EXCERPT THE MIRACULOUS: HOUSTON

#16

In 1974, an artist of Yugoslavian descent declares that for six hours she will stand in a gallery in Naples, Italy, and accept passively whatever the public wishes to do to her. To encourage their participation, she lays on a table in the gallery a variety of objects. These range from objects associated with feminine beauty (lipstick, perfume) to everyday items associated with the body (a comb, a mirror, a hat, a handkerchief, soap), instruments of potential violence (chains, a whip, a kitchen knife, a scalpel, a hammer and nails, a gun and bullet), products associated with healing (a band aid, a bandage), symbolic materials (a rosemary branch, a rose) and food and drink (bread, honey, wine). In all, there are seventy-two different items available for use.

For the first couple of hours those present do no more than move around the artist, gently touching or manipulating parts of her body. But gradually the tone of the proceedings changes, and by the fourth hour, all her clothes have been cut off and her body is being subjected to increasingly aggressive actions. A short older man pulls her face to his and kisses her at length on the lips. Her naked body is fondled, pinched, and whipped. At one point someone begins to cut her with razor blades, sucking the blood that appears in the wounds. By the fifth hour, as the public realizes that she will offer no resistance to whatever they do, it begins to look as if she will be assaulted and raped before the piece is over.

However, as the situation grows increasingly out-of-control,  a group of “protectors” begins to form. When, toward the end of the six hours, an especially malevolent individual places the loaded gun in the artist’s hand, wraps her finger around the trigger, and tries to point the barrel at her head, the “protectors” move in to isolate her from any further danger.

From The Miraculous, published by Paper Monument, 2014 >>