Man-Child Reality Television: A Perverse Form of Entertainment

loser-brett.jpgThose of you that came across our humble blog hoping for (1) a creepy pro-NAMBLA tirade and/or (2) a review of Herbie Hancock’s excellent album Man-Child will be very disappointed. Readers, over the weekend I found myself hung over and in desperate need of mindless drivel on TV. Of course, anyone in search of mindless drivel should turn on cable television, so naturally I found myself watching several reality shows on VH1, all of which had, as a common denominator, two things: (1) fourth tier “celebrity” men acting like (2) man-children.

First, I witnessed Rock of Love with late 1980s tight leather pants, possible drag queen, hair themed band Poison, featuring Brett Michaels. Poor Brett, he just wants to find a woman who can “dig” him for who he is. Come on, he wants nothing but a good time. So, in order to find such a “score” he gets a bunch of women to live in a house together with him and humiliate themselves in a variety of ways, whether working as a team to put together a motorcycle for Brett or posing in various positions for Brett while he takes snapshots in an effort to satisfy his adolescent fantasies. To what ends, you may ask? Well, competing for different prizes, such as “one on one” time with Brett, either on a date, or on alone in his room for a conjugal visit it would seem. At the end of the show, Brett pathetically hands out “back stage passes” via his hulking bodyguard and asks, “Will you accept this backstage pass and continue to rock my world?” Ack. Continue reading

Performance Art And Reality TV: Initial Questions

In the 1970’s Bay area artist Tony Labat and his partner went on the Gong Show as a work of performance art. In 1976 Cosey Fanny Tutti, with the COUM Transmission, opened “Prostitution” which featured and was inspired by Cosey’s work in the sex industry, in publications in which she herself appeared. Cosey worked as a pornography model for two years for over 40 porn magazines. Her interest was with how British laws classified prostitution as an act that ultimately puts blame on the prostitute alone. She wrote in her artist’s statement:

My projects are presented unaltered in a clinical way…the only difference is that my projbects involve the very emotional ritual of love making. To make an action I must feel that the action is m e and no one else, no influences, just purely me. This is where photos and films coum in. I am laying myself open, fully to myself, and through my action to other people als0…The world dictates what it deems to be reality, thereby annihilating reality and we, COUM cease to exist.

This got me thinking. So, this post is a first “pass” at formulating an approach to examine how/if reality television has altered the notion of performance art, or to put it differently, if performance art needs to be rethought after reality television. My initial thoughts have been to organize the investigation around the concepts of shame/shamelessness, radical/normative, and the more traditional categories of action/object. These are proving, however, to be very opaque framing devices. Regardless, at its conception performance art was meant to be radical. Since Realty TV often hints at the sort of work that performance artists have concerned themselves with, whether the spectacle, shamelessness, the body or boundaries (only to name a few), it seems to me that there may be a good deal of interesting common ground to explore between the two. Continue reading