Excerpted from Christine Tamblyn’s article, “Subversion and Spectacle: Recent Trends in California Performance Art” in Art News 1987.


In non-Western cultures, people with physical or mental disabilities were often designated as shamans. According to these criteria, performance artist Frank Moore’s shamanistic credentials are impeccable. Moore is a victim of cerebral palsy and brain damage who has no control over any of his muscles except for the ones in his neck. Unable to speak, he communicates by pushing a plaster pointer around an ouijia-like board covered with the letters of the alphabet. He is confined to a wheelchair.

            Initially, Moore might seem unsuited to be a performance artist. However, his body actually serves as an extremely powerful performance instrument. Moore has stated that it is fortuitous that he is an exhibitionist, since people are always staring at him anyway. He circumvents conventional expectations in more radical ways than by simply functioning as a performance artist: the performances he presents violate social and sexual taboos.

            Moore is an advocate of what he has termed “eroplay.” He contends that people have forgotten how to touch one another in an innocent, sensual manner in our repressive culture. Thus, his performances provide opportunities for the audience to engage in eroplay. Moore’s performances in the Over the Edge series sponsored by the ASUC Studio in Berkeley from 1983 on often began with his companion, Linda Mac, reading a manifesto he had written about eroplay. Then she would pair people off into same sex or opposite sex couples to carry out instructions picked randomly from a bowl. These instructions exhorted the couples to hug one another or rub one another’s bare breasts. The performance ended with helpers wrapping everyone in a giant circle of cellophane, ribbon, toilet paper and aluminum foil.

            The wholesome humanistic rhetoric Moore uses to convey his intentions contrasts markedly with Mark Pauline’s nihilistic stance, although Pauline’s Survival Research Laboratories performances are equally subversive.


Christine’s note …

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