Wait Until You See Her Make Cookies!
July 24, 2012 6:48 PM   Subscribe

I usually just toss a pat in the skillet and move it around with the spatula, but whatever floats your boat, I guess.
posted by xedrik at 7:22 PM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Today the temp. in Slater, Iowa was 100 degrees, tomorrow the temp will again be 100 degrees. I'm willing to cut cjorgensen some slack and blame this fpp on heat stroke.
posted by HuronBob at 7:22 PM on July 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

This is one of those times when I feel like an artist's statement might be of some value as I'm just not po-mo enough to not wonder what the heck the intent was behind this. I found this on the artist's website:
XERGIE - butter dance



Wearing a tight black dress and red shoes, Suryodarmo walks into the space, and steps on the pieces of butter. She starts dancing. Melati Suryodarmo is flailing, crashing heavily downwards, and continuously being on the verge of standing, slipping and falling on the butter- greasy dance floor.
Which is not really a statement so much as just a description. So I guess it's intentionally open to interpretation. You can look at it as a metaphor for life: you start out by doing something absurd in front of a bunch of strangers, it only gets more bewildering as it goes on, you fall down a lot (especially when you think you might have the hang of it after all) and in the end (which takes longer to come than it seems like it should) you're covered in butter.

posted by Scientist at 7:25 PM on July 24, 2012

MetaFilter: in the end you're covered in butter.
posted by scalefree at 7:27 PM on July 24, 2012 [6 favorites]

Note to self: Don't dance on butter.
posted by found missing at 7:31 PM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

She looks pretty haggard at the end of that performance (which was only six minutes – her website says she normally does it for 20!) which is not surprising because she took a lot of rather heavy falls over the course of it. I bet she must feel pretty sore and beat-up the morning after a butterdance.

Why 20 minutes, by the way? What kind of edification, inspiration, enlightenment, emotional event would I have gotten if I'd watched another 14 minutes of that? Here's how it went down for me:

At Minute Zero I was pretty much "huh, she's going to dance on the butter?"

At Minute One I was like "yup, dancing in butter. Note to self: if I ever do performance art, lose the bongo drummer."

Minute One-and-a-Half: "Man, it's getting greasy, she looks like she might fall – oh, yup, she fell."

Minute Two: "OK, looks like she's just going to keep falling and getting up for as long as it takes. Well, that'll at least take some stamina..."

Two-and-a-Half: "Yup...still doing it. Oookay, let's see what MetaFilter has to say about this. Nothing yet? Is there an artist's statement somewhere? That's it? OK, fine... fine. That's fine."

No further insights occurred after this.
posted by Scientist at 7:39 PM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

I thought the original was stunning and powerful and that the addition of the Adele song was briefly amusing, but the timing was all wrong to make it work. I'm not looking forward to the hurf durf performance art that's sure to come in this thread so I'm going to remove this from my recent activity.
posted by hydrophonic at 7:42 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I already removed it, so I have no idea what your complaint was.
posted by found missing at 7:46 PM on July 24, 2012

hydrophonic, I'm sorry you removed the thread from your recent activity because if you do come back and want to take a shot at explaining why you found it stunning and powerful I would love to read that. I am genuinely not trying to mock this performance, I just found it somewhat bewildering, didn't get a lot out of it, and am not sure what I might've gotten out of it. I mean I get that the artist put herself through a fair bit of pain to do this, and I don't mean to mock her at all, at all. I would be very genuinely curious to hear what people got out of this, especially people like yourself who I guess got a lot more out of it than I did.
posted by Scientist at 7:54 PM on July 24, 2012

I may be too n00b a MeFite to not fall for the hurf durf performance artery...

Scientist, don't try to do science to it. Get what you want out of it; that's why it's art, not science. Your initial interpretation was beautifully wide in scope, I think it serves just fine. Using other lenses, one could also generate thoughts about judgments made about women's bodies, performance and the exoticisation of Asian cultures, performance and perfection more generally, etc.

I've been in the place where I've grumpily confronted art and thought to myself "why are you trying to alienate me?" but frankly, it's more fun assuming you *do* have something to bring to the interpretation. Much art does not mean to alienate; the stuff that does has its reasons for doing so, and those reasons are worth thinking about too.
posted by gusandrews at 8:10 PM on July 24, 2012

That was intense. I was so afraid she would slip and crack her head open.
posted by emeiji at 8:49 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

What I got out of this was a statement about body-consciousness and confidence, particularly for women of the chunky persuasion. She's doing this sexy but ridiculous thing, dancing in butter, and from the start her audience is uncomfortable because they know she is probably going to fall down, which is awkward for a stage performance and also unsexy. The butter is also a symbol of her own body fat. Sure enough, she does fall down, but gets back up without batting an eye, and does this repeatedly. She handles the emotional and physical discomfort of performing and falling full-length onto the stage with confidence, which forces her audience to confront their own discomfort watching her do this and consider the discomfort people are made to feel about their own weight and sexuality. The level of "discomfort" is just about right for this all to be mildly humorous, which is great.
posted by eurypteris at 9:28 PM on July 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm sure you didn't mean to come off as condescending gusandrews, but I don't actually approach everything in my life with a microscope. I realize that it's art. My interpretation of it was just a series of clichés that I quickly cobbled together in the service of a very short shaggy dog story whose punchline was "in the end, you're covered in butter" – it was not a genuine interpretation of the piece.

I respect the artist. I don't want to mock her nor do I think she should be mocked. I think she is quite brave – few people would put on a tight dress and squirm around in twenty pounds of butter in front of a live audience – and also shows a willingness to endure physical pain in the service of her art. I respect that some people are moved by this piece and I think that is valid and I am glad they were moved. What I don't understand is why they were moved.

I see that there's a lot in this piece about persevering in the face of insurmountable and repeated challenges. I see that there's something in there about cultural standards of beauty and grace. I see that there's something about the experience of being made to look ridiculous in public. OK. I've heard those messages before, thousands of times. What might I be missing, or what might be being said in this piece about those things I mentioned which is refreshing or novel or interesting or moving? Can anybody who was moved try to capture any of that and offer their sincere interpretation? I would love to hear that.

I do enjoy art. Not all art, of course – like anything else in this world, most of it leaves me cold. I'm totally willing to accept that what doesn't work for me might work great for someone else and vice versa; that seems blindingly obvious. What I look for in art is something novel, be it a new idea or a new expression of an old one – perhaps something that I have long felt but never been able to articulate, or something that I have felt but always thought I was alone in feeling, or something that I hadn't thought about before, or something that I'd heard about but which I had never before seen expressed in a way that makes it really resonate with me.

I do enjoy art; this piece gives me chills when I go to see it, for instance. There's something about the slickness of the monkeys, the contrast between their streamlined silver bodies and the realism of the human arms and faces sprouting from them that is grotesque, something in their writhing that gives the lie to the "progress" of humans from ancestral to contemporary form. It's an unhappy piece, full of tension and anxiety, the transformation that its subjects are undergoing seems palpable and painful. I get that it may not work for a lot of other people, and I'm fine with that; it works for me.

This piece doesn't work for me. It does work for some other folks here. Does anybody care to take a stab at explaining why it works for them? I would genuinely, not-snarking, not-being-a-sarcastic-ass, love to hear someone try to explain why they like this piece. I don't hate it, it just leaves me cold.

On preview: thank you eurypteris, you managed to tie the falling down and the female beauty standards thing together for me in a way that I can understand. I still don't find the piece particularly powerful for me but now I understand what it does for you and I really appreciate that. I guess it would work better for me if I had the kinds of thoughts and responses that you were talking about – if I had been made uncomfortable by the piece then I might've had to examine my discomfort, but I think my discomforts in those areas are pretty well-worn subjects for myself at this point, like familiar friends, such that I'm sort of comfortable with my discomfort, kind of complacent about it. I can see why it might work for someone else though.
posted by Scientist at 9:49 PM on July 24, 2012

As someone who has spent most of his life overweight, but hasn't wanted to be overweight, the metaphor of trying to dance on butter seems clear. She could just dance over there where she isn't on top of butter (I could just stop eating so much food). It seems like a story about self sabotage.

It was better without the treacly pop music.

Fundamentally, I think the thing that is needed in order to appreciate less conventional art is a different relationship to the unfamiliar (not one particular unfamiliar thing, but the category of the unfamiliar).
  • There is always a narrative. When things get very abstract I the watcher am a more central part of the narrative ("Romeo desires Juliet but their families keep them apart" vs. "I saw someone dance on butter while drums played, the butter melted and it was harder and harder for her to stand up and she fell down and got messy"). To many people the sign of good art is when something is so idiomatic that they forget their role as a witness and interpreter. Others enjoy art where their role as observer is more clear.
  • How well do we actually understand mainstream art? Would you be able to sit down with a Superman comic book and explain every shape, every color, every panel? Do you derive the full meaning from every word of a Harry Potter book? Are you sure there is no nuance being lost? (etc. for your favorite hiphop track / TV show / whatever other successful mainstream cultural product). To some of us, even the author never sees the full meaning of the work, and the lack of understanding when art is new and unfamiliar in style is not a difference in kind but a difference of degree.
I think that certain styles of teaching about the humanities make us much too uptight about it. This isn't English class, there isn't a single valid interpretation that you will lose marks for not getting.

Personally, while I do derive a pleasure from knowing something or effortlessly figuring something out, that is not something I demand from performance.

Sometimes I think that maybe I am trying to find a way of watching and experiencing that I had when I was very very young - before I could understand the nuances of drama, I would watch movies with my parents and usually not understand why anything was happening - it would be these spells of boredom followed by seemingly random events. Now that I am older I can watch the same dramas and they make sense, nothing seems random like it did when I was a small child. But certain kinds of performance art, in particular, can bring back that same feeling of experiencing without sense that I sometimes miss. And of course there is a progression here: even performance art has its idioms and what was once absurd can become familiar, then communicative, and finally trite (as I recall Lutoslawski commenting in one of these performance art threads "If I had a nickle for every time I saw a performance artist pull something out of her vagina...").
posted by idiopath at 7:27 AM on July 25, 2012

Puts me in mind of the (Russian, I believe) proverb "When the cat walks through the butter, we all fall down."
posted by Soliloquy at 7:33 AM on July 25, 2012

Some thing you cannot unsee.
posted by Fizz at 8:07 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I wasn't really thinking hurf durf performance art. I watched the video and was amazed she kept at it. It seemed self-inflicted violence. I didn't get it. It was surprising to me that people would go watch a woman bang her face on the floor and dance on butter.

I was pretty much in awe of the whole thing.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:08 PM on July 25, 2012

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