The Painted As Performance

24 Oct

I remember the first time I saw someone wearing body paint as performance art. It was in New Orleans at the dawn of the 21st century. I was so startled by the minimalist art of the performance that I took a photo. I attributed the monochrome wings to the locale; steeped with after-life mysticism. It was a statement, one that eluded me, but a statement nonetheless. Perhaps the painted lady intended for us to contemplate the fine line between the living and the dead and accepted coins and paper money for her illuminative efforts. Or she was just a savvy out of work mime.

Fast forward to the latter part of 2012 and you can’t swing an angel without hitting a painted person accepting your coins and paper money. If you’ve been to any city lately you’ve no doubt had the thought; “body paint! I should invest in body paint!” In New York City painting oneself green and holding a torch is all the rage. There is no accurate head count, but there must be dozens of these elongated green people (they seem to often be on stilts or boxes which speaks to a commitment that cannot be ignored.) And while it’s challenging to consider how one’s life can lead to being covered in green paint working across the street from the Plaza, it is theatre of a sort. Certainly he or she can start each day, contemplating his or her perpetually stained cuticles and think; there are actresses all across this great land Defying Gravity and scraping green paint from under their Wicked nails. Or perhaps the performer, while greening up, repeats; “bring me your tired, your poor” in a slightly sultry french accent. Sometime during the long tourist pawing, bad joke hearing, horse poo smelling day; the performer may bolster his/her self with the thought that the final scene of The Way We Were was shot on this very spot. One way or another, the green can (through creative thinking) consider his or her self an actor.

But what of the silver guy? Or the bronze man? There are people who cover themselves in metallic paint and stand stock still and then move slightly. That is their “talent”! Come on! Everyone’s got something they can do, even if it’s just covering yourself in lightbulbs. But standing still and then moving? Perhaps these metallic motionless men misunderstood the trend in the 1980s of human mannequins? There was a (mercifully) brief period when humans would be hired to pose as mannequins in store windows. Passers-by would be surprised when the mannequins moved (ever so slowly.) This particularly gimmick works once; or twice for the easily entertained. The mime couple (yep! there was such a thing) Shields & Yarnell were mannequin act royalty. But you see the mannequin gimmick is based on the fact that mannequins aren’t expected to move. Metallic people have no reason to be standing still in the first place. They need a backstory. What’s their motivation? Perhaps if they were to carry an ax and wear a funnel on their head? For a small donation passers by could work the oil can. It would be interactive and fun for all ages. It would also curtail those mutterings from passers by; “I don’t get it, I just don’t get it.”

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Posted by on October 24, 2012 in Cultural Critique


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