Thursday, May 12, 2005

Strip Show

Melissa Ichiuji, Stripped, 36 hour performance
Corcoran Gallery of Art

Melissa Ichiuji has doffed her possessions during the course of the show, in a ritualistic act of self-abasement. She sits on her little cement platform, on a busy street corner, on the front grounds of the Corcoran Gallery in Washington DC, dressed only in a white bra and matching white lounge pants. She does not interact with her audience because (according to the Washington Post article) "art isn't supposed to talk back". She sits (although the Post shows a picture of her stretching, her arms above her head like a Odelisque) and writes in her journal about the experience:
"I think many times a day about the suffering and grief being experienced by millions of people while I enjoy myself eating expensive food, buying lavish clothes,"...
Ichiuji says that she is facing her fears of poverty. If the piece was truly about sacrifice and letting go of consumption, she might not be consuming (and being consumed by) an art identity and would, instead, get off of her pedestal and join the others on the street, in an outfit not quite so coordinated. This is not about sacrifice. This is about the (heroic)idea of sacrifice.
"I decided that for 16 weeks I would try to do something that I thought I couldn't. I wanted to stop being so dependent on external things for comfort and security," reads a statement given out by Corcoran staff. "I wanted to break patterns of behavior, attachment and consumption that, over the years, had become automatic responses to anxiety and boredom."
Ichiuji speaks of the realization of her dependence on objects to give her security and about how much this dependence bothered her. Has she merely switched her coping mechanism from chocolate to performance art? Both offer a delightful endorphin high. Besides, after the 36 hours is up, she can have all of the chocolate she wants and a documented venue for her cv.

I know that I'm a purist and the simplistic beauty of this piece is...well....beautiful. I like simple. I just don't think that it should be sold as a product of suffering. Would her (aped) nothingness still be "poignant" if she was one of the many bag ladies down the street?

A true sacrifice for an artist is to give up art. But then, she would truly have nothing. What a frightening thought.


Blogger fluidthought said...

hmmmm. i'm not convinced. far more interesting and thought provoking was michael landy's 'break down' at the old C&A store on oxford street a few years back. at least i think so... check out the link and see what you think:

2:38 PM  
Blogger Anne Walk said...


oooo. an interesting project to be sure. while the writer calls landy's break down an act of destruction, i think of it as a transformation. now, all that he owns is art.

i don't think that the intention is the same with landy. he is not disavowing his possessions. he's converting them into a different currency - and it seems, from the article at least - that he is aware of this.

i think that Ichiuji's performance is meant specifically as martyrdom through sacrifice. what she gives up seems to be based in bodily desires - meat, chocolate, mirrors,etc. Desire is a sin of the body, perhaps? maybe it's the write up that's confusing commodity and body. or maybe she's waffling.

just thinking about the difference between these two pieces has helped me to clarify where she may be coming from and it is actually quite interesting. i still disagree with her method, however.

3:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i prefer michael landy's work as well. it is more gutsy (though i am sure he will just use the profit from the piece to buy more stuff...)

i think ichiuji is copping out. the structure of her 16 week performance calls for things to be stripped away. i kind of like this approach, to see how far she can go. the problem is she doesn't. she takes breaks from her platform and writes in her journal about the experience during the performance. if a journal isn't a form of comfort i'm not sure what is.

she is merely trying on poverty rather than experiencing it. you're right anne, no one cares about the bag lady down the street, even if she is an artist.

p.s. to really complete the work i think she shouldn't list it on her cv. that or leave a blank spot to signify it. that would really be stripped.


4:58 PM  
Blogger fluidthought said...

all good points.

still, i think it's taking the piss; reminds me too much of of paris hilton living with that family in the usa. know what i mean?

12:10 AM  
Blogger fluidthought said...

but having said that, it's got us discussing things so perhaps i'm being a tad too judgemental.

and the photo showing that guy looking at her is priceless.

12:15 AM  
Blogger Anne Walk said...

I agree Karen and K.,

the performance is not what it could be. actually, i think it was already fantastic before she got on the platform and she should've stayed off of it.

i mean, throughout the year, to methodically strip away from her life various things is beautiful. she could certainly write about it in that context. sadly, she felt the art world pressure to create a spectacle. that's where the idea totally falls flat. it went from ritual intertwined with daily living to, yes, karen, paris hilton.

how sad that it ended that way.

11:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

She did not write in a journal during the piece you dumb asses! there was a journal on dispay.

5:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...,159,0,0,1,0

"A hunger artist" published 1924.

5:22 AM  
Blogger beth cioffoletti said...

I felt the final 36 hours of Melissa Ichiuji's "Stripped" to be profound. She gave up her privacy. It was almost like being dead-nothing. Not there.

11:05 AM  
Blogger Anne Walk said...


love the kafka tie in!


thankyou for commenting. did you see the performance in person? i know that makes a big difference in how it is taken in. those of us who aren't in the area (geographically and/or temporally) must always view these things as documentation.

it's a good point that you raise in relation to body denial - the denial of privacy as a continuation of previous sacrifices. i would stop short of the conclusion being that she becomes nothing. if that were true, i wouldn't have known about her. she becomes Art, which is a very big something.

11:39 AM  
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4:46 AM  

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