Could it be that I’m dusting you off again, returning? Why yes I think so. But what about Lisbon and it’s gorgeous people and clean toilets and what of El Museo and spraining my ankle? What of the last several months? Doesn’t that too deserve an entry? Sitting in the (West) Hollywood Hills lends itself to gazing over the shrubbery in the morning and automatic writing, allowing the fingers to do their folly (chuckling). One thing I love about coming to the West Coast, besides my roots and blood is that when I first arrive I am a morning person, for about 3 days, but sometimes I can extend it. And I love to get up and go to the filmmaker breakfasts at the Standard Hotel, an event unique to being an official selection at Outfest Film Festival. One of my favorite, which starts tomorrow! So me and Fufu headed out, walking, down the hill for some coffee at about 8:30 AM. Something about LA really hit me this time as I looked up to the Bebe billboard and saw the unlikely ginormous boobs airbrushed with extra peculiar cleavage where one would not normally occur. And I am no stranger to airbrushing. Gawd LA and by extension of the entertainment industry, a lot of people, are obsessed with the body. I mean what’s the big deal? Take off your clothes already… The heat, so early, keep walking, almost to coffee and Parvin, the woman who threads my face. More beautiful people, more 3d monsters, more naked Heidi Klum. Naked but teasing, you know, like a tape measure grazing her nipple or some shit like that. Anyways, I’ve always loved the body-obsessed culture here, somehow “healthy” and perverse simultaneously. A stangely tuned high-pitched instrument of culture, that I’ve found if you can run it through some kind of filter, a pleasant tune will emerge. Of course there are a myriad of cultures co-existing here, not to mention my favorite taco wagon. Yes, better than the one at the Mobile station in Bakersfield… So just as I pass by Heidi, I see this “Health nut” coming towards me. He is running in the full sun, very thin and cut, no shirt and sweat rings in his crotch area. He is flailing his arms in some burn-more-calories kind of way and as he gets closer I realize he is not one of the “beautiful people” but some one suffering perhaps terrible hallucinations, grabbing at some imagined assailant. A lump forms in my throat, as we dodge his grasp and he continues his run. Nothing has changed about LA. I’ve changed. Living in ultra-real upstate by the River didn’t prepare me for this heat, everything looks duller and more deranged. I’ve been coming to LA since I was a kid, to Disneyland, then for dance lessons, then for punk shows, then parties, art gigs, Work of Art audition, etc… It has always met me with a magical space of “anything” can happen here. You, Nao, can make anything happen. Maybe this shift of seeing what I’m looking at can help me actually make “anything” happen. Ooh, did I mention that Fufu is dyed purple?
Nao responds to the critiques of her “shocking” work, and explains her competition strategy.
Art isn’t always where you think it’ll be. Sure, you have your artwork, or art piece, but that is often just a snapshot of where an artist is in their process. So the “art” is in the process and it’s evidence is elusive. “Good” art is hard to trap. For me the process is like absorbing my surroundings, mingled with my perception, then reorganizing that into a form. That form may be readable as intended or shifting, and unconscious. Once you take your work out of your head or heart or guts and put it into a form, it is subject to interpretation. At that point the artist loses control, but gains a dialog and an understanding of the interpretation by the viewer. Work of Art contestants made what we could with X number of hours. If we had 12 hours the work would be different than if we had 12 days or 12 years. That’s why I think of the work as a snapshot of the process or time available.
When I watched Episode 4 of Work of Art, I thought my work looked strong on TV, but the details of the process, the drip painting and the ripped and painted nest interior, were left out, or at least hard to pick up on. This is TV and the narrative doesn’t always require the details. But when the judges had all the contestants assembled and the camera panned across our heads, it was that moment I saw the art, all of those heads and then… my crazy sculptural mask! IT WAS A RIP IN THE FORMAT OF THIS ART COMPETITION. I really thought it was beautiful. No one made mention in the show that I had used the Utrecht bags from our show sponsor. It was a commentary/frustration of the limitations of the structure. I am primarily a video and performance artist (but I don’t put emphasis on media hierarchy). I rarely go to the art supply store for materials. Don’t get me wrong, I love the art supply store, just as much as the library, the hardware store, my house, the street and so on. Materiality is all around us, as is art. One of my strategies for going on the show was to engage in things I didn’t actually know how to do. So each week I tried to do something that was new for me. I wanted to model a process for people watching the show that you can express yourself creatively in any medium. Even though I said I had no idea what I was making, episode 4 felt like the most familiar art-making process for me. It was a true exploration. Making art can be animal and instinctual, spiritual and beyond words. Heck, I’ve been in critique sessions many times, and I certainly know how to B.S. with the best of them. But really is that what it is all about? I determined that my piece, “Barely Standing,” would be the work that would break though the show format or get me sent home, and well, we all know what happened. I think it is possible to make great art in a reality TV format, but it may not be where we intend it to be. Will the next great artist be a competitor on Work of Art? Watch what happens. Nao will be heading back to relative obscurity now to make her own works of art. But remember people out there in TV land, take off your mask, because there is another one underneath.
I can now announce that I’ll be part of Bravo TV’s upcoming reality show, Work of Art, which starts in June 2010.
A panel discussion featuring a series of presentations by Purchase College professors and a performance by artist Nao Bustamante celebrates their publicationThe Body Reader: Essential Social and Cultural Readings (Feb. 2010, NYU Press).
Nao Bustamante director/writer/performer/editor, Ava Berkofsky director of photography, Andres Laracuente shadow dancer, Ruthie Doyle assistant camera, Eleanor Goldsmith still photography & giver of golden light, Victoria Kereszi props master & production assistant, Andrew Lynn stop-motion animation & technical assistance, Seana Biondolillo penis-image craft & dildo bejeweler, Salvatore Salamone headdress construction, Branda Miller production impresaria, Commissioned by the LIVE FILM/ Jack Smith festival, co-organized by Arsenal Institute for Film and Video Art and Hebbel-am-Ufer Theater (HAU) in Berlin, Produced at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute iEAR Studios with assistance from EMPAC
THE WAY THAT WE RHYME
In conjunction with The Way That We Rhyme exhibition tours, discussions and screenings, join us for one-night-only evening event with artists Nao Bustamante and Julie Atlas Muz. Both women are conceptual performance pioneers whose interdisciplinary approaches make for challenging and entertaining experiences.
Miss Exotic World and Miss Coney Island 2006, Julie Atlas Muz presents Fecunditatis—the best of her short format work in a performance dedicated to spring, rebirth and the violence of creation. Bustamante is an internationally known performance and video artist whose work encompasses performance art, sculpture, installation and video.