Maybe my friends are weirder than yours, but over the past two days I've seen a link to something called "Vaginal Knitting" posted on Facebook about 25 times. One can only see such a phrase so many times before the seesaw tips from revulsion to curiosity. Plus, as I have no objection to either knitting or vaginas individually, there was some potential here.

It turns out that vaginal knitting (described here, with an embedded and completely not-even-a-little safe for work video) is just your typical first year Art School bullshit. It is strongly reminiscent of another internet sensation, the 2010 "performance art" piece "Interior Semiotics", which featured a teen art school hipster opening a can of Spaghetti-Os (past their expiration date for good measure) and inserting them into her vagina before an audience full of fellow art students making some of the most amazing Reaction Faces you'll ever see.

I'm starting to think that Performance Art is just things being inserted into and taken out of the vagina.

Nothing says "low hanging fruit" like making fun of the over-the-top pretentiousness of Fine Arts students or the desperate pleas for attention of someone who thinks that adding the vagina to anything – including knitting – makes it a bold Feminist statement. Yet no matter how silly it is, someone on the internet will defend it. Gawker tried to salvage it by pointing out that the exhibition's "power lies in the fact that the same feminist themes and visuals that shocked us in the '60s and '70s still shock us today." But do they? Do they really? Is "shocking" an appropriate description of the reactions to this nonsense? To me this is neither shocking nor offensive, it's just stupid. It's tired and formulaic; take something boring, do it naked or stick it up an orifice, and call it art. Most people grow out of that around 19.

So don't be offended. It's just a vagina. And resist whatever urges you might have to explain how this is either art or some sort of bold statement about women. Try "No, this is just stupid" and leave it at that. Doing something like this is the simplest path to rapid fame on the internet, albeit with the substantial downside of guaranteeing that you will be known as "that woman who put yarn in her hoo-hoo and knitted with it" for the rest of your life. That saying that all publicity is good publicity is unpersuasive here.

44 thoughts on “NPF: IT'S ART”

  • Am I the only one whose primary reaction watching the spaghettios video was to wonder why the fuck it took her 2 minutes to open a can of spaghettios. I've never seen someone so incompetent at using a can opener.

  • For me, it's not that it's "stupid"–it may be, but one person's "stupidity" is another person's "free play of ideas/feelings," and fine, good, I can live with that kind of thinking.

    But "banal"? Yeah, it is. Performance artists need to realize that in the era of "2 Girls, One Cup," you have to go a long goddamned way to shock or offend people. If anything, compared to insanities proffered through fetish sites (or mainstream programming on TLC), there's something almost sweetly quaint about a woman who's really doing nothing more than knitting a scarf that none of her friends will ever ask to borrow.

  • @Jeff My first thought was also about her having apparently never used a can opener before. It just shows the level of effort and planning that goes into those things I guess.

    Don't bother planning/rehearsing anything about your performance, you're here to mumble incoherently for a minute and drip food from your vagina, I'm sure you'll figure it out.

  • Having read the post and first four comments, I now have absolutely no desire to actually view the performance art. Thanks, guys.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    I'm with you.
    I think I'll pass.
    Just 'cause the person doing something they're doing, "art," don't mean it really is "art" for the rest of us.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    That last sentence wasn't even in English!
    Lemme try again:
    'Just 'cause the person calls something they're doing, "art," don't mean it really is "art" for the rest of us.'

  • You guys are speaking my mind here. If I had the email address of the dumb ass in Russia who nailed his scrotum to the ground, I'd send him a link this article. He wouldn't understand it, probably, even if it were translated for him.

    Oh – if you're interested in learning more said dumbass:

  • Townsend Harris says:

    The primary failure of nearly all performance art is the would-be artist's (and failed performer's) conflation of performance and art, a failure exacerbated by a profound ignorance of vaudeville and its history. FWIW, Lou Reed's widow needed a few years in the 1970s to stop making that mistake.

  • Aspiring performance artists might also benefit from reading Mary Roach's Spook, in which she examines Victorian-era spirit mediums and the various tricks they used for concealing "ectoplasmic emanations". Though I suppose teaching yourself how to quietly vomit up a couple yards of cheesecloth (no, I'm not exaggerating) is a lot more effort than taking off your pants and finding a handy nook.

  • That saying that all publicity is good publicity is unpersuasive here.

    The good news is, finally, that that saying is getting increasingly unpersuasive anywhere.

    As a society, we've about exhausted our capacity for shock and awe.

  • Don't look at this as an art connoisseur. Look at it from the perspective of a shrink. Most art, all performance art, and a good deal of stand up comedy comes off as therapy (DIY, court-ordered, or occupational).

  • It's not really my thing, but I don't see anything wrong with this. The "my five year old could do this"/"they're just trying to be shocking" trope is a lot more tired and unproductive than anything these people are doing.

  • @ Jeremy: You're right, absolutely, about the tiredness of the "my five year old could do this" trope. No, s/he couldn't, because such art incorporates a (usually rather sophisticated/heady) intent and argument that your five year old could not achieve. But that's not what's being said here–and thank God, since the act in question is…horrifyingly unthinkable in a five year old.

    And honestly, if you listen to the artist describe her intent, it's not "they're just trying to be shocking" in this instance. Quite the opposite–she's making a statement about the prosaic nature of what she's doing and how she's doing it. She wants *not* to be shocking. (Which is probably sophistry–or an outright lie–on her part, but whatever, let's take her at her word.)

    So there's nothing "wrong" with this, except for the fact that it's such a warmed-over, obvious, derivative statement/presentation–if her goal was to elicit recognition that there's nothing shocking about what she's doing, she succeeded too well, because really, she achieves boredom–not with the fact of her vagina's non-threatening nature–but with the claim that what she's doing is in any way a new, creative, or insightful artistic statement.

    In other words, she's painting Campbell's Soup cans and expecting everyone to think she's being original.

  • Agreed that stunts like these are dumb *after* Karen Finley did them first, circa 1986. Say what you will about her tactics, but she most definitely provoked some heated and wide-ranging debate about a host of cultural topics and taboos. Isn't that what art is supposed to do?

  • John Danley, I remember having the meat sauce Chef B dish every Thursday night growing up. 59 cents for the carton. I think I ate a few in college as well. Cheap and good at the time….Thanks for finding that clip.

  • "I'm starting to think that Performance Art is just things being inserted into and taken out of the vagina."

    For most teens in '80s–myself included–"performance art" meant Karen Finley shoving yams up her nether-regions.

  • "My art has been commended as being strongly vaginal. Which bothers some men. The word itself makes some men uncomfortable. Vagina."

  • I agree once again with Dryden that this whole thing is really boring and trite. I really don't understand why Ed is posting it. If this is the only stuff you have to comment about, I think it's time to change the channel.

  • If the use of the word "vagina" is not making men uncomfortable, why is it making so many men uncomfortable?

  • Well, I am at work, so didn't look at the vid, but I gather she's knitting WITH her vagina? I don't know if it's art, but I'll give her a huzzah for some pretty impressive muscle control. She'll be popular on a Saturday night, that's for sure.

    Isn't it Oscar Wilde who said "it's pretty, but is it art?"

  • My first reaction was LOL. This almost seems like an SNL parody of c. 1970 performance art. the male equivalent probably would be titled "casting off my sperm" and the white wool would be equally appropriate.

  • Old Bean for the win!
    Pretty disappointed that no one appears to have caught his (her?) "Big Lebowski" reference.

  • The Naked Rambler in Great Britain does much more as an artist and activist than the MFA Thesis crowd could accomplish in a lifetime. His performance consists of his refusal to wear clothing and his absolute willingness to be arrested for and put in jail for it.

    Then there's this guy:

  • Somehow, I am more comforted than ever to NOT define myself as an "artist".

    Being allergic to wool, this particular art form would be agonizing….and beyond stupid for me.

  • mothra, not exactly. She's just putting a spool of yarn in her vagina, and then knitting normally as it unspools out of her.

    I was with you, when I saw the title "Vaginal Knitting" I thought it was at least going to be an entertaining party trick. But instead it's just an art student talking while she knits, except the yarn is coming from an unusual place.

  • I'm starting to think that Performance Art is just things being inserted into and taken out of the vagina.

    Especially if it's menstrual blood. They're big on that, for some reason.

  • Reminds me of one of my favorite The Onion articles – Marilyn Manson going door to door in a middle class suburb trying to shock people who kept inviting him for cookies.

  • Actually, this kind of discussion is a long-term fascination of mine. I keep hearing people- including professional academics- say that we are a "post-offense" society, that nothing has the power to offend anymore.

    If that's so, how come people get so pissed off at me when I try my hardest to get along?

    Obviously people are in general very thin-skinned. It's just that these artists are too dumb to have anything real to say beyond merely offending, but also too chicken to do anything that will genuinely offend. They want acclaim for being edgy and transgressive, but don't have the guts to really do it. (Actually all they want is acclaim, period, but don't have the chops to think of any way to do it but trying to shock people.)

    So, what do they do? Stuff things in their holes. And if you roll your eyes at it, they proclaim victory. How many times have you been through this conversation?

    "Isn't it amazing how little progress we've made since 1970? The mere word 'vagina' is clearly threatening to you."

    "No, it isn't."

    "If it doesn't offend you, then why aren't you telling me what a genius I am? Checkmate!"

    Clearly we don't live in a post-offense society. The Pope – any Pope, for that matter- regularly says things that offend people deeply. *I* regularly say things that offend people, and that's a real problem for me, because very frequently I am trying to open a genuine, polite dialogue, and for whatever reason the attempt fails. If you want to be a radical, transgressive artist, just figure out what people don't want to talk about, and talk about it. But quit living in a fantasy world of the 1950's where merely saying "vaginavaginavagina" is enough to get Ward Cleaver to choke on his coffee.

  • Graham, I do seem to remember a male artist who put lipstick on his anus and "kissed" a napkin with it, which he then framed.

  • And I recall an artist recently, Anonymous, who tormented children until they cried and then did paintings of their poor, teary little faces.

    This woman inspired me to want to be an artist: I really wanted, for a while, to punch a particular artist repeatedly in the face and make paintings of her poor, teary face…

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