment is:

From the Webitor:

It looks like I may have deleted a couple of comments from Pesky and Unnikrishna yesterday when I was combating 100+ spam comments. If their conversation does not make sense, it is my fault.

On May.14.2006 at 10:42 AM
Jarrett’s comment is:

I just think it depends on the way you view humanistic achievement. In Nike and Gatorade commercials you get the attempt at lifting athletic achievment to art and of course you could look at Evel Knievel as a performance artist if you qualify stunts as art. Art can be just as much about achievment and humanism as it can about intellectual concepts and orifice liberation. Also, if body modification can be art, I don't see why other forms of ritualized body-centric practices can't also be, such as fasting, holding the breath, self-immolation, etc. as long as it has some deeper context, which it almost always does.

On May.16.2006 at 03:07 AM
Coffeegirl’s comment is:

Before we can even have this big "is it art?" discussion about anything, someone involved in its creation has to first claim that it is art. There can be no art without an artist, and Blaine has never presented himself as anything but a magician or illusionist. If he doesn't claim his work is art, then how can anyone else (especialy people who have contempt for contemporary art in general and performance art in particular) do it for him?

On May.16.2006 at 06:28 PM
Randy’s comment is:

Ped & Debbie,

For an interesting look at Kinkaid's relationship and revelance to contemporary art, see his section in Linda Weintraub's In the Making: Creative Options for Contemporary Art. Nice to see him handled this way, among far more legitimate and influential artists.

Weintraub doesn't propose any great credibility, if any, but rather objectively looks at how Kinkaid fits within the world of art as a producer and marketer at a grand scale and with great financial success.

On May.26.2006 at 10:17 AM
Frank’s comment is:

When my 3, 6, 9 or 11 year old tries to do or talk about things like these "performance artists" are doing, I discipline them and hope that one day they will grow up. When an adult does it, we call it art? Weird. What does this discussion have to do with design anyway? Maybe design is too mundane so we must look elsewhere for excitement...no matter what we call it?

On Jun.04.2006 at 09:15 AM