Reactor

Better Than Performance Art

by Hrag Vartanian on August 29, 2014

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The classic performance art scene from ‘She’s All That’ (1999) (GIF Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

On Wednesday, artist Jayson Musson tweetedlol this performance art scene in She’s All That is better than real performance art,” and his 84 characters opened the flood gates of memory for me. When I first met my future husband, I told him that I closely followed performance art. After some shyness, he eventually admitted that he’d never seen performance art, and all he knew about the art form was from the 1999 teen romantic comedy She’s All That. I’m guessing that response was more common back in 2006 than it is today.

An effective ridicule of performance art, the Hollywood scene combines the pseudo-political with shocking visuals, heavy-handed symbolism, a seemingly bored audience, and the trappings of 20th-century radicalism: all signs of a mediocre — ok, bad — performance artwork.

Yet there’s still something fantastically funny about the scene, a sense of recognition in the rituals of watching bad art among peers. There’s the awkward congratulating post-performance, the pretension — it’s all there in the stereotypes on display.

Now, excuse me while I return to rocking back and forth in the corner of a modernist house naked as I scream the words to Richard Nixon’s infamous 1973 “I am not a crook” speech. Don’t worry, I’ll tweet it.

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