Monday, October 03, 2005

A Brief Pre-Performative Response to an Exhibit not yet Having Occurred

On October 8th in Seattle, Toi Sennhauser will be holding an interactive performance entitled "Oktoberfest", in which she will be offering a specially brewed beer containing trace amounts of vaginal yeast taken from her own body. She explains,

"Experimentation with historic staple foods, in combination with my own body, helps to build a new artistic dimension: understanding through taste. To experience an art piece through taste is a two-pronged experience. The viewer has to make a simple decision - to ingest it or not. From this primal question new questions quickly arise: Is it socially acceptable to drink beer that includes even a trace amount of vaginal yeast? Is it natural? Is it kinky? Can a man drinking this beer still be macho? Why does it make such a difference when it comes to the human body?

It is these questions about society's ever-increasing disconnect with the human body that I try to expose and learn about by feeding the viewer. By sharing my art in this way, I share my body and mind, inviting the viewer to have a conversation on a genuinely intimate level. Essence meets essence. The participants begin to understand me and I them

How is one "primal" question and a series of "new" questions a two-pronged experience? Or are the two prongs 1) to ingest and 2) not to ingest, in which case a better description would be two one-pronged experiences? Or, is the point that one can both ingest and not ingest, which would entail an overcoming of scientific-technical bifurcations such as the principle of non-contradiction and other vestiges of traditional modes of domination, largely masculine in character?

Is this in a sense a reorientation of art in which the artist becomes a kind of inverted mirror? That is, do we discover in this primal question a parallel between the traditional taboo on such experiences as "a and simultaneously not-a" and the dualisms that artificially sever the external body from the "interior" mind, which is somehow always defined in terms of the very ratiocination that gave rise to this division in the first place? And, as inverted mirror, do we not find that the performance of corporeal, sensual action gives rise to modes of questioning that cannot possibly be accounted for by ultra-rational bifurcating reasoning?

Here, in the experience of this bodily beer, we are presented with a series of inverted dualities: attraction and revulsion, vaginal and macho, nature and artefact. But these are only apparent dualities. They are only oppositions in so far as they are reflections of traditional analyses. In deciding to drink Original Pussy Beer, one performatively unites these dualities into one immediate, physical experience, the sensual-social experience of taste and intoxication. And just as these two latter elements can never be understood apart from the one experience of beer, so can these bifurcations mentioned above never be understood apart from the one experience of body: corporeal, immediate, sensual.

And now we can finally understand how the primal question can give rise to a manifold of new questionings. That is, questions as lived, bodily experience: a form of investigation that perhaps only art can make possible.


[This exhibit is hosted in Seattle by Crawl Space at 504 East Denny #1 from 6-9 pm on October 8th. Their website is]


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