On Edge: Performance at the End of the Twentieth Century

C. Carr, Author
C. Carr, Author Wesleyan University Press $25.95 (334p) ISBN 978-0-8195-6269-2
Hardcover - 334 pages - 978-0-8195-5267-9
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Since 1984, Village Voice critic Carr has chronicled the work of artists in that amorphous territory called ``performance art.'' Though some of these 58 essays have gone stale, most convey spirited descriptions and sensitive defenses of obscure or much-maligned avant-gardists. She observes Holly Hughes and Carmelita Tropicana bra-zenly presenting politically incorrect lesbian theater, finds dragster Ethyl Eichelberger transmuting Shakespeare into Leer and notes how Chris Burden's apparent masochism (having himself crucified on top of a Volkswagen) forces the audience to confront iconographies of power. Foul-mouthed, food-smearing Karen Finley is, to Carr, an example of a shattered persona, ``a self unable to put a face on things,'' while ``feminist porn activist'' Annie Sprinkle, allowing audiences to peer at her cervix, suggests a ``supernakedness'' that restores her power. Carr's best work takes on the critics of Finley and Robert Mapplethorpe, skewering Rev. Donald Wildmon and the would-be censors in Cincinnati. In an epilogue, Carr suggests the bohemian tradition has been energized as well as fractured by the advent of multiculturalism. Photos not seen by PW. (Jan.)
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