|Photograph of Toynbee Hall circa 1902,which has nothing to do with this article (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
|Performance of an artist in Tokyo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
|More performance art, somewhere or other (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
|Living statues, performance art called "Fried eggs". Europe Day celebration in Ukraine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
A week or so ago a naked woman sat for four hours in the cold weather of London, England, on the roof of a building. She apparently did not arouse much interest from people who spotted her, which must have been disappointing for her, because she was later revealed to have been a performance artist at work.
Her name was Poppy Jackson, she was sitting on the roof of a business called Toynbee Studios. I immediately, speaking from my deep ignorance, confused this studio with Toynbee Hall, one of the well-known centres in East London of charitable works, which --- again, out of my deep ignorance --- I had always thought had some connection to Arnold J. Toynbee, whose huge book A Study of History was one of those that, as a 19–year-old struggling with my immense lack of knowledge, I tried vainly to read and to adopt as my entry into the modern world.
As it happens, Toynbee Hall was founded in 1884, and named after an earlier Arnold Toynbee, also an historian, who died just the year after the Hall was founded. This is somewhat irrelevant to Poppy Jackson’s noble vigil on the roof of Toynbee Studios, an entirely separate place that is described as a place sympathetic to the work of artists established by something called Artsadmin, an organization I had never heard of either, but which turns out to be a publicly-funded place that is pretty central to what is happening in the City of London, culture-wise, if I may use the phrase.
Anyway this circumlocution aside, Poppy Jackson’s vigil on the roof gave rise to a classic example of what I always call “intellectual crap”, one of those explanations, almost completely incomprehensible to the ordinary bloke, that crop up from time to time, and deserve to be exposed and brutally put down. I have for the moment appointed myself as the exposer.
“This piece,” (of Performance Art), explains Toynbee Hall in a release about Poppy’s work in sitting on the roof, “investigates questions relating to temporality, the body in site, representation and gender through consideration of the use of the body in performance as an activist practice.”
Hang on there fellas, was that “the use of the body as an activist practice,” you just wrote? I see…. The use of the body as an activist practice…. You better continue, old man, I am not quite with you so far.
"The work interrogates the boundaries,” the press release continues in elucidation, “access points and interaction between 'interior' and 'exterior' categories.”
Got that, fellas? The access point and interaction, not to mention the boundaries, “between interior and exterior categories” that are under interrogation. So this is Poppy, sitting up there naked and freezing, under interrogation just by being there, as to her interior and exterior categories.
The explanation continues (I am hoping with some easier clues as to its meaning): “Physical action
dually presents the female body within a process of claiming space, whilst attempting to exist itself as deterritorialised space."
Wow! I finally got it. It’s the old duality that has risen its troublesome head, bothered on this occasion by the female body sitting up there claiming the space, naked as a jay bird, while at the very same time trying its best to occupy a “deterritorialised space.”
You see what I mean about your intellectuals? That’s just, so-o-o profound. These guys sound like they should be wine writers, a field rich in intellectual meaninglessness where a body can flop about to its heart’s content in deterritorialized space. Right?
I hope so. But meantime, good luck to Poppy. Your career is off to a great start, kid. If I hear of any deterritorialised space that you might inhabit next time, I’ll let you know.