Wednesday, April 18, 2012
ENDURANCE:THEN AND NOW : Linda Mary Montano 1998
This presentation/paper is not only about my work; it is also designed to include you the listener/reader because I will be asking you endurance questions throughout. For example: What event in your life challenged you to endure? Take a minute and review the event. Where are you now with this event? Are you in the waiting stage, feeling the emotions? (Pause) Or are you in the anger stage, confronting the event? (Pause) Or have you transformed the event, accepted it, made art with or about it? Wherever you are, the non-defined feeling stage, the anger stage or the transforming stage, is where you are and the place you need to be.
NOTE: The week before Christmas, I sat by my father's bed, 24 hours a day for 6 days and nights , in an upstate NY hospital, as he recovered from disc surgery.I listened as he hallucinated from the pain killers and observed visually the woman down the hall strapped to her chair across from the nurses station, sounding like the female comedians from the British TV sitcom, Absolutely Fabulous.
Barbara was her name and she was raging, remembering past injustices from childhood, calling to God (This is not the only reason to be nice to people...they never forget any unkindness on a cellular level.) I was the observer, watching it all, choosing to be there.Who was waiting in this scenario? Who was enduring? Was it art or just a case of life waiting to be magically changed into art?
I have always been interested in enduring. As a young Catholic girl, I knelt before the bloody, gory, Crucifix in our upstate NY church and I waited, endured the discomfort that comes from kneeling, endured the isolation that comes from choosing church over play and "fun", endured the possibility that I might not be good enough or saintly enough to go to heaven or be like Jesus. I was definately linked to suffering , penance and the guilt fast track at a young age. I remember how nuns would talk about Christ and how He endured the suffering of carrying the cross, how he fell down, how he was nailed to the cross, and died miserably, forgiving everyone. His endurance etched itself into my belief system and when I was seven years old, I wanted to be a saint and I thought to do that I had to suffer like Jesus. That became the plot and story line for my entire life quest.
To do that
At twenty I entered a convent, "enduring " two years as a Catholic nun ,living in silence those two years except for one hour a day when we all talked together in recreation. I loved the community and dedication to a higher good and absolutely pure goal, but I left anorexic, having lost nearly 50 pounds in six months, high as a kite on endorphins . Holy anorexia? Delusions? Endurance gone amuck?
When I was introduced to art soon after I left, I immediately found a way to transfer religious fervor and my prediliction for penance and suffering into my work; first as sculpture and then as perormance art.
For example, I sat for hours, lay down for hours, danced for hours, in public, asking audiences to watch me endure. Give me attention I demanded, witness my long-term committment. And in so doing, I felt more alive as I soaked in their curiosity. It was as if I couldn't exist without them. Their presence was like a bath of recognition and approval and I wanted them to delight in my actions. Without the other's gaze, I didnt feel at all so I learned more intricate ways to raise my own energy and get others to view me doing so and then there would be this synergistic marriage of static electricity going on. They were in this web of my mysteries as viewer and manipulated into the role of voyeur, mid-wife to my happiness and co-creator of my art.
Some images from that time:
1.Lying three hours in a bed surrounded by 12 paper mache chickens, me dressed as a saint....enduring.
2.Sitting as a saint , in 9 places in Rochester, three hours each place , holding a home-made chicken sculpture....enduring.
3.Walking on a treadmill for three hours going uphill, telling my life story...enduring.
4.Lying in view three hours with accupuncture needles in my conception vessel.....enduring.
5.Standing outside ringing a bell as a Salvation Army bell ringer....enduring.
6.Living 3 days handcuffed to Tom Marioni....enduring.
7.Living blindfolded for a week, preparing for old age and potential blindness.... enduring.
8.Living in a gallery room as five different people, one a day...enduring.
9.Studying the martial arts so as to channell rage into good action...enduring.
10.Mouring the death of my ex-husband for two years as art....enduring.
11.Singing a song for three hours to my husband after his death....enduring.
12.Camping out in many galleries,museums and art spaces , using everyday life as art....enduring.
13.Going to the NewMuseum once a month for seven years, giving Art/Life Counseling...enduring.
14. Living for a year tied by a rope to Tehching Hsieh in his ONE YEAR PERFORMANCE..enduring.
15.Living for 14 years in seven different colors to honor the chakras and sacraments...enduring.
Now take some time and imagine your own performance. Create an action in your imagination that would mirror one of your life issues and see yourself enduring.
Certainly there is a psychological and freudian view that can be seen in my work but let's also suppose that the work is a very intuitive shamanic and ritualistic way that I invented to lead myself into altered states of consciousness while bringing the viewer along with me on this interior and mysterious journey.
Possibly there are many ways of viewing my intentions and I believe that sometimes there is a thin line between neurotic narcissism and tantric, shamanic soul travel.
Like Catherine of Siena, and many other Catholic saints and mystics, I was enamoured of endurance so I could tough it out, prepare myself for the hard knocks of life, so I could fight the good fight, bite the bullet, so I could keep it up, go the whole nine yards, get the job done and give my all. (For me? For God? ....that took a long time to decipher.)
Once I learned of Hindu yogis and their methods of achieving stillness, concentration, equanimity and inner silence, I felt in the company of kindered spirits and brother-sister travellers. For example, Tibetan nuns, lost/found in trance, endure rigorous/repetitive mantras, visualizations, penances, charnel ground watchings, all meant to make then impervious to Himalayan cold, pain, the mind and illusions of the relative world.
These practictioners are some of my guides, helpers, teachers mentors and inspirations on my path.
Who is your helper? See this person.Thank them. Vow to become a helper to someone else in the future.
We have lookedat my backgground. Let's now look at some universal reasons why we all endure. Endurance is built into our system because under this skin is a galaxy of networks, a mysterious world of muscles, bones, veins, and organs which endure our turbulent emotional states, endure our tortured thoughts, endure our various and punitive diets, endure the torture of climate changes and home-uprootings, endure our lovelessness, endure our fertile negative imaginings and paranoias, endure our lovellessness, endure our tortured memories and traumatic secrets, endure our disrespect for authorities and bitterness toward everyone's good intention .
See your body in great detail. Clear it of all past endurances that hurt.
We artists love to create solutions to all of the above and in the late 60's there came into the art stream a group of creators who made Body Art. Many of us used endurance as a primary material for our work. Some of the reasons might be:
1.That endurance was a reaction against the linearity and dogmatism of minimal art.
2.That endurance artists were interested in leaving the world of buying and selling art, of making our work for each other, for ourselves, not for slick documents,mindless magazines, judging audiences or uncaring strangers.
3.That artists publically used the drugs of the day; marijuana, hashish, lsd, and peyote. Drugs which allowed them to hang out and endure for long periods of time in trance and altered states, as art.
4.That the womens' movement and civil rights movements inspired artists to experiment with issues of sensitivity training and consciousness-raising, as art.
5.That artists of the 60's formed deep bonds with both eastern spiritual teachers and with american Indian elders who helped us see and feel new ways of honoring and appreciating our bodies and the earth. These wise teachers taught us self-initiatory and risk-taking rituals which could be used to mark important passages. They introduced us to death-defying actions, risk-taking attitudes, and important maturity retreats. Later, once we learned from them, we translated the teachings into our performances. Now reality tv's souless translations of our experiments mirror our work but miss the inner meaning.
ENDURANCE AND WOMEN ARTISTS
There has always been division around gender. How did women "endure"? And men?
Performance art became the art ofchoice for women artists in the 70's since it offered a fluid, intuitive, healing, versatile, spontaneous and dynamic method akin to the physical waitings/endurings that women perform at childbirth and in the act/art of childraising.
Some women who endured:
Nancy Youdelman exaggerated;
Judy Chicago healed;
Carolee Schneemann liberated;
Hannah Wilke exposed;
Eleanor Antin satarized;
Annie Sprinkle shared;
Katren Finley raged;
Suzanne Lacy aged;
all of them used time and material in new ways and courageously forged ahead of a tired system of painting/sculpture current at that time.
MEN AND ENDURANCE
Men also played with time and initiated themselves but somewhat differently.
Joseph Beuys wrapped;
Tehching Hsieh deprived;
Chris Burden cruucified;
Terry Fox cured;
Richard Long walked;
Vito Acconci yanked;
Tom Marioni drank.
And not to confuse the issue,what about couples?
Alex and Alison Grey processed;
Marina Abromovic and Ulay stared;
Barbara Smith and past lovers embraced;
LindaMontano and Tehching Hsieh got roped.
Can you imagine how you would initiate yourself into a life passage? Write it, sing it, perform it , keep it secret but by allmeans BE SAFE!!
Or join an invisible internet community where travel, audience and appleause are non-existent.
My father once told me when I was complaining about a life issue....I think it was insurance prices....He said, "Life is hard enough. Don't make hard things harder." And in his year book his legacy is,SOMEONE WHO MAKES DIFFICULT THINGS SEEM EASY.
By practicing endurance, possibly we can prepare in a strong way for times when we need to be even stronger.
This paper was given during my last performance at UT Texas as a good-bye.