I’m not good with children. If you leave me with one for more than 30 minutes, that will prove your negligence as a parent. If you leave me with two, then you hate your kids.
I do love them, I really do, but I’m not good with them. I’ll make a sucky parent; I don’t have the balls to do what needs to be done. And teenagers? Don’t even go there. “Dad, I’m pregnant.” “Ok, uhm, inom na lang natin yan?”
But I love kids when they are with their parents or with a yaya. In that context, they are incredibly entertaining. Put a kid in a public place with tons of strangers and you’ve got double the entertainment value. That’s your show for the night.
Marina Abramovic, the grandmother of performance art, once said that “performance art is all about context. If you bake some bread in a museum space it becomes art, but if you do it at home you’re a baker.” If that’s true, then at least half the population of the world are performance artists. Children have no sense of context at all.
I was playing basketball with my 10 year old cousin when he suddenly said, “Kuya, sabi ni Mommy bading ka daw.” “Uhm, hmmm…” “Sabi ni Mommy, ok lang daw maging bading. Bading ka ba?” “Uhm, hmmm…”
Here’s another theory. A commentator in an art community said that good art is disruptive; that is, the ultimate goal of all art should be to disrupt your idea of reality. I almost asked if she had kids. If that comment was true, then they are the best performance artists in the world.
An example: It was my birthday and I was celebrating in Felix Greenbelt with my family. My brother brought his two sons, one 6 months old, the other just about to turn two years. They are the embodiment of kinetic energy: frenetic and hyperactive. Behind us was another large table full of socialites and celebrities (I recognized Ben Chan). We didn’t pay them any mind, focused as we were on our own merrymaking.
Now, my two year old nephew was running all over the place, and my brother, after a half-hour of trying to control the boy, gave up and decided to just let him be. That was bad enough, but my 6 month old nephew decided at the same time that this was the perfect opportunity to practice those bloodcurdling screams he’s passing off as conversation. It was excruciating. My brother tried to make him stop but he couldn’t. I looked over the other table and saw the disapproving glare of a haughty matrona. I gave her a half-smile and pretended that having a screaming baby at your table is the most normal thing in the world. Disruption indeed.
It’s not that I have anything against performance art. There are a ton of great performance artists out there. My favorite spoken word poet Rives is one, and his art never fails to resonate with me. It’s just that I feel that the majority of art produced by conceptual artists are hokey or fake: too much concept, too little talent. And when you have a naked artist laying eggs with her vagina, and passing that off as art, then you know we’ve crossed a line somewhere. That’s not art, that’s a mental illness. In fact, I’m sure my niece would try this if her mom let her. And also assuming she was raised by livestock in a barn. Too bad her parents are decent, civilized people. She could be an ARTIST (ALL CAPS!)!
You can also check out that girl who skinned her cat (because she says it was depressed) and made a handbag (out of her cat, to be clear). She went here a few years ago and took off her clothes to “help” a couple of prostitutes. (She raised money for the girls, so more power I guess. Though the message is a bit conflicted, I think.)
Still, watch the Rives video. It made me a little teary-eyed. Again. That’s how you should do performance art (or spoken word poetry, which is arguably a sub-category). There has to be some standard in form and substance, and it should emotionally resonate with people (outside of people thinking you’re crazy). Too bad most performance artists are just batty people who take themselves way too seriously. And too bad the many self-proclaimed experts in the art world let them.
Originally published here, with some edits.