don’t remember how I was first introduced to James Franco, but I think it was through the short-lived-but-still-awesome television series, Freaks & Geeks. Then I saw him play James Dean, and then in a few forgettable roles, and of course, in those Spiderman movies (and more recently in Pineapple Express, which is goddamn hilarious). But when I found out that he played himself (as the artist Franco) in the soap opera General Hospital last year, it almost re-sparked my interest in daytime television.
From my toddler to teenage years, I was weaned on ridiculous soap operas, and General Hospital was definitely my mainstay. I can proudly say that I saw the arrival of Luke and Laura, their sad departure, and then their super-anticipated return in the 90s. I even saw John Stamos on the show of pre-Full House fame, and Ricky Martin before he was, well, Ricky Martin. And then I wondered why Franco, an established actor, would be starring in twenty episodes of Port Charles chintz.
As it turns out, Franco’s little stint was part of his “performance art” experiment. Performance art can be misunderstood and unfortunately seen as pretentious stuff. I could try and elucidate about it here, but luckily Franco already did a pretty good job writing about it in the Wall Street Journal, covering his dessert-eating experience with Marina Abramović to the brief history surrounding the art and the meaning of it all.
He also interviews Abramović and eats some dessert with her (see video above). Abramović was a painter before she was labeled the “grandmother of performance art.” When asked how she got into performance art, she said that once she began working with the body, it become impossible for her to go into the studio, and moreover, “A studio is a trap. A studio is the worst place the artist should never be. The art comes from life, not from studio.” An excerpt from the article:
When most Americans think of “performance art,” they probably think of its golden age in the 1970s and the early 1980s. That was the time when the artist Chris Burden was creating pieces that entailed being shot in the arm or crucified on a Volkswagen Beetle and Marina Abramović and her one-named partner Ulay were performing “Rest Energy,” a piece where they faced each other and held a taut bow with an arrow pointing at Ms. Abramović’s heart.
But performance art of this vein got its start as early as the 1950s, when art students started putting down their paintbrushes and cameras and turning to their bodies as instruments. Art critic Harold Rosenberg defined Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning as “action painters” and their canvases as records of a performance. Art was no longer to be viewed passively, but something to engage with. Hans Namuth’s 1951 film “Jackson Pollock 51″ shows Pollock improvising with his painting, making marks and then responding to those marks. Clearly, the process had become part of the art. It was only a matter of time before artists would start discarding the final piece altogether, like Yoko Ono’s “Cut Piece” (1965), where the audience was invited to cut Ms. Ono’s clothes, or Allan Kaprow’s “Fluids” (1967), where a team constructed an enormous ice structure, only to leave it to melt.
Performance art can seem pretentious, but it can also be quite mischievous and playful. Just as Marcel Duchamp rocked the art establishment in 1917 with his found urinal called “Fountain,” performance artists of the 1960s and 1970s presented entire practices and occupations as art. In today’s version, the artist Fritz Haeg packages lawn care as art—his ongoing series “Edible Estates” consists of designing and implementing ecologically productive front lawns. As Mr. Haeg said at a talk at Columbia University last month, “Being an artist is the one profession where you can wake up and say, ‘What do I want to learn about and participate in today?’ ” What could be more fun than that?
Read the rest over at Wall Street Journal.