Estimated reading time: 3 minutes —
WASHINGTON DC, 26 May — Performance artist Brian Feldman is following me. Only me. Well, only me for a day anyway. In his current work Feldman has cut through all the chaos of following hundreds or thousands of people on Twitter and for the month of May, he follows just 1 person for each day of the month.
I first learned about Brian Feldman’s work a little over 2 years ago, on Valentines Day 2010 when he performed Brian Feldman Marries Anyone. It was a simple (if getting legally married is “simple”) yet powerful piece where he married Hannah Miller, a stranger he didn’t know or love, at the same Orlando, FL courthouse where a long-time lesbian couple was denied the right to marry.
While this was a beautiful work in support of marriage equality, it also furthered Feldman’s career, yet it may not have done much for Miller. Could Feldman, in the same artwork where he breaks through the marriage inequality barrier, simultaneously recapitulate the art historical tradition of male artists building their careers on the backs of (more or less) nameless women?
Like that hack Eddie Manet who churned out yet more boring canvasses and got famous, even as the visionary Vicky Meurent got nothing for freaking inventing the gaze, an act of confidence and empowerment so compelling and important that is has today, as McLuhan predicted, become so ubiquitous it has become invisible.
THE FREAKING GAZE!? Yeah, Meurent invented that.
And got nothing.
Manet made a fortune selling canvasses.
Could Hannah Miller be Victorine Meurent to Brian Feldman’s Edouard Manet?
I’m being Twitter-followed by a monster!!!
In his sketchbook, Orlando sketch artist Thomas Thorspecken wrote that after the wedding,
Hannah of course, returned to her boyfriend Jack Fields, while Brian faced an increasing barrage of interviews from local and national media.
So typical. They both participated in a simple, yet substantive event. They both ended their unmarried lives and became legally wed. They both put the same thing on the line. The woman returns to her old life. The man ascends to his rightful place in the cultural firmament.
I probably don’t have Feldman’s undivided attention today – who does in a wired world? We’re all just Paris Hilton tweeting duirng sex, right? – anyway, I’m at least the only person he’s following on Twitter, so I thought I should check if he’s still married:
I don’t want to play the sex-role-stereotype card too easily, and I’m not accusing Feldman of taking advantage of this, still, I can’t help but notice that even in a new media assisted, powerful performance artwork, addressing true cultural injustice, still… the woman goes home and the man goes up. Still the art historical misogynist tradition is preserved.
At the bottom of this page is a video of Miller’s statement on the occasion of their annulment in January 2011, it is powerful and bittersweet. Feldman created a simple and powerful artwork critiquing a social injustice. I think he’s real and sincere. But he also has that forever Feldman levity to carry with him. In Miller’s video we feel the real weight that making this statement placed on her. Did the woman pay the higher price to make the same statement? IDK. Perhaps.
Everything about Brian Feldman Marries Anyone is insightful and important.
Miller’s statement below is that, and also sublime.
R E L A T E D . M A T E R I A L S
• Brian Feldman.com
• The Wedding / Thomas Thorspecken’s Sketchbook
• The Annulment / The Orlando Weekly