Performance artists are often met with the challenge of the performance art archive. What to do with the video footage and hundreds of performance stills following a live action? Do they convey the same energy as the original performance? Did the live performance meet the artist's expectation? Ayana Evans and David Ian Griess explore these very questions in a discussion about their recent collaborative work entitled "Frying Chicken." Enjoy! -Quinn
Ayana Evans - Thoughts on the original performance piece in Boston:
It was supposed to have a projection. We couldn't get the download to open so it became a more stripped down piece which I liked... I completed chair dip exercises as I announced a list of 40 people (mostly women) who I "feel artistically inferior to." I was beginning to drown in my own insecurities; it was beginning to block my creative ideas, so I figured it was best to express them to everyone. I purposefully tried to limit the list to living artists and the list is mostly women, mainly because this is who I compare myself to. There was a trainer that I worked with for several weeks because when I proposed the piece I could only do 8 dips at a time. This was the exercise I hated the most so, I chose it for the project.
The idea of presenting myself as "sexy" in a way that is recognized by pop culture is done on purpose.
When I grew tired I took "chicken breaks."
At the end of the piece I passed buckets of KFC out to the audience. The chicken was included because while reflecting on who I am (an exercise I felt was needed to come up with a performance piece while feeling artist block) it occurred to me that part of who I am is a girl who grew up eating fried chicken and still enjoys it, and because I am aware of all the stereotypes that come with that, I leave that part of me out of my work. In the end it seemed if I can publicly announce what icons and friends I feel inferior to, surely I can put on some heels and eat fried chicken with baby oil and chicken grease covering my body.
Ironically, after doing this piece my sense of not being "good enough" dropped immensely. Thank goodness. Of course the video makes me cringe a bit. Normally I would NEVER admit "Hey I feel a little jealous of you..." Now everyone can see it on video.
FRIED CHICKEN: reflections on FRYING CHICKEN (VIDEO COLLABORATION)
This work is the intersection of personal drama, feminist thought, pop culture, and snarky humor.
Ayana Evans: This performance began as an investigation into my insecurities, which were reaching an all time high. Simultaneously, I was working hard to try to get more shows and had begun thinking that I needed to create a “sexier” image to really “make it” in art. These are the personal reasons for why I wanted to do chair dips (an exercise I hate) in a leotard and heels. The original reason for David Ian Griess and his partner Elizabeth Lamb making a video of frying chicken on my stove, was to have a video of the pan projected onto me as I completed chair dip exercises and announced a list of 50 artists I felt “artistically inferior to” for a show in Boston. When I got to Boston the video wouldn’t download, so it was not used and naturally we were all a little bummed. A month later when David mentioned acquiring some green screen paper for free and “Do you want to experiment with green screen effects and the chair dip exercises?” all I could think was YES! I think there is a playful/experimental tone to the video that comes from that feeling of “let’s just see what happens,“ which we both had.
David Ian Griess: A stove top view simultaneously sets the stage and provides the backdrop for the action to take place. Chicken itself provides a direct reference to meat (lust) and the body (objectification). Chair dips are further sexualized by placing the performer foreground, wearing a leotard and high heels to perform the exercise. Red light acts as a heat lamp to create an inescapable tension. The frying process produces an audible drone with an occasional pop.
AE: The fried chicken is an obvious reference to the objectification of the body as meat. Frying chicken is domestic work, so it is therefore brings to mind feminist beliefs regarding what is ‘woman’s work.’ More importantly for me though, this is a food I have eaten my whole life, that all the women in my family can cook, and that reminds me of my home in Chicago. It’s considered part of a Black stereotype but it is also my heritage as a person whose parents were born in Mississippi and Alabama. It is part of who I am and the crackling fried sound, which I love, is how I felt mentally at the time; fried.
Ayana Evans is a NYC based performance artist. Evans received her MFA in painting from Temple University and her BA in Visual Arts from Brown University. She also attended the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture and the Vermont Studio Center. In 2014 she co-founded and began curatorial work with Social Health Performance Club. Evans’s recent performances include: "Operation Catsuit" an on-going public intervention, "He Loves Me Not," Local Project, Long Island City, “Frying Chicken,” SMFA, Boston, and “Happy Burfday Robert,” Panoply Performance Laboratory, Brooklyn. Evans is an artist contributor for The Gallerina Diaries.
"But biologically, ultimately the only possibility for any species to survive is mutation. All species are doomed like all individuals, but the point is, can they change?"
--William S. Burroughs
Images and video provided courtesy of the artists.