closing soon, ends Jan 12:
New Museum, 235 Bowery, NYC
Spanning a forty-year career and moving across mediums, “Extreme Measures” presents a selection of Burden’s work focused on weights and measures, boundaries and constraints, where physical and moral limits are called into question.
“As an artist, [Burden] was fast out of the gate, establishing his reputation with a series of exquisitely simple, often incendiary performances from 1971 to 1977. Many lasted only a few seconds, others for up to three weeks. But they tested will, discipline and endurance, sometimes to the point of real danger… Few people saw Mr. Burden’s performances, but no matter: the best of them could be reduced to a vivid sentence or two that, once heard, stuck in the mind. By the mid-1970s, they formed a familiar litany of indelible acts and documentary photographs. After 54 performances, Mr. Burden succumbed to performance art’s primary occupational hazard: It was too grueling. He had always considered his performances sculptures, and now he turned to making sculptures that he saw as performances: feats or demonstrations that delved more deeply into reality with forms other than his body. His art-world visibility shrank because his efforts could no longer be distilled to an unforgettable sentence or two. They had to be experienced directly, which is what the New Museum’s spacious exhibition is all about.” - Roberta Smith, New York Times
nycARTscene Interview: Michelangelo Alasa’
Michelangelo Alasa’s “Confessions of a Cuban Sex Addict” runs through August 9th at the Duo Multicultural Arts Center (DMAC), 62 East 4th St., NYC.
nycARTscene’s Hannah Krafcik leads us in conversation with the writer/director/producer/artist:
HK: Confessions depicts your personal narrative through imagery and performative tropes. Can you elaborate on why you’ve chosen to do this sort of work featuring interactive and visual art components at this point in your career?
MA: The creation of Confessions began with my need to bring to life the interior safe place I had created in my mind since the age of 8. After a failed suicide attempt, I decided to fight my abusive parents back using style, wit, intelligence. I became a button pusher…a provocateur at an early age. At that same time, I found art, film, and theater and used it as an escape as well as a way to fight back. From an early age, I used collage as a way to bring disparate images into a homogenous whole that spoke to me deeply.
There was always a duality to my early years, which has continued into late adulthood - a tightrope dance of balancing a very strong sexual impulse with an even stronger passion to share my story. I think this came about from being sexualized at such an early age. The performative nature of the work stems from the fact that, for many years, I have been working in theater. It was natural for me to tell my story using actors along with a physical representation of the home or “House of Terror,” where I grew up, and the “safe place” in my mind, where I disappeared to when life became too trying or painful. As the work has progressed I came to the realization that what I had created was a classic self-portrait and that it would be important for me to embrace my own story and tell it as only I can tell it, without artifice or performance.
HK: Tell us a bit about the mediums and artistic practices you’ve intertwined to construct Confessions. How have you used collage throughout the work?
MA: I see myself as a 21st century muralist. I use video, still images, and found objects to create the two worlds that I have inhabited all my life. I use the power of word(s) in conjunction with the visuals to bring to life and to explore the complexities of feeling and thoughts that have challenged me since the age of three when a rather delightful sexual relationship with my father began. At the age of six, when the sexual relationship with my dad ended, I lost my mother and father emotionally for ever, and art and story telling helped me survive. The work is still very much in process and progress, and it grows on a daily basis. My feeling is that I will know when the canvas is complete.
HK: Confessions tends to be catharsis inducing for viewers, and particularly those from the queer community. How do you hope viewers will interact with and experience the work?
MA: The piece is about redemption, healing and about moving on. I am using gay social media such as Manhunt, Adam, Daddyhunt and Grindr to reach out to the queer community. I am astounded at the number of men who, on a daily basis, reach out to me to tell their own stories of sexual abuse. My own frankness and directness in speaking about and bringing to life my own story of pain using visuals and words within in a physical space seems to raise questions in some concerning their own abuse. My belief is that abuse, whether it is sexual, physical, or emotional, is rampant in our society. I created this piece for myself because I needed to physically inhabit and experience the safe place. Only when my nephew walked through the an early version of the “safe space” discussing my tale of abuse, did I see the impact it could have on others. After each performance, I am approached with words of encouragement and support as well as people who need to share their won stories with me. I created a wall of “confessions” where audience members are able to share their won thoughts with the world.
HK: You have a long history with Duo Multicultural Arts Center (DMAC), where Confessions takes place. I’m specifically interested in your connection to Andy Warhol and his previous occupation of Duo Theatre. As you continue your work in the space, Duo seems to be taking on a modern “Factory-eque” atmosphere. What do you envision for DMAC after Confessions?
MA: In 1969, I went to 62 East 4th Street and saw Andy Warhols Boys To Adore Galore series of gay porn film screenings. It is amazing to me that 40 years later a company that I run, DMAC, is co-owner of the very building where I first met Andy. DMAC, is like an artistic “complex” where I provide free space to dancers, film makers, theater and visual artists in which they can create. These works sometimes are presented at DMAC and other times they are premiered at other venues. Although Andy continues to have a profound influence on me, other mentors have also influenced what I do, e.g. Cocteau, Chanel, Picasso, Arthur Janov and, of course, Gertrude Stein whose Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas I stole from the local library (it was a first edition). This opened a new world to me, leading me to Diaghilev and The Ballet Russe and the expatriate world of Paris at the turn of the century. I myself am an expatriate of sorts, as I was born in Havana Cuba mid-last century. I have plans to next explore the pre-Aids NYC and the golden age of unprotected free-for-all world that I experienced in the early 1970’s, in particular the Continental Baths. I plan to open that work for Pride 2014.
HK: Why do you believe it is important to tell this story in the way that you do?
MA: I tell my story for myself every Friday evening. I bring into being and I inhabit fully my own world for that hour. People come and witness. It is served raw and freshly as a plate of oyster nightly, as I am still making breakthroughs during each “performance.” I use the word performance as I don’t know what else to call it. At the end when audiences applaud, I am very uncomfortable, but I understand their need to applaud, and I accept it.
Duo Multicultural Arts Center (DMAC), 62 East 4th St., NYC.
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