By Frank Moore, Saturday, August 21, 1999. Published by Lucid Moon #36, August 1999.
For most of my life, I was searching for a method to work with people in an intense, direct way. Ever since college days, I had been writing nonsense scripts dealing with nudity and non-sexual eroticism. Also during my college days, I read such books as Toward a Poor Theatre and The Theatre and its Double. But it was not until I and my communal family took a very intense film-making course in Santa Fe in 1972 that I was able to put my weird ideas into performance.
We made films of rolling nude down a hill, smearing bodies with baby food, nursing by a sexy woman. But when the film course was over, I did not have money to make films. I could not see putting my energy into getting money to make films, could not see putting up with the compromises and outside control involved in an artistic context requiring big bucks. For me, the act of breaking a taboo is what is magical, what effects change…not someone seeing it in a film.
This not having money, this not wanting to be controlled and limited by money, was what sealed me into a performance life.
So I started looking for a way to work with people. I wanted to see people nude, and touch them, and to create an intensity between us.
I had been painting oils for years, painting with a brush strapped to my forehead, painting nudes from magazine photos. One day, a rich woman asked me to paint a nude of her. My wife set me and my paints up in the fancy living room as the woman undressed. On that day I realized how art can give people permission to do what normally is forbidden. It gives a frame that switches realities from the narrow normal reality to the freeing altered reality of controlled folly. If you go up to a stranger on the street and ask him to show his body to you, you will be lucky if he just walks away and does not hit you. But if you sincerely (and sincerity is a key) ask him to model for a painting or be in a video that involves nudity, there is a high chance he will do it because you are offering him a key to a new, different, and temporary reality. When I go up to a person on a street and ask him to be in some project which may contain some nudity and physical play, the nudity and physical play as an idea in this context is a great tool to get under the polite chatter surface to the more meaningful stuff — which is, after all, the aim of the piece.
People always say they like the work because it is strong, but I should get over my obsession with sex and nudity, and get on to more important issues; I should not get “stuck” in one vision. What they do not realize is what they like about the work, the strength, comes from being committed to a single vision, no matter what the current trends and fashions are. I cannot imagine more important issues than sex and freedom symbolized by nudity. But these are not my ultimate focus. Sex and nudity are powerful digging tools to reach the intimate community. By limiting the tools of art, art itself is limited. And a part of my job both as an artist and as a shaman is to fight such limitations.
I have debated with myself about stopping resisting the label SEXUAL. By insisting what I am doing is not sexual, I am opening myself up to people questioning my honesty and integrity. If I accept the sexual label, people would just have to decide whether or not they like sex in art — decide whether it is art or not. That would be the depth of the questioning. They may feel uncomfortable seeing sex as art — but that uncomfortableness would be just from breaking the taboo of sex — which would not be that big of a deal. What I am doing is taking nudity and acts that are usually considered sexual and giving them a new, non-sexual context. That creates a tension, a conflict, an examining, a leap into something new. That is what I am after. This leap into newness is why people who are normally comfortable with casual nudity and casual sex sometimes get very uncomfortable with the nudity and erotic play in my work. By taking “sexual” acts and sincerely putting them into a different context, it creates another reality, another way of relating. It also creates conflict with the normal reality — and that conflict may change, in an underground sort of way, the normal reality. I think art — or at least this kind of art — should create conflict and change. And I like relating with people in the “unnormal” way in this different reality. This is why I do performance.
And besides…I like nudity and erotic play! So let’s take off our clothes and play!
From the book, “Frankly Speaking: A Collection of Essays, Writings & Rants” by Frank Moore, published by Inter-Relations in 2014.