Not Everything is Performance Art, People

by Hrag Vartanian on February 23, 2012

Today, one writer at The Atlantic has throw her hat into the whole “if it’s strange then it must be performance art” line of thinking, which is starting to aggravate me. This time it’s about Uzbekistan’s Wikipedia ban, though only the Uzbeki version, leaving nationals open to access the Russian, English and versions. The writer, Sarah Kendzior, starts her article with, “Uzbekistan’s ban on Wikipedia is censorship as performance art.”

What? There’s no real explanation as to why she seems to think it is but what at work here is the growing concept of performance art as some form of shorthand for the strange and inexplicable. It’s a rather dismissive attitude towards something that isn’t as irrational as it may seem to many not familiar with the form.

Last year, MSNBC political show host Rachel Maddow had the same attitude towards the campaign of GOP hopeful Herman Cain, deriding it as “performance art” as if it was an insult.

Unlike Kendzior, Maddow did articulate her thoughts on the matter. She said, according to Mediate:

“The gaffes are too perfect,” she told her audience, concluding that the campaign was “not about politics– this is art about politics.”

Art about politics? You mean critique of politics? Is art one of the only arenas left in our society for critique? It may just be.

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  • respiraahora

    I think these things are being called performance art not because they are strange but rather because they are clearly not meant to accomplish the thing that they might on their surface look like they’re meant to accomplish.  They’re action as embodied meaning rather than action as practical means to an end.  In this way, they have some similarity to art.  This doesn’t mean that I think they SHOULD be called performance art, but rather that there’s more reason for it than just that they’re strange.

  • Holo Grampa

    It’s really not so astonishing. Surely for thousands of years people have thought  certain landscapes looked like paintings and certain events felt like the theatre. Comparisons were made… No one is confused about what ‘performance art’ is. A landscape being compared to a painting does not insult painting.

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