Lecture for MOMA
Thanks to Moma, Paola Antonelli for the invitation and to Erica Peirllo, to colleagues and all of you .
My initiation to performance art and specifically to aging began at the feet of my grandmothers, Nan : a wild Outsider artist who let me stand next to her , in silence as she drew/sewed on her singer machine/ as she quilted, as she made miniscule furniture for aliens from twigs. And as she played her harmonica and especially when she sang with her teeth out: If I Had The wings of an Angel.
My Italian grandmother taught me to age in prayer because her dedication, via hours a day of silent Rosaries, was to her daughter who died in the Spanish flu at 3, in 1918.
I watched them both closely and see now that I have been mentored into my own path and am aging just like them only my language is performance art.. Dear Performance Art, you are my therapy, my hospital, my drug of choice, my church, my medicine and my love.
With you I destroy, transform and eliminate time and therefore aging by creating a 14 year endurance, dedicated to the 7 Hindu Chakras. I have rehearsed the consequences of aging/loss of sight by staying blindfolded for a week, many different times. See my book ART IN EVERYDAY LIFE for more examples of my performative practice.
As said, my daily life gives me prompts for my art. For example if I am lonely I make lonely art; afraid , I make afraid art. That is the recipe. So let's look at my approach to one of my current themes, aging and art:
VIDEO 1.DYSTONIA: When I developed a chronic neurological illness, cervical dystonia, I immediately made a video to bring this fear/dread and pain to another level. That is, my video brought illness to the church of art, the altar of art and alchemized the truth with the beauty of creativity.
VIDEO 2. MOTHER TERESA: For forever I have experimented with persona and in1976, made a video of myself as 7 characters by sitting in front of a camera for a year, interviewing myself as these fabulous people. As I aged the people became older: Bob Dylan, a Woodstock musician Paul McMahon and Mother Teresa. I was walking like her because of dystonia so I decided to cash in on my illness and wrinkles and become her. Maybe in the process some of her ease around wrinkles and aging would get transferred to me. Compassion via art.
VIDEO 3: NURSE NURSE My belief is that I must prepare for dementia and for alzheimners. I might succumb to both. But I don't want to bring my neuroses and angers and rages to aides at a nursing home who are taking care of feeding changing and toileting 15 other clients while making $8.00 an hour. My Dad had a stroke in the brown Lazy Boy chair in this vide and as a result it was a charged and powerful object filled with triggering memories. I performed as if I were a struggling nursing home client and then allowed for the Angel of Acceptance to teach me how to receive help from the harried nurse . My art teaches me how to age with dignity.
VIDEO 4: LINDA AND TOBE MAKE A TAPE ABOUT DEATH: My video editor Tobe Carey and I have been collaborating for over 20 years. My videos with him, specifically about aging, allow me to take it seriously and also be light-hearted about it. Not only art is good medicine. So is laughter.
VIDEO 5: BENARES: My journey to Varanasi was to freely look at death from an Eastern perspective and to visit Hindu nursing homes which were often ashrams for elders who incorporated prayer and mantra devotions into their last days. I want to retire to a home that is dedicated to spiritual practices. It would liook like a monastery but would have a big swimming pool also and be co-ed. Chickens and kindergarten children would be welcomed.