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Thursday, April 20, 2017


Linda Mary Montano April 2017

"Theories connecting Ēostre with records of Germanic Easter customs, including hares and eggs, have been proposed. Particularly prior to the discovery of the matronae Austriahenae and further developments in Indo-European studies, debate has occurred among some scholars about whether or not the goddess was an invention of Bede. Ēostre and Ostara are sometimes referenced in modern popular culture and are venerated in some forms of Germanic Neopaganism. " Wikipedia

  LIGHT IS IN THE HOUSE, Linda Mary Montano, April 2017

" Ostara, Eástre seems therefore to have been the divinity of the radiant dawn, of upspringing light, a spectacle that brings joy and blessing, whose meaning could be easily adapted by the resurrection-day of the Christian's God. Bonfires were lighted at Easter and according to popular belief of long standing, the moment the sun rises on Easter Sunday morning, he gives three joyful leaps, he dances for joy ... Water drawn on the Easter morning is, like that at Christmas, holy and healing ... here also heathen notions seems to have grafted themselves on great Christian festivals. Maidens clothed in white, who at Easter, at the season of returning spring, show themselves in clefts of the rock and on mountains, are suggestive of the ancient goddess. " Wikipedia

Fecundity sat directly in front of me at the pre-Easter's 2 hour celebration in the local Catholic Church. Though usually a verboten symbiosis, that is: the chance to be turned on and tuned into God, at the same time, I was gifted this waking dream by way of a pagan/non-pagan scenario IN CHURCH. All without my asking. Here is how it happened. I came in all innocence to said Church, preparing to be holy and for a half hour I was that. Holy Girl. I had been sitting still, sitting silent, sitting in listening mode, sitting like a good girl, sitting like a serious Catholic good girl and then the atmosphere electrically changed. Trouble was in the house. I knew it, smelled it, sensed another vibrational frequency as lust itself breezed up the aisle and slid into the seat in front of me. How did I know it was a visit from the goddess of bunny love? Who else has hair swaying in sync-time with a 45 year old peasant body dressed in breezy-vintage but not really vintage clothes; clothes happily shaking with fevered nearness to her love handled flesh. Who else emits sparks of vaporous clouds of pleasure? Who else turns on lights without lamps? Who else perfumes their presence without essential oils? It was the goddess-friend of Mother Mary IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH! A very oy challenge for me!

" Some scholars have linked customs and imagery involving hares to Ēostre and the Norse goddess Freyja. Writing in 1972, John Andrew Boyle cites commentary contained within an etymology dictionary by A. Ernout and A. Meillet, where the authors write that "Little else [...] is known about [Ēostre], but it has been suggested that her lights, as goddess of the dawn, were carried by hares. And she certainly represented spring fecundity, and love and carnal pleasure that leads to fecundity." Wikipedia

There she was, sitting directly in front of me. Frozen in appreciation and not inspired to move to an aisle 50 yards away, I had no choice but to endure her mini workshop in Tantra 101 titled: How To Feel Fabulous and Fecund at All Times, Especially in Church; a class she eventually co-taught because after 5 minutes of my enjoying a private visible darshan ( holy visit) with her, a foot shorter husband/partner appeared and as if perpetually pumped by her presence, slid into the seat next to her. OK folks, let the show begin! 

" Sexual desire may be the “single most common sexual event in the lives of men and women”.[1] Sexual desire is a subjective feeling state that can “be triggered by both internal and external cues, and that may or may not result in overt sexual behavior”.[3] Sexual desire can be aroused through imagination and sexual fantasies, or perceiving an individual who one finds attractive.[4] Sexual desire is also created and amplified through sexual tension, which is caused by sexual desire that has yet to be consummated. " Wikipedia

OK, we were in Church, the Roman Catholic Church, but she couldn't keep her hands, her hair, her big body, her pulsating hips, again her hair, her lips OFF OF HIM. He responded with strongly controlled and unseen signals of ,"I can't wait either," orchestrated by his tightly muscled ass; his ass, a witness to unabashed nights, days and years of thrust, into her largess. This ass and asshole didn't flinch or give signals of response that I could see, because I secretly watched for butt clenches through his tight going to church clean pants. Nothing he did gave away apparent response to her mare-ish need for sex, sex NOW! Egg-banging sex. In fact his nothing was food for her something. His nothing absorbed her over abundance of desire, enough for the two of them. His nothing buttressed her side body slams when the choir sang HALLELUIAH, his nothing became the canvas for her head bangs into his neck, his nothing was a firm gate, allowing her arms to be flung around him time after time and  in view of the probably inwardly panting clergy a few feet away. They see everything even though they don't act like they do. Let me assure you, I know about this.

" Easter eggs, also called Paschal eggs, are decorated eggs that are usually used as gifts on the occasion of Easter or springtime celebration. As such, Easter eggs are common during the season of Eastertide (Easter season). The oldest tradition is to use dyed and painted chicken eggs, but a modern custom is to substitute chocolate eggs wrapped in colourful foil, or plastic eggs filled with confectionery such as chocolate. Although eggs, in general, were a traditional symbol of fertility and rebirth,[2] in Christianity, for the celebration of Eastertide, Easter eggs symbolize the empty tomb of Jesus, from which Jesus resurrected " Wikipedia

My croned face, tempered by age and regret that I was never invited up to/into the altar to co-celebrate knew that this woman in front of me was speaking for all women. Definitely for me! She shouted silently and symbolically into the air that she was a human neon sign signaling, "See here boys? You don't want us on the altar? Well guess what you stinkholed-misogonists, we're here in all our egg laying glory. And we aren't going away. "

" In addition, one ancient tradition was the staining of Easter eggs with the colour red "in memory of the blood of Christ, shed as at that time of his crucifixion."[3]This custom of the Easter egg can be traced to early Christians of Mesopotamia and from there it spread into Russia and Siberia through the Orthodox Churches, and later into Europe through the Catholic and Protestant Churches. This Christian use of eggs may have been influenced by practices in "pre-dynastic period in Egypt, as well as amid the early cultures of Mesopotamia and Crete".Wikipedia

Could something this primal, this for adults only happening, this not for children under 12 performance, this out of context peepshow, this x rated fertility rite happen ever again in this small village Catholic church? 
Stay tuned.
The Goddess of "upspringing" light is in the house!
She and Mother Mary are on fire.

"Christians generally regard Easter as the most important festival of the ecclesiastical calendar. It is also the oldest feast of the Christian Church, and connected to the Jewish Passover. Many terms relating to Easter, such as paschal are derived from the Hebrew term for passover. In many non-English speaking countries the feast is called by some derivation of "pasch". The English term, according to the Venerable Bede, is an Anglo-Saxon form relating to Ēostre, a Teutonic goddess of the rising light of day and spring."  Wikipedia

Linda Mary Montano, April 2017

Tuesday, April 11, 2017



God I Love Time: An Interview with Linda Montano

Hilary Robinson

This interview took place when Montano was invited by Catalyst Arts in Belfast, Northern Ireland to do a performance. Chakraphonics was a duration performed for 3 days, 21-24 September 1999, for 3 hours a day. The purpose of the performance was to connect with her grandfather who was originally from Co. Cork. Below is an excerpt from that interview which was first published in n.paradoxa: international feminist art journal 5 (January 2000) 63-70.

Hilary Robinson: In your book, Art in Everyday Life (1981), you photo documented 39 different performances with a few words about “art” and a few words about “life” for each piece. I was very interested in the way in which you had produced that book and, in particular, the way in which your writings set up a parallel between the time of the art piece, the development of your work and its various manifestations, and the changes and shifts in your life. Could we start by talking about how we can now look back through time at time-based work through its documentation? I came to know your own work, for example, through photographs, through writing, through the writings of other people and so on. I haven’t been able to see the majority of your work really because it has been situated in time-based performances, mainly in the USA. I wondered if you had anything to say about that to start with and your interest in time in general?

Linda Montano: I am waiting for a touring retrospective so all of my work can be seen at once! Any museums interested? I’d have to go back further than 1981 to the source of my interest in time and I think this would address a general feeling around women in structures, women and impositions, women in power and women and disempowerment.  What I did unconsciously was to appropriate different structures, time being one of them, in order to empower myself at a very young age. Somehow I knew that time was a pretty powerful vehicle that was held by the patriarchy.  In that very, very early explanation of number 1: God the father, number 2: God the Son, number 3: God the Holy Spirit, I knew I was not included and I knew there was no woman included. I knew that I wanted to be a man for obvious reasons.  There’s a strange mix, numbers, women, theology and time.

I truly believe that we are the result of early parenting; early institutions and training that form paradigms and become impositions. We are walking replicas of Mom, Dad and Church. I can remember using time as a way to choose to listen to my mother or father or the school - who were saying ‘Linda! You have another fifteen minutes in order to make school.’ And counting, making the ritual of getting up in the morning a time ritual so that I would say ‘twelve, eleven, ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one’ then it would get down to milliseconds, down to the one thousand and one, one thousand…Getting up in the morning was performative and ritualistic. I chose from an early age to listen to my parents via my own structure as well as knowing from some kind of inner sense that whatever I did I had to document in memory, photos or writing.

The fourth element in there was that in order to stay alive and out of the mental hospital and give myself the energy I needed to live, I had to do public actions because there was no sense of me outside the other. There was no sense of me outside my action done. I was meaningless unless I was the other. This translates into a pretty wonderful freedom to perform anytime, anywhere and I always made sure a photographer was there. By working this way, I used my audience as healers until I reached the place where I eventually got enough public attention, courage and validity to turn this around and give attention to my audiences.

HR: So, you were/are creating yourself through your work and your performing.

LM: Right.  I was excellent at getting attention by speaking a language I had developed because probably there was no verbal language I can remember speaking at home. The language was one of telepathy, we spoke telepathy, and we spoke music. That’s not speaking about music but listening, so a lot of this was heard on just this upper pineal pituitary level; the thyroid, parathyroid, the belly laugh, the heart - these lower chakras were pretty shy. Then you add to that tendency, stories of the saints and the kinds of visually powerful images (the only way to be good was to be crucified or have breasts cut off) and the other ability to time travel at night, looking out of windows; put all of that together and you just can't help translating those images, and levels of institutional, spiritual biography into performance. It’s a great vehicle; it’s a great vehicle. And I say this out of gratitude to my autobiography, not out of victimhood or complaint.

HR: I mentioned the publication documenting your works from the 1960s (?) through to the 1980s. I liked in particular that it documents a clear separation and a relationship, between life and art but there was no way that one was going to be confused with the other. There was a definite balance being woven - if that is the right metaphor - between the two. The chronologies of what was developing in your life and in your art seemed to be weaving very much in and out of each other.

LM:  Well, one created the other, the other created the other and then created the other, you know.  Also I think in looking back it was also a way, it was a reaction to “the only way to do it was via the New York art stable scene” attitude, which posited that you had a rotten life and great art, and never the twain shall meet.  What was happening in one’s bathroom had nothing to do with what was happening in one’s gallery.  I think women know better because of genetics or the body, the nurture instinct or whatever. Unless we include cooking, unless we include sleeping, we’re not going to get it or be famous!  So once I demanded that the studio was over and done with and gone and it was no longer a necessity, it became an easy dance, an easy weave.  I would say basically that my art made me and that I used my audience as healers, until I reached a place where we could co-heal. That took time, a lot of “bad” performance and the courage to continue this vulnerable working practice.

I just wrote an article, a very nice article on different kinds of audiences at performances, about the different levels of audience, the audience as co-creators, the audience as critic, the audience as voyeur, the audience as healer, the audience as unnecessary, the audience as absolutely necessary, the audience as intervener, the audience as “I would have died if they hadn’t been there”. Of course there are different levels of interaction and the secret, private, personal vow-taking performances can’t be forgotten.

HR: Does this put you at odds with, from what I perceive from this side of the Atlantic, that the trend within American (maybe Northern American, in a broader sense) performance which seems to be much more theatrical and which uses time in a much more curtailed form in the work? For example, work in which there is a set stage, and often very text-based, script-based performances. From what I know of your work it seems to be that you want your audience to be much freer to experience the duration of your work with which they feel comfortable. You seem to do durational performances, expanding the time of what might constitute a performance.  Is that a tension that you feel with yourself and maybe mainstream art practice in America?

LM: Performance is already now commodified and imbibed, and the public and popular culture is drunk with it now. It exists everywhere. There is the example of an airport scene (in Chicago maybe) of a woman walking down from a plane to baggage claim, wailing, crying and everyone giving her that performance space but it wasn’t a “performance”, although it was life/ art. It was a very beautiful piece that I saw. Or the performance of the Heaven’s Gate group – the mass suicide – where they all wore the same shoes, a highly choreographed performance as if done by an MFA student. But it is not to be repeated, not to be imitated. There is another example, a TV advertisement for “Stop Drugs” in which a young woman performatively destroys a kitchen. It looks like a great autobiographical piece that you would find in any workshop or class or gallery. Performance is no longer avant-garde – it truly is practiced universally.

So let’s go back to time because that is the issue here. The times have changed, performance artists don’t need to do what they did because they’ve gotten to the place they need to be, given the interchange between audience and themselves unless there’s a real call for a continuation of that way of working. For example, Paul McCarthy couldn’t keep doing what he was doing because of censorship, policing, jailing and                  "driving down the LA freeway was danger enough” for Chris Burden. Performance artists can’t always continue to make highly emotional work. We age, we burn out.  And performance issues, duration and the times change.

The next generation I think is TV-timed, media-timed, even media-bound by the time it takes to click a channel or return an email. The computer mouse and TV channel Clicker have shortened attention spans so that entertainment is where it’s at. How can I keep you with me? I’m either going to go into trance as duration and you’re going to go with me or I’m going to entertain you, take care of you so that you stay with me. Some artists are committed to what they're doing even though it has nothing to do with the times, and everything to do with time itself. They say: ‘I’m going to do it, it’s going to be so time based, it’s going to be so long that you are forced to come with me. You just have to, because I’m a habit now, I’m a habit’. Isn’t there a saying, do something long enough, somebody will notice or feel something or change their brainwaves?

HR: I was reading something that Martha Rosler wrote on ‘The Birth and Death of the Viewer: On the Public Function of Art.’ She was talking about the difference between an audience and the public. At the end of this statement she asked a rhetorical question;  ‘Why is it that none of my students under the age of forty even understand the difference between audience and public’?  When you are talking about the times changing and performance artists getting older, do you think that working with a group of artists like those artists here in Catalyst Arts in Belfast, that they are coming with you?  Do you think that there is something in the younger generation that is following you as participants in the work?

LM:  Well, we jump-start their process; they don’t have to go the same places, because they have other places to go.  So they can hurry through the appetizer of the body to the main meal, which is the mind, the computer and trans-media.  It’s obvious that technology is their play-toy.  The best meal probably is still conversing with super intelligence and such theorems while addressing the body, and even though that’s a pretty hard meal to pull off, I think that’s the direction we are going in. The next generation has digital technology that speaks of transformation visually and sonically in ways that we attempted to do from scratch so to speak.  It’s now packaged, cellophaned and wrapped in a different way.  I’m a real lover of Stellarc’s theory and path. Obsolescence of the body, robotics, implants, genetic engineering, weightlessness and paperlessness are our future. I think that we owe it to ourselves to evolve and now we are the students.  I feel I am the student of this younger generation. They will teach me a new meditation.

HR: That’s a very generous thing to say. A very generous approach. You feel hopeful?

LM: Well, I have a theory that everyone is becoming a performance artist.  The reason there is so much censorship in America now is because it’s very difficult to be “authentically” bodied in America.  What is happening is that the great populous has found chat rooms, where they’re doing persona changes, they’re Cindy Sherman-ing themselves, Eleanor Antin-ing themselves, they’re performing and when real artists use real bodies in real time to make a real statement, they are censored and seen as perverse. Actually the populous is projecting their own guilt on real-time-based performance artists. The first amendment is being crushed.

HR: But they’re not Orlan-ing themselves?

LM: No, not at all. Well they are, they run to their liposuction. The next generation does it digitally and technologically. Flesh is being morphed into an interesting container.

HR: Where does that leave, do you think, someone like Cindy Sherman or Eleanor Antin, now?

LM:  There is no safe space any more.  I think that this is a book time. It’s CD-Rom time; it’s theory time. That’s why this particular generation is so entertainment-orientated. The cabaret signals the end, the saturation point. The TV clicker and the computer screen are fascinating, intoxicating, addicting, empowering and engaging and unless artists make art as totally wonderful and engaging as The Teletubbies, who cares?  Who wants to go out at night and be relegated to a seat in the theatre or traffic jams and leave all of that control and color and entertainment behind?

HR: Thinking of the works for which you are best known - I’m thinking of Tehching Hsieh’s piece in which you collaborated (One Year Performance, 1983-84), and the piece with Tom Marioni which was earlier (Handcuff: Linda Montano and Tom Marioni, 1973) - where you were physically tied to other artists, and the other long, long piece, 14 Years of Living Art, which was solo and included color and the sound - that’s the kind of experience and the kind of work that I see very little of these days. I think it is incredibly challenging to think how each of these pieces pushes to the limit notions that we might have about gender relations, about how we spend time with people, about ethics, about aesthetics. I think one of the challenging things about these works (apart from the prurient interest that people might have) is how is it, ethically, possible that for a whole year or whatever, you actually get through day after day after day with that sort of discipline, or with being so physically attached to another person. What does that do to time, what does that do to the time of the performance?

LM: God, I love time!  I love playing with time because it is so powerful. Maybe because it’s close to the whole Buddhist notion of impermanence and that brings up the notion of death and that is really powerful. In the 1970s I lived with other artists and I did a whole series of living art performances for three days, five days, eleven days, in the desert for eleven days.  The idea is that an artist needs to be greedy and say ‘I am making art all the time’ because unless you are in the studio, unless you’re producing, unless you’re painting, unless you’re sculpting, you’re not worthy, you’re not being an artist, you’re not disciplining.  Luckily, I knew that was not so, and in the 1970s, conceptual artists, minimal artists, everyone was playing with the same idea at the same time.  The idea was that the idea was the art. The idea that I “one-hundred-monkeyed” myself to was that the universe was my studio and I could relax already!  So if the whole universe is my studio then whatever was happening within every moment of time and in every place is art. (This is a simplification of the theory.)  Then within that, by carving, sculpting particular time frames within that universal theory, I could train myself mentally with creative meditation to face life more attentively. Basically, it’s an effective cheap drug and a great high! And it’s objectless. You can’t buy an empty, clear and unimpeded mind, which is the result of purificatory performances.

Hilary Robinson: Do you know Tarkovsky wrote a book called Sculpting In Time which was about his film making - and he used that expression to refer to his film making - which is a lovely title?  That seems to be more or less what you’re indicating there.

LM: My training was sculpture, and my love was sculpture, but I didn’t want to make more things. So that the invisible, sculpting the invisible, seemed less polluting and more arte povera. Plus, I could be Living Sculpture.

I want to go back to what happened to time during the rope piece, Tehching Hsieh’s One Year Performance which I joined as he was looking for someone to be tied to.  He had done many incredible performances before he met me.  I was living in a Zen monastery at the time, I had retired from art, but I wanted to overlay the consciousness of the meditative discipline of mind through training within an art context.  Although I would have preferred to have stayed in the monastery, I knew that my calling was to be a fringe, outsider artist.  So I found Tehching who was looking for someone and asked if I could join him in his piece and we spent time before the piece, six months in fact, to see if we could be together – at the end of a rope so to speak.

What happened is that unlike the mother who is pushing the child in the wheelchair, unlike the wife who is managing the Alzheimer’s husband, unlike the father whose daughter has come home to die in his house because she has AIDS, unlike all the scenarios we could imagine which are timeless, which go on and on, as if there is no end - unlike that, we had a year and I knew it and I chose it because it was a year.  I’m not good when there’s no time frame because I’m untrained, impatient, and faithless. But my performances train me for the long run; my performances train me for what may happen to me or others that I am karmically linked to.  My performances are daily life and train me for daily life and any hardships that fate may send my way. I do hard work in case life gets hard. Then I will be ready.


Professor Hilary Robinson is the head of the School of Art and Design at the University of Ulster, Belfast. She is a contributing editor to n.paradoxa.

I Slept with Linda Montano

Paul Couillard

This interview took place in conjunction with a festival entitled TIME TIME TIME, a twelve month series of durational performances by artists from the US, UK, and Canada curated by Couillard. Montano’s contribution Appreciating the Chakras took place from January 30-31 in the Canadia dell’Arte Theater Troupe Studio Space. The title, I Slept With Linda Montano, refers to the 7- hour endurance, Chakra Sleepover/Workshop, Montano offered as part of the event. The unedited interview can be found at http://www.performanceart.ca/.

PC: Given your history in performance, I wanted to start by asking whether you see a distinction between performance or art and life?

Linda Montano: Until I wrote a recipe that indicated that every minute was performance, there was a distinction. In 1984 I appropriated all time as performance time or art, meaning every minute of my life was an opportunity for that kind of higher--not higher--but that kind of consciousness, a kind of awareness or--sacredness is a word that is laden--but that kind of sacredness. Before 1984 I made attempts, but they were for a week or a month or for shorter periods of time. In '84 I designed it so that the rest of my life will be in a work of art.

Of course, Tehching Hsieh's concept Art/Life: One Year Performance was inspiring, and when I decided to join him in his rope piece for a year and I got to work with this "genius of art," I learned so much about time from him.

PC: So, everything you do is art because you've consciously identified it as that?

LM: Yes.

PC: Are there other things wrapped up in that, like a sense of discipline or a certain kind of awareness you try to bring to things?

LM: It's almost like... There's a massage form called Reiki, and in Reiki, there's a little bit of study, maybe a weekend workshop and three levels. Then there's this so-called initiation, and it's really an initiation into nothingness. It's so simple; it's just a laying on of hands. It's not as if it's a complicated massage form. And for me it was just a matter of consciously setting up the parameters that allowed me to incorporate, appropriate, grab all time as art. It's -- what was that question?

PC: I was wondering about discipline.

LM: In the beginning it was about discipline. I had to do this, this, this and this for numbers of hours and days and weeks and months. Then I found that the overall intentionality worked to incorporate my needs, and the disciplines were really my own ego struggling, pushing. So when I lightened up and stopped pushing so much and creating boundaries and formulas, the permission to live in the state of art loosened me up. I started making more things that looked like traditional art because I was free. Before, it was always this sort of guilt of not being in the studio, not producing enough, not working -- which comes out of an art school training or a western model of abundance and consumerism. How can you say you're something if there's no product? When I took that away, I actually started producing, which is always an interesting kind of contrast. But given my philosophy, there's no need for production, because I am in the state of art, so to speak, at all times.

PC: Why was it important for you to identify what you were doing as art?

LM: Art gave me the same kinds of pleasures and aesthetic ecstasy as the Church used to give me. And because a woman is denied priesthood in Roman Catholicism, I knew instinctively that I would never be able to be a ritual-maker.

PC: Within the Church—

LM: Yes, in the Church. I took that aesthetic ritual-making paradigm and placed it in art. Not as second best, but as deep as -- and as wonderful as -- experiences I was having in the Church.
[Note: Montano has since re-entered the Catholic Church as a practitioner and would probably answer this question differently today (2001).]

PC: Do you make distinctions? For example, when I contacted you about TIME TIME TIME, I told you I was looking at durational performance and I wanted to present a series of pieces that were at least 12 hours long. You could have said, "well, I'm doing that right now" or "I'll come to Toronto and just be Linda Montano", but instead you organized a specific event with an audience component to it that could be published or announced. Is there a distinction to be made between performing a piece called Appreciating the Chakras and being in your kitchen making dinner?

LM: Sometimes you eat chocolate cake with raspberries on it, and sometimes you have a rice cake. Doing a performance like Appreciating the Chakras is the chocolate cake with raspberry sauce. It's a luxury, not necessary, but certainly something fun that I am still interested in. I see it as a night out.

PC: In calling everything you do art, and thinking of what you do as being an artist, do you think an artist necessarily has an audience? Is there a relationship between artist and audience?

LM: I think it's changing with computers and websites etc. It's becoming a virtual audience -- a non-visible, non-visual, non-physical audience. Then there's the audience of rumor, the audience of legend and gossip--"oh isn't that the person that, you know..." being known for one piece. There is a hunger now for community, for bodily closeness, for performance. But there's also a plethora of taste. Things have gotten so specific to the person, that the people who will come to see a particular piece are drawn chemically by the taste of that person. The flavor of the piece coincides with the flavor of the audience members. I think there are a lot of different levels of audience, unless it's a person or a piece that has such a following or such a need to be seen. Other than that, I think that as performance artists we draw the audience with the taste that corresponds with ours.

PC: In an interview you did before the Toronto show, you mentioned that one of the aspects of maturing as artists -- I wasn't sure whether you meant specifically in performance art or just for yourself as an individual -- was accepting or recognizing that not all audiences are going to love what you do, or have to like what you do.

LM: I think that's an important lesson to learn, not getting attached to numbers of people in the audience, not getting attached to being loved, so that you can really do the work for the right motivation. Hopefully the timing of the work is right. I really think a lot of it is about the presenter. If the presenter is coming from the right place and is well loved in the community and does a good job of making the artist comfortable, the audience can feel that and they respond. I think it's a real collaboration, because you can do something in the right place with the wrong kind of treatment or atmosphere, and it's not a good time for anyone. Sometimes it's not the artist so much that's drawing the crowd, but the presenter.

PC: When you do a piece, what are you hoping the audience will get? Or does that matter?

LM: Community -- that they'll have a place where they can wash their subconscious of ideas or fears or taboos, and a place where they can touch a kind of magical sacredness, have a spiritual high. Moving through matter and the dirt and detritus of matter as a jumping-off place to this ecstasy.

PC: Do you have any thoughts about the element of time in your work? I chose you for TIME TIME TIME because I was familiar with the fact that you had done pieces that had unusual durations, like being tied to Tehching Hsieh for a year. Or doing a seven-year project of exploring the chakras, where every moment of every day for quite a substantial length of time was devoted to or charged with the intent of the
particular project you were working on.

LM: Working with time allows for a timelessness. You almost have to grab time to go out of time. Focus and concentration and discipline and spaciousness all happen at the same time when you work with endurance and time. It inhibits scatteredness. It inhibits shallowness. It helps us to go to places that change brain waves, literally. If something's done for a long period of time, then brain chemistry changes. All of those things interest me.

PC: I was very intrigued by the way you chose to structure what we called the 'piece' Appreciating the Chakras. Essentially, there were two parts. The first part of 3 1/2 hours was a soundscape that people could enter or leave as they wished, just soaking in the energy of it. The second part required a different level of commitment on the part of the people who were involved. They were no longer participating spectators; they were being what they were being. You asked us, in a sense, to sleep together.

LM: "I've slept with Linda Montano."

PC: (Laughing) I'll bet you have! In the morning, when we were ending the performance, one of the things you spoke about was that there was a sense of community created in our being together, just in doing a simple action together like sleeping. But people had to commit to be there for that 7-hour period and not leave in the middle, whereas the first part was set up so that anyone could come and go.

LM: A lot of that was just practical safety, in terms of doors opening and closing, people coming in, and protecting the space. Because people were sleeping, the space had to be different, so the parameters were different. But time is energy. We are energy. And energy needs a lot of attention. If we're busy, if there's a divorce from energy, then it’s like not being nurtured, not getting enough food. All of these actions are vehicles. They're designed to produce the effect of feeling aliveness and energy -- and maybe, if there is such a thing, a chemical shift in the brain where it's touching bliss or sacredness.

PC: Is it fair to say that what's involved is a commitment to acknowledging and working with the particular energy of time?

LM: When you translate time, the next word you get after time is death -- because time is so mysterious and it's all about the race against time, or time out, or time is over, or time is up, etc. Time is a real piece of the puzzle that nature holds and has control of. When artists play with time, they're playing with God's toy, nature's toy. It wasn't designed for us to play with, but artists never play with anything that isn't sacred. Or, it's the artist's prerogative to go into that playground. Time brings up issues of dying and of death. And of impermanence and of change and of flux and of loss. "Time marches on." "I don't have enough time for that." It seems to dog us and nip at our heels and run after us. We don't have enough of it, but when the focus changes, when the artist uses time as a material -- a clay to mold -- the artist can use that material to reach timelessness -- no-time. And no-time is bliss or ecstasy or energy, pure energy.

Paul Couillard is the director of FADO, an alternative space in Toronto, Canada.


Interviews with Conceptual Artists: Linda M. Montano

Terri Cohn

Terri Cohn interviewed Montano in Fall 2002 for her forthcoming book on female conceptual artists in the San Francisco Bay Area. This interview took place in the Bay Area when Montano was the visiting artist at San Francisco Art Institute.

Terri Cohn: My first question is, when did you become a Conceptual artist or realize you were a Conceptual artist?

Linda Mary Montano: There were hints going back in time…gatherings of hints from watching my grandmother perform conceptually. She was physically large, took her teeth out to sing, cooked road kill and called it chicken. Nan was aesthetically directed! She did things that were performative, art therapeutic, and I was her witness, watching her every day in silence for hours. I therefore got imprinted conceptually at an early age. Other hints came from my mother and father, who also were both creative…my mother was a painter and singer; Dad is a musician. Even though he owned a shoe store, music was his love. My other grandparents were Italian, almost completely non-English speaking, and conceptually I learned persona--morphing from being around them…changing my consciousness by changing my accent. We can't forget the influence of the Catholic Church! I was not only raised strictly in that religion, but also became a nun for a few years. The Church must breed conceptual artists/performance artists because the configuration of the theology—the visual stimuli, the sounds, the saints, the miracles and the incense—train young minds in "transcendence-thinking" and become perfect components for "conceptual-thinking" later on when those Catholic girls and boys become grown-up artists. After the convent, I went to a Catholic college and studied with an art teacher who is a nun/sculptress, Mother Mary Jane. She skillfully opened my conceptual world by giving me the "key of permission." Because of her spontaneity and creative joy, I found myself twirling around the school with loose energy.

My finest memory is of a conceptual adventure I had there—I organized the other art students to join me in making a clay mural on the school's staircase wall. It felt forbidden in its freedom. Her permission allowed me to be a creative leader, a self-propelled rule-maker, and a wild artist! Isn't that a wonderful gift to give someone! That's what mentors are made for! Conceptually I birthed my first "art-child" in her class, and for my senior thesis in sculpture I made five versions of the Visitation; that's the mystery of Mary/Elizabeth embracing, both pregnant, exchanging energy. I interpreted the Visitation in clay, wood, car parts, plaster, and that's pretty conceptual. But the most interesting part of the story is that she and I are now talking about sculpting a 45-foot-high version of the Visitation in response to 9/11. Two human towers embracing this time. For my M.A. I studied sculpture in Italy (with a Hungarian violinist-turned-sculptor and ex-student of the composer Zoltán Kodály). It was 1966, an incredible year at Villa Schifanoia, a Catholic graduate school for art and music in Florence, and I discovered that I loved the studio as well as real-time art making, having presented a "happening" at my sculpture opening.

Another conceptual highlight! I went on to more grad school and an M.F.A. at the University of Wisconsin, from 1966-69. There I studied Conceptual art, Minimal art, and watched the jock guys weld things as tall as Quonset huts. It was humiliating and so I just followed the crowd, stopped assembling crucifixes, made believe I had never even heard the word “Catholic” before, and presented live chickens as art on the roof of the just-opened art building. Hmmm, I guess at that time I thought artists shouldn't be Catholics (was that peer art pressure?), and it’s taken me over twenty-five years to re-assemble the components of my early life. As we speak, I've come back to the Church and am contemplating making crucifixes again!

The next evolutionary conceptual step was to present MYSELF AS ART. All of the previous things I had done happened within the confines of the academy. But the concept of performing "me" was self-propelled, and it was then that my conceptual intelligence and mind took flight and form outside the institutions. I became a conceptual clone of my thoughts.

TC: So with that in mind, what does being a Conceptual artist mean in your terms; how do you define it?

LMM: What it means is saying “good-bye” to matter, “good-bye” to painting, and “good-bye” to sculpture and flying into freedom, having permission, feeling the excitement of doing what you want, when you want, how you want, why you want. It was complete play, but brilliant and new play. In a sense, if you talk about it in terms of the chakras, it’s moving from the first chakra to the seventh chakra, moving from matter and stuff to spirit and clear mind/concept. It was about being completely cerebral and completely telepathic and completely rumor-based and completely mind-based and completely trickster-based because you know, the origin of Conceptual art was not about money, it was not about galleries, not about audiences—it was about a group, shining their minds into other minds of like-minded people who were having fun and hanging out in that game-world. We were a tribe. Of course, you have to remember that Eastern theologies were being courted and introduced at that time, and all of the secrets and the mysteries of the East were feeding us, along with the women’s movement and anti-war politics. It was a soup of influence.

TC: How does your identity as a Conceptual artist intersect with what you do as a sculptor and as a performance artist?

LMM: It’s like a hierarchy of title. The Conceptual artist is sort of a grandparent, and then the lineage branches out with variations or sub-chapters or sub-children of the grandparents. Conceptual art is the peak of the umbrella of this graph or tree, a family tree. Conceptual art is translated into performance art for me.  I am a living sculpture;
notice I didn't say living sculptor but a living sculpture. So I would never divorce sculpture from my vocabulary or my love, and I would never divorce performance art.  Conceptual art is a little bit out of my range, so to speak, because it is that grandfather lineage. The popular street title I use is "performance art." Therefore, as a performance
artist, I am also a living sculpture.

TC: Can you talk a bit more about that idea of being a living sculpture?

LMM: I’d have to talk about money here because it’s about growing up with my parents' memory of the 1930s and World War II. I’m sure my parents and grandparents were resonating with not only the Depression, but also with World War II. And rationing: I remember kneading together white margarine in a sac with a little yellow ball; and I remember ration books and I remember money and food issues as a child, and the Holocaust.  Then I remember a kind of permission to live a life of simplicity via Catholicism as a child. And then I remember being a nun. These are images of austerity that formed my style. Oh, but getting back to living sculpture. As a nun I took "temporary" but not professed vows of poverty. So from war to frugality to poverty, it was very easy for me to graduate from making things to making myself. So easy.  I wasn’t great at making things look great, but I knew intuitively that I would be more satisfied with making my inner self shine like a wonderful shiny sculpture. Plus it's cheaper! I haven’t accomplished that transformation, but it’s less publicly obvious than making a sculpture that isn’t completely perfect. I’m safer being a living sculpture than I am making something that’s easily judged from the outside and costs tons of money.

TC: That seems important, because in using yourself, you also get to be a lifetime work in progress. So it’s perhaps a quest for ultimates?

LMM: It never ends. I think the concept of impermanence and the resurgence of Conceptual art is here again because the World Trade Center attack has taught us about the impermanence of objects and the need for pure ideas. It’s very timely to be conceptual, and it’s very timely to rethink all of the good reasons for Conceptual art. It’s a purification of the dross; of the way things evolved and got commodified.

TC: It’s interesting to hear you talk about yourself and your work as being art in everyday life.  Did any other artist influence your thinking about the intersections between art and life?

LMM: The spiritual artists and specifically my yoga and meditation teacher Dr. R. S. Mishra, who has ashrams in Monroe, New York, and San Francisco, influenced me tremendously. Even though he was an adept yogi, he valued the arts and creative expression as the frosting on life's cake! He suggested that you've got to do something to celebrate and cure life.  I was also reading Artforum and ARTnews and hearing about Allan Kaprow, and one of my early art mentors was Marcel Duchamp. I adored Duchamp. I think I really wanted to be his art child. When I came to San Francisco, I met Tom Marioni (kind of Duchamp in Italian form) and Howard Fried and Terry Fox.  Although I had performed before I came here, I was inspired by the feel of San Francisco and started dancing and celebrating myself. Of course, so many powerful women were here: Pauline Oliveros, Moira Roth, Minnette Lehmann, Lynn Hershman, Eleanor Antin, High Performance Magazine, Bonnie Sherk, Barbara T. Smith, and all of the fabulous female artists from L.A. who greatly influenced me and supported my dream. Plus my photographer/husband Mitchell Payne and I lived an art/life collaboration that was conceptually/really intense and celebratory.

Another one of my main influences was Eva Hesse. Once I sent her a postcard that I was doing something someplace, and I guess I included my phone number...I was a fan. One night I was with my husband-to-be, and I said to him, “Someone’s died that I’m very, very close to,” and the phone rang. I answered it and this man said to me, “Eva Hesse would have wanted you to know that she died.” That was pretty conceptual! So I felt that she’s one of my invisible guiding lights.

TC: That's amazing. One of the questions that keeps coming up for me is why did you come to San Francisco?

LMM: My husband had been in the Presbyterian seminary in Marin, loved it, and wanted to come back. I followed him. It was the right thing to do.

TC: How long did you stay?

LMM: I stayed five years in San Francisco and five years in San Diego.

TC: Why did you move back to New York?

LMM: I followed my next partner, who wanted to move back to where I was from because they fell in love with upstate New York. Is it true that there are no accidents?  I'm not sure, but we moved to a meditation center and I retired from art. It was 1980, and I really wanted to stop documenting myself and performing. The A-frame we lived in had no running water, only electricity and a wood stove. It was on top of a mountain: the Zen Mountain Monastery. And it was divine. Early morning meditations happened at the main hall down the path. It was a training center for Empty Mind. Great concepts floated through my mental computer while I sat silently eight hours a day! I highly recommend the practice.

TC: It seems that you followed the path that you wanted to or what your life dictated rather than being worried about career. So many artists make the choice to move to New York City or to be in L.A. or in San Francisco in order to make a name for themselves.

LMM: I left the monastery to be tied by a rope to Tehching Hsieh during his one-year performance.  I joined him in his concept and that was a hard decision because I chose to leave the monastic life and to live in New York City and make "art" again.  I struggled very, very hard with this decision: wanting life to be meditation disguised as art and doing it in the world. What I gave up was Zen monkhood for Conceptual art-hood!

TC: That seems to be an ongoing set of issues for you.  Returning to the early 1970s, could you talk about what type of work you were doing then and whether you are still doing that type of work now?

LMM: I was exuberant; I was newly married. I was so happy to be here. I loved San Francisco along with marriage, and had recently discovered yoga, which helped me unlock the doors of self-acceptance, self-celebration of the body and mind and spirit.  Symbolically, I communicated this ecstasy by wearing a prom dress and dancing on the streets in the dress. I also started developing personae, but that was maybe four or five years later. That work became a serious investigation after I left my husband. I called it creative schizophrenia because I did start splitting off from myself from the trauma of divorce. But I turned this crisis of life into art with the video Learning to Talk 1976-78 (Video Data Bank).

I was also very enamored of the performance art scene here and figured out that I had the right juice to come up with a project that allowed me to fit in.  For example, I performed in front of the Art Institute on a treadmill, translating my autobiography into action and therapy and sculpture (living sculpture made from living life). I also collaborated with Tom Marioni; danced on the Golden Gate Bridge. It was fun. Mitchell and I went to MOCA [Museum of Conceptual Art, founded by Marioni in an old printmaking factory], Terry Fox's performances, Bonnie Sherk's Farm…it was performance ecstasy time.

TC: Do you think that there is a continuity between what you were doing then with what you’re doing now?

LMM: The concept of permission is the ocean, and the waves are how that manifests.  My recent translation of how I permission myself to make art of life is care taking my 89 year-old dad.  I knew in the back of my brain that I would declare it "art" one day and then teach it, but that took two years to formulate. At first I just stayed with Dad. Now I
call it art and videotape him.  So the ocean of permission, the brilliance and pristineness of that permission has been always there. Then, it's how I permission myself, how I change with my own influences, my own brokenness, my own aging, my own illnesses, my own autobiography, my own living conditions, my own translations of the daily news, my own inner World Trade Center…how I live and then make art of that life-matter. The delicate part is trying not to invade another's space with my own creative need to make art. Often I declare things to be art mentally and put down my video camera.

TC: One of the ideas that comes to mind is if you’re going to call yourself a Conceptual artist, you have to have invented something. It seems that most of the artists in your group created various kinds of "firsts" during the early 1970s.  I was wondering if you could talk about that a little bit. Do you feel you’ve been acknowledged for it?

LMM: For what I created?

TC: Yes, what you invented; what you did in that period of time. I was thinking about the Chicken Dance, and the fact that you had been in a convent, and the ways in which you have continually reinvented yourself.

LM: I think I invented a way for the "Catholic girl" inside me to get what she wanted. As artists, we give ourselves what the inner child or the little girl or the little boy always wanted. My gift to art is a "Catholic gift." We see the statues, we see the Crucifixion, and we see these unmoving, perfect beings. I tried to imitate the statues by becoming a saint via art: dressed in white, sitting still, white on my face.

Another influence was my mother’s questioning and fun-loving mind. My father is extremely pious, but my mother was a real comedian. I took their gifts and I was able to convert spiritual imagery into art piety. I also have this great ability to make myself and others smile at the irony, the mystery, the tragedy, and the fun of life, and at the beauty of the color of it all. I also hope that I invented a way for spirit to be felt in performance in a uniquely female way.

TC: How do you think Catholicism formed the inception of your vision of color?

LMM: I’m writing a paper on early childhood spiritual memory and its translation into art.  I literally took the smells of church, the sights of church, the sounds of church, and almost, as if speaking another language, translated those into my work. I templated Catholicism into art. It was a feminist gesture, not knowing at the time, of course, that I was really just envious of the priests and totally mystified by the Eucharist and the Crucifixion. I wanted that feeling of vibrating resonance in my work.

TC: Did you want to suffer?

LMM: The Crucifixion is an interesting model.  I’ve stayed at my work long enough to be able to understand suffering.  Hopefully I didn’t get addicted to it, because it is historically enforced in art books (the Van Gogh model), and it’s also enforced in the ritual model of the Crucifixion, except when theology stresses the Resurrection and Transfiguration.  So I’m happy that I’ve stayed in my work long enough to celebrate, to laugh, and when I have to suffer in my art, I do it less neurotically than I did before.  This all takes time and detachment from having a reputation for endurance or difficult art.  You can't put acupuncture needles in your face for every event or a catheter up your nose and out your mouth!  That would be taking advantage of a good idea.

TC: It seems as if you've gone through a transcendent experience or some process of enlightenment in terms of your knowledge of yourself.

LMM: My whole life, I made my living hand to mouth, gig to gig. Then I got a cushy teaching job, and then I got children (students); I got lots of children (students)! That experience really catapulted me back to the Church (I needed help because teaching is a responsibility) and to really looking at my work on a different level. For example, what about sexual imagery in the academy? Hmmm. Big question. You can't let students explore the erotic openly in the academy and then mix that climate of experimentation with the concerns of donors, deans, parents, and colleagues. What a puzzle. People who have children of their own have an opportunity to clean up their act because they want to become a "good example" for their children. Responsibility comes to parents naturally.  Non-parents learn other ways. Or you can bypass the system and become a visiting artist, not a tenured professor.

TC: Talk more about responsibility.

LMM: In the 60’s and 70’s we all were very permissive.  We were doing research on food, sex, money, and death, all of which are taboo. We had to decode those issues; we had to strip the taboo out of them. We had to immerse ourselves in all of those secrets. And we made mistakes. I feel now that I made many mistakes, but back then I thought I was cool. So teaching those “children” about responsible actions and telling them, “Do not imitate dangerous art, don't hurt yourself," that was responsibility! Teaching helped me to redefine my direction. In fact, it lured me back to Roman Catholicism and I re-energized my roots.  In doing that, I traded my art muse for a spiritual muse. My soul was hungry for a higher level of satisfaction. I really believe in obedience, and before I was obeying myself and my art. Now, I feel I did everything that I wanted to do, and I’m saying, “Okay, you tell me what to do. Church, you be my guide. I surrender." It's all very spiritually retro.

TC: You've done so many things—do you feel you've been acknowledged for them?

LMM: We are not acknowledged until we are able to acknowledge ourselves emotionally. The work has to be done on the intellectual, psychological, economic, and chakra levels, so to speak. Acknowledgment is a complex issue. But I’m really happy with where I am. I’m extremely happy. I’ve occasionally put out career feelers and then pulled back. I've become insistent on having a show someplace. And other times I go into hiding mode and am happy that I can do that for years at a time. It balances the work.  There was a great painter who made his living as a dentist and then did his art freely and without art world compulsions. I always liked that story. A hidden artist story. Also there is a movie about a woman healer-preacher who gets burned by the world, goes away, opens a gas station in a desert, and heals occasionally without calling attention to herself. That fascinates me.

TC: Have you always been like that?

LMM: Yes, I’ve always been like that.

TC: Was there anything about living in San Francisco during the early 1970s that you feel supported that or supported you as an artist?

LMM: When I come back to San Francisco, I'm reminded that people here are respectful.  I remember five years ago, walking from where I was staying to teach at the Art Institute, which is like a second home, and I saw a traffic mishap on one of the major roads that comes in from Marin County. One man hit the car in front of him and they both got out of their cars and shook hands. Isn't that fabulous? Only in San Francisco! That's why I feel supported. The inner/outer life is more balanced here.

TC: It’s so interesting, to hear you talk San Francisco this way. It seems to have had so much importance in the context of sustaining your life in the most positive sense.

LMM: We have different sites that nourish our muse and help mature us. Some places heat us and bend us sculpturally and with force. Other places are softer in their embrace.  But ever since 9/11, the game has changed.

TC: Do you mean in terms of the commodification of performances?

LMM: Yes, it’s over. Performance and all the arts are innocent again.

TC: That brings to mind something that Albert Einstein said, that I think relates to this: “Everything has changed—except for our way of thinking.” I'm not sure I fully agree with it, because with that single event of the World Trade Center Towers going down, everything instantly changed.

LMM: I think artists have not been stopped or muzzled by tragedy, but we certainly have been symbolically tossed about. Is the storm over? What do we do now? What do we not do?

TC: I’m interested in hearing you to talk a bit more about the 1970s; what fit into your vision at that time politically?

LMM: There was a subtle understanding of equality in the San Francisco scene. Gender-wise, the players were equally matched. There wasn’t a fighting for inclusion. There was a real, high-quality respect for each other. Females and males as equals, just sharing the title “artists.” That's great politics.

TC: Do you think that sense of gender equality grew because so many of you were involved with identity investigations?

LMM: Yes, we were all inspired by Duchamp's Rose Sélavy. I don’t know why. Also the celebratory "costuming" of the times: the women's movement's costume, the political movement's costume, the spiritual movement's costume, the drug movement's costume, the hippie movement's costume, the artist movement's costume, the rock and roll movement's costume. All of these permissions to experiment externally/internally were happening at the same time and are a convincing argument for why we responded performatively by adopting aliases, and becoming different people and different personas.  Now the reasons for our creative responses are scientific and more about cloning, genetic research, and UFO sightings.

My response in the '70's was to birth myself as my totem animal, and I called myself "Chicken Woman." Later it was hard, difficult things that resurrected different personas and my interest in character, my interest in personalities, and my interest in using accents. For example, when I moved to San Diego from SF and started spontaneously to talk in a French accent, and later I sat in front of a video camera for a year talking in accents that became a kind of more formally constructed investigation of personality. That was my Southern California work, which was fed by the Women’s Building and trauma.

Now, I’ve stepped back from risk taking that looks creatively celebratory; now I'm not being recognized for my creative self, but rather, I'm seen as the daughter, the sister, the caretaker, the one who left the small town at an early age but went back again. It’s like re-making myself, and I do it as a challenge, I do it as a performance. Sometimes it’s very, very painful because I'm not getting recognition and there is no celebratory permission. Just ordinary life. But the endurance is still there. The endurance of the ordinariness of daily life. The challenge is finding small, hidden ways to make that art. For balance, I enjoy coming to San Francisco, and I enjoy being in the presence of the Art Institute and other places where I can shine as this other persona, which is "the artist in perpetual permission."

TC:  What is your manifesto?


Terri Cohn is a San Francisco based critic and writer.

Burger King and the Avant-Garde: An Interview with Linda Montano

Jenni Sorkin

This interview took place on December 7, 2001 in Kingston, New York at the local Burger King in preparation for the exhibition High Performance: The First Five Years, 1978-1982 that Sorkin curated as part of her M.A. Thesis at The Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College. Edited by Linda Frye and Steve Durland, High Performance was the only publication devoted exclusively to performance art from the late 1970s until it ceased publication in 1997. Montano was featured often in the early years of the publication.  Astro Artz and Station Hill Press, High Performance’s publisher, published Montano’s first book, Art in Everyday Life (1981).

Jenni Sorkin: Tell me when you first heard about High Performance, how you got involved with it, and how you ended up in the magazine.

LM: When I was living in San Diego, I met Moira Roth, who was teaching at UCSD [University of California, San Diego] and was very involved with interviewing performance artists.  My interview with her appeared in one of the early issues of High Performance [vol.1, #4, 1978], along with the text from the performance Mitchell’s Death [1978].

JS:  Was the video of Mitchell’s Death made before or after the performance or simultaneously?

LM: It was made after the performance. I wrote the text and then performed it live to a video of myself putting in acupuncture needles in the room before I came out.  I brought the video on stage with me and played it on a monitor--remember it was the ’70s, so things were pretty primitive--but it was large for the time and I stood in the middle between the monitor and on either side of me were two performers, Pauline Oliveros and Al Rossi, playing musical instruments, a bowl gong and a scruti box from India.

JS: Can you talk about what Mitchell’s Death was about for you?

LM:  It was basically confusion, guilt, tragedy, and shock.  I had left my husband, Mitchell Payne, we were divorced, and a year and a half after our divorce he tragically died in Kansas City.

JS: So was Mitchell’s Death a really cathartic piece for you?

LM: It was a way that the Southern California art community was able to support me in my grief. I left Mitchell to be a ’70s woman so to speak, and do what I wanted.

JS: Had he been responsive to that change in you, or no?

LM: He wanted to hold onto what we had, and where we were, and I was in an all-or- nothing situation, and I chose to go in the direction of my new life…

JS: Which was art?

LM: Yes. The ’70s wrecked havoc, you know, in many ways… it was a time permeated with feminist idealism and an American idealism and a hubris that suffused and sponged through the crevices of everything we did and thought.  The odor of permission was so, so effusive that we did what we wanted, whenever we wanted and that meant changing sexual proclivities and styles, divorcing and marrying and leaving, and sleeping and drugging and everything.  Everything was being experimented with.

JS: How did you begin performing? You already had a graduate degree…

LM: I had an MFA, and I could almost say that I started performing when I left the convent in 1962 and this incredible nun mentored me into artistic freedom.  Before the convent I went to college a year, then to the convent for two years, and then back to The College of New Rochelle (in New York) for three years, and this wonderful nun who is still alive gave me my art wings.

JS: How was your Catholicism tolerated when you were in California?

LM: Well, I was a wimp, and I opted out, thinking that artists weren’t supposed to do it, and I was going to be a good artist and not do it, and I chose to hide my Catholicism and I stopped practicing.

JS: The ’70s was a decade permeated with Eastern religion…did you take up Buddhism or Hinduism, or yoga, can you talk a little bit about that?

LM: In the ’70s I started yoga…

JS: And did that feel spiritual?

LM: It was also affirming. It really cut through a lot of the Puritanism that had seeped into American theology. Although now Catholicism is doing quite well, incorporating mysticism into religious practice. Pre-Vatican II was a terrifying world of sin and punishment. So, happily, I found the Eastern traditions, and started with yoga, moved to Tibetan Buddhism and then Zen and back to yoga, and then found a way to interface Catholicism into all of it. Now I practice a Catholicism that is informed by Eastern traditions.  It is called Centering Prayer.

JS: But it took you a long time to get to that point?

LM: A long time.

JS:  Did you ever want to work directly with the earth, did that ever appeal to you, or were you dealing more with the spirit?

LM: One of the pieces where I did Living Art, Pauline and I lived eleven days in her van, in the California desert. That was earthy. At the University of Wisconsin, Madison, there was an agricultural school and I found myself visiting the live chickens a lot. So for my MFA exhibition, I showed chickens in minimal-art looking cages: 3 cages, 9 chickens. I performed as the Chicken Woman. But I was never an Ana Mendieta kind of artist, I was always more humorously, conceptually-oriented.

JS: And not object-based?

LM: Hopefully not. Hopefully I stayed away from objects as much as possible.  I think any woman who was studying sculpture at the time when minimal and conceptual art were being practiced by heavy-duty welders and fabricators, male fabricators, were pretty intimidated, because these men were making incredibly clean-cut minimalist and mathematically precise, well-fabricated things that were very extremely formalistic…

JS: And cold?  

LM.  And cold.

JS: And did that kind of work make you angry or uncomfortable?

LM: I didn’t know how to be furious until I embraced my fear, which happened after I was tied with a rope to Tehching Hsieh in his performance One Year Art/Life (1983-84). That event uprooted rage and anger, which as a good Catholic girl, I had hidden.

JS: Did you go to Confession as a child?

LM: Lots of Confession. Lots of Confession.  The Story of My Life [1973] was based on having gone to Confession, and re-creating Confession as performance, and reclaiming performance as Confession, taking it out of the box and into the street. I mean, if you look at Seven Years of Living Art, where I met people one-on-one for seven, ten hours a day for seven years at least once a month, that was total Confession all over again, only I was the priest, and I think we feminist women, gave ourselves roles to acquaint ourselves with professions of dignity and positions of power.

JS:  Do you also think it was giving yourself permission to confess in a public way, to put yourself out there, where if you were raised as a ‘good girl’ where now you got to be a spectacle of some sort, or do you think that performance isn’t ever spectacle?

LM: That can be pushed only so far.  I think that obedience is the issue here, and that obedience is necessary to the human condition, and we are either obedient to ourselves, or the muse, as an artist.

JS: But you yourself, throughout your work, have really pushed this concept of obedience to become a kind of painful endurance.  Very few women have done this kind of work.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe Tom Marioni was the first person you tied yourself to…

LM: Handcuffed.

JS: I don’t know how long you did that piece for, was it five days?

LM: Some time. I had been doing blindfolds for weeks.  

JS: A week at a time?

LM: Yes.  

JS: Can you talk a bit about the blindfolds?

LM: I found that if sight, or any of the senses is altered, or taken away, or denied, then hormonally, or biologically, something is activated that raises a level of brain neurons that activate both endorphins and attentional states.

JS: So did it take you to a different level to do that kind of work?

LM: Absolutely. I had begun yoga and I was trying to initiate the vibratory brilliance of my teacher, Dr. R.S. Mishra.

JS: Did it always feel that way at the beginning, or that’s how it felt by the end of the performance?

LM: Immediately at the beginning. It was taking away a habitual response. This is a Gurdegeift principle that says, if you brush your teeth with your right hand, then do it with your left. So something is done differently. Slow down if you are fast, speed up if you are slow. So these were assignments I was giving myself in order to taste the condition of high states of consciousness.

JS: But do you think it was also tasting, or coming into this kind of being or awareness that you weren’t permitted in your marriage, or as a woman in this society?

LM: It’s appropriating the priesthood. But then again, nuns were allowed those states.  But again, only the mystics, and the holy anorexics.

JS: So was it a state of ecstasy necessary for you to create endurance work?

LM: All of us replicate states that we practiced as young children, and there were certain things that we all did, that we spend the rest of our lives trying to redo, either as life and/or art. I can remember being able to produce states of travel in a high ecstasy by standing on my bed and looking out of this little window in my parents’ house, at night. That was a high-level mysticism for me and a real escape into the void.

JS:  Did you leave your body? Was it an out-of-body kind of experience?

LM: It was more a feeling state, a kinesthesia, an expansion.

JS: Was there power in it, to do that as a child?

LM: Sure. And then I found that as an artist I could duplicate that by designing or creating actions that when disparate elements were collaged together by choice, my will, my palate, my recipe, I could magically make this magic happen again and share it with others. I would ask them to travel with me so it became not just me, but me in relation to others, all helping collectively to feel the mystery of life.

JS: A lot of your work is rooted in an ascetic practice, where you are all alone, creating a ritual, with a kind of extreme commitment, where you stake out limits, and proceed to enact them.  How does an audience come into that for you? Because a lot of your work doesn’t involve a direct audience.  

LM: I used the audience for years as a witness, but now I’m very, very conscious of where they are, who they are, and are they coming with me?  If they are not, I’ll adjust, I will make it happen so that is not just myself alone. So, I have really become quite mature in relation to the audience, I’m very, very conscious of them.  

JS: Are duty and family loyalty very important to you? You did that series of portraits of your mother, and she took photographs of you, so you’ve periodically incorporated your family into your work, so that they are part of it, whether they want to be or not. How does that happen? Are they willing subjects?

LM: I’m noticing that I’m doing now what I call Dad Art. I am hanging around a lot with my father because I am his caretaker and actually, my dad just recently surprised me.  Two weeks ago, I asked him if I could videotape him, and he said yes. So I’ve been videotaping this man and making art about him with his permission. We’ve become collaborators, not just father and daughter.

JS: On tape do you talk to him, do you interview him?

LM: No, I’m just doing visual images. But this is a really big deal for me, because this is my first collaboration with him. My mother and others were able to do that, but I feel this is big, it has that sense of ‘wow.’ It might not be great art, so to speak, might not, but the process is very satisfying.

JS: So is the process more important to you than the finished product?

LM: The weakness of my work is that I would never go for the product and always went for the process and so it’s a shame and it’s a strength.

JS: I think it’s courageous in the sense that you haven’t been afraid to fail, if something didn’t work out.

LM: A Tai Chi master once came over to my studio, a really important one, a Taoist, and he said “Don’t ever look to the outside, you’re work is powerful, let the world come to you.”  So that’s what I do.  


Jenni Sorkin is an L.A. based critic and researcher at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

A Sample Art/Life Counseling Phone Session

This is one of Montano’s many performative interviews that she has done over the years with herself as the subject. Audrey S refers to Audrey Santo, or “Little Audrey,” the young, severely brain-damaged woman from Massachusetts who has become a Catholic icon due to her alleged ability to perform miracles.

All incidents changed to protect privacy.
Audrey S: Hi, is this Linda Montano? My name is Audrey and I got your number from your web site and read about you. Do you still do Telephone Tarot?

Linda M. Montano: Actually I don't Audrey. Now that I'm a practicing Catholic, I gave it up! But I do Art/Life Counseling. Is there something you want to talk about?

AS: Yes. I’m an artist, 40 years old and I’ve been working on some ideas that I need help with.

LMM: OK. What I will do is ask you a few questions first. Feel free to edit the questions or change them and really question my questions. OK?


LMM: What is your childhood theme or first memory? Say your first thought positive or negative.

AS: Actually my first thought resonates with the idea I’ve been considering. It's about violence. When I was 7 I saw a neighbor hit his dog with a large stick and it killed the dog. After that I went into a kind of silence and emotional posttraumatic stress, I think they call it and it has affected my dreams.

Of course I have good memories, a lot of them, but this is the one that surfaces as a theme in my life and work.

LMM: Let's start with this information then. You can do the same kind of process with any theme or memory. This is just an example of the kind of thinking you can do.
As an artist you have the opportunity to creatively alter, de-fuse, transform, reflect on, dissipate and re-route memories that get in the way of a happy and centered life. That's what's so great about art. It's all material if you want to use it. Of course in the mix are the aesthetic and ethical concerns but for now we will stay with content.

First, remember that you have a storehouse of options and media at your disposal and thousands of ways to express your theme or idea.

I've found that if you can remain raw in the beginning, it helps the surgery. So write down your incident as truthfully as possible. The sounds, sights, smells, feelings. Don't edit. Do you have access to a sound studio?

AS: I have a pretty good amateur tape system and can record things at home. I also dance.

LMM: Good. After you write the story, find sounds or music that resonates with the story and if possible present it simply, non-aesthetically and in this raw way to your therapist.
After working for a while with the therapist, if she/he feels that it is appropriate to present the material to a few close friends in your home, do so. That way there is no critique, no judgment. If perchance the desire for audience and exposure and a larger sharing is on your agenda, then ethical and aesthetic issues get raised. For example: is my idea readable? What do I want from the other person? Do I want the eyes of the audience? Pathos? Empathy? An aesthetic catharsis? As I age, I'm less willing to go toward  "shock" even though it might be in my life and in my material. But that is your decision and depends on what you and your audience can handle. Sometimes warning them of what they are about to experience is helpful.

AS: I have avoided emotion in my work because I fear going to that big place. Any thoughts?

LMM: The important part is honoring the memory. Before I started therapy I thought art could do it all. Then I shared it all with therapy. I found that I needed religion to even it all out. Some work has changed drastically. It is definitely a smorgasbord of art, healing and spirit.

You might work out the sturm und drang with the therapist or with prayer. By the time you get to the public, all the pain of the memory and terror might be wrung out and your performance might look very non-aggressive.  For example, you might cradle a stuffed animal in our arms and sing softly to it. Or cry as you talk to it.  Or raise Seeing Eye dogs for the blind as art. Or volunteer at a dog shelter as art. Or make a 14-foot dog puppet and dance with it for 3 days at noon until 4!

Remember, your aim is to evolve from repressed trauma to embraced compassion. I don't want to sound like a grandmother but try being Dali Lama-ish about your work.

AS: That makes sense. There's enough struggle in my daily life. Maybe my art can be a place where I get some different kind of nourishment.

LMM: The performance of the 70's was so much more self-referential in a narcissistic way.  Now times have changed and artists are employing the genre to evolve their consciousness not haze themselves. TV is doing that to the new every artist! Just look at Survivor or Temptation Island. A lot of performance art concepts are commodified there. Right?

AS: Yes. I know you were tied with Tehching Hsieh in his One Year Art/Life Performance. Isn't there a new TV program about a woman being tied to four men or something like that?

LMM: I still find the workshop setting and doing it for friends setting the best. Once it gets out to a larger public, trouble arises. Cutting, shooting and re-enacting of 70’s concepts can often hide the simple need to be healed via creativity in a safe and healthy and appropriate way.

AS: Linda, I'm trying to write this all down. Can I pay you for this? What do you charge?

LMM: Nothing. Just do something for somebody else in the next 7 years. Give your niece some art supplies.

AS: What do you do to keep your mind vital? I find the emotional so bothersome and so punitive.

LMM: A few years ago I was having an exceptionally hard time. I did this subconscious re-programming on myself. It is a collage of a lot of techniques that I learned from others. Try it; see if it helps. You can do it as I describe it or write it down and do it later, whichever you like.

  1. Notice that cultural beliefs run our thinking.
  2. Some are negative, out of date and are stored deep in the recesses of the mind.
  3. Locate the belief storage container.
  4. Be the architect of a new one if you don't like yours.
  5. Pick out a negative thought that has been running your life.
  6. Write it down. Edit it and make it positive, even saccharine.
  7. Now go inside and imagine your favorite friend or inner guide or teacher standing next to your belief system container.
  8. The formula is, I----------NAME, NOW BELIEVE------------
  9. As you say your new belief out loud three times, give the old one to your friend and let her discard of it.
  10. Repeat when necessary.

AS: That sounds great. Mine was "I'm always feeling terrified and terrorized."  And I changed it to, “I, Audrey, now believe in that inner harmony, and practice spacious and trusting beauty inside myself."  Is that saccharine enough?

LMM: Excellent!

AS: Thanks, Linda.

LMM: You're welcome. Happy art/life to you, until we meet again. (Sung to Dale Evan's Happy Trails To You.)   Bye.

LMM: Perfect.


(Self) Interview: Teaching Performance Art

Question: When did you first become interested in teaching?

Linda M. Montano: Since 1966 I have been teaching art and have become familiar with teaching on the following three levels:
  1. Teaching sculpture and object making at Catholic women's colleges
  2. Teaching performance art itinerantly with no administrative responsibilities in hundreds of places, 1971-1991
  3. Teaching performance art in a university while participating on committees, and in the life of academia, 1991-1998

Out of those three experiences, I prefer the visiting artist model since that better suits my skills, my personality and my style.

Q: What is your style?

LMM: I teach performatively, that is, what happens with people who spend time with me in the classroom is sometimes identical to what happens in performances. The classroom is a laboratory for the creation of presence, community, structure, intimacy, analysis, information and transformation. That has always been my goal. When I wear my performance art teacher mask, I allow myself to engage the body, mind and spirit of those playing the role of student.  But the bottom line is that I must be engaged, attentive, having a "good" time for the whole thing to work.

Q: That sounds like a theater workshop to me. Is there a difference?

LMM: Videotaping one of my classes would reveal that many of the activities look the same as those you would see in many other places. So what you are saying is true. But also I'm convinced that fate puts us together with certain people who can tolerate each other's style. This gives that group a chance to get very high together, for lack of a better word. When they leave the lab/classroom, they adjust their methodologies to daily life and make that a performative dance. (See Linda M. Montano, Art in Everyday Life, 1981)

Q: Who were your mentors?

LMM: Every spiritual teacher I've ever had especially my meditation Guru, Dr. R.S. Mishra as well as composer Pauline Oliveros and performance artist/teacher Eleanor Antin. All were holistic and were totally themselves when they taught. Plus, they had a ball!

Q: Describe a typical class.

LMM: I start with the body. We might stretch to Indian Ragas, slow walk while accompanied by the TV news, or imitate geriatric courting birds. Addressing the physical first allows for instant trust, instant community, and a change of focus from the stresses of everyday mind. Play silences the judge.

Then what follows is a sound exercise or what Pauline Oliveros terms “Sonic Meditation.” These soundscapes are effective ways to clear out the debris of ego, worry, and make room for the authentic presentation of self later on in the class. And for the soul, silence might be "felt" or a chakra visualization offered to deepen inner awareness.

None of these examples are set in concrete since all is based on mood, weather, the day, and the needs/demands of the group. Often we have left the room, gone to a stream and sat the entire class. This is the bottom line: How to create creative presence, attention and trust so that students can perform their secrets or lies, their autobiographies or celebrations, and their concerns or outrageousness for each other is a healing/beneficial environment.

Let's experiment now and do a fast, McDonald’s version of one of my classes. First, stretch your shoulders. Good. Feel your muscles breathe. Good make a sound. Disguise your voice and tell your own inner child something that you need to hear. Now make an animal sound that sums up your experience of the College Art Association meetings. Now feel the texture of silence and breath for 30 seconds. Good.

Q: How do you grade performance art?

LMM: One of the reasons that I am not able to perform the role of professor is because I insist that excellence is not measured by ADCB, but by the ability to change, to feel and to charge brain waves via the creative exploration of autobiography as art. Sure, in some classes my students have written extensive heady and theoretical research papers on ritual, gender, the body, the purpose of audience, and the history of performance. These papers serve as a gradable objects but I am still most facile and comfortable as a teacher when I don't have to serve as an arbiter or judge of another's excellence. I would often say to the students:

  1. Grade yourself at the end of the semester
  2. Or "You start this class receiving an "A". And at the end of the semester, I would say, "Do you feel that you deserve an "A?" If they say no, then I would comment, "Then do x number of hours of community service to compensate for any lack of effort you might have given your work."
  3. Or sometimes I would announce, "All of you are getting "A's" and from the shock of that gesture, the rest of the semester we would rock and roll in relief.

Why are grades so problematical? I think it's because performance art from its inception was about the edge, the outside, and the permission not to belong.

Performance artists teaching performance art in the academy have this great opportunity. They can give students
  • Permission to use both brains
  • Permission to move from trance to analysis
  • Permission to create critiques that heal and don't hurt
  • Permission to clean up our acts in front of each other
  • Permission to take the practice home and make daily life, art.

Q: Are you teaching now?

LMM: Right now I only do occasional gigs as a teacher. Fate has designed it so that I'm there to assist my 88-year-old father (now 89 and just had a stroke) who acts like MY   teacher. I call my current work Blood Family Art with subheadings for Dad Art, Sister Art, Niece Art, etc.

My goal is to stay put, stay home (this was written pre-Sept 11, 2001 when staying home was almost mandatory) not even thinking of taking an airplane anywhere and still teach as I did with Linda Weintraub's students at Oberlin via sending performance videos back and forth. This exciting model of invisibility and non-present technological permission-giving led to different levels of disclosure that I would like to continue to practice, using video or video conferencing as the teaching medium. Here are some reasons why I love video and distance teaching as the medium of exchange:

  1. Video is familiar and easy for today's students because it mimics TV, their techno-friendly babysitter of choice.
  2. Video elicits a performative response and satisfies the universal need for stardom/visibility/play. We all love to show-off.
  3. Video temporarily eliminates authorities/judges/censors/audiences and since the camera morphs into the robotic self, seeing/viewing the "live" self, freedom is assured.
  4. Video is cold and allows the performer to be hot/cold/intimate or distant.
  5. Video is a meditative facilitator, allowing the user to technologically journey/journal themselves autobiographically until their history and personal story is repeated long enough to be silenced into self-acceptance.

So that remains my dream.... to stay home, send videos back and forth, get paid a salary and then take a group of artists (astrally?) to visit the Marian Shrines of Europe as a Life Performance.

Q: Why would a performance artist want to teach performance art?

LMM: Are you referring to classroom issues and things that happen there like danger? Like censorship? Issues of content? Of divergent moral/religious beliefs in one classroom?
Are you referring to parental disapproval? Are you talking about the difficulties faced by teachers of performance art who have to "satisfy" deans? Colleagues? Donors? Fundamentalist alumnae?

Teaching performance art honestly and sincerely is one of the most demanding professions on earth. Those willing to dance their way through the challenges must go into the academy with:
  1. Their eyes wide-open.
  2. Their aikido stances strong and centered
  3. Their wisdom polished by compassion
  4. Their ability to adjust to all of the other personalities intact
  5. Their aesthetics impeccable
  6. Their history of the genre studied
  7. Their humor intact
  8. Their skin thick and thin at the same time

To Conclude:
Let's take a minute of silence to first see/feel light and then send this light of protection to all teachers of performance art. And to those of you contemplating teaching performance in the future, congratulations, and may the force be with you.