The last of the lamb bones from the July Rapid Pulse Festival performance. Turning into lamb and barley soup for a cold winter night…yes I still need to properly blog about that performance!!!
Just a quick write up for those of you interested in viewing (actually or virtually) my Rapid Pulse International Performance Art Festival performance on June 3.
First, you can livestream it here.
Second, it is a loooooong (7 hour) durational performance. I don’t really expect anyone to watch the performance in its entirety (but if you do, please let me know!). If you want to check in periodically, here’s the breakdown of how the lamb breakdown (that’s what fully butchering an animal from the carcass into all the cuts is called in the business) will approximately play out:
Noon to 1, or so: the lamb will be introduced, knives sharpened, materials set up
1 to 4, or so: the lamb will be broken down into what are called the primals–the basic sections from which the smaller cuts are then made
4, or so, to 7: the primals will be broken down into the individual cuts
Then at 7, the gifting of meat art will ensue.
So you can understand what’s going on, here’s a diagram of the primals:
And here’s a diagram of the subsequent cuts (as you can see, there are multiple options–from simple choices such as bone-in or boneless to more complex decisions):
For those of you who are in Chicago, there are plenty of things to do with the festival and in the neighborhood as you check back on the performance (including lots of places to get a bite to eat or something to drink or to do some shopping, including buying boutique butchered products at The Butcher and Larder and getting a tattoo or piercing at Insight).
Kambui Olujimi’s “A Life in Pictures” at the Hub space up the street will be simultaneously happening from 4 to 9.
Indonesian artist Arahmaiani will be giving a talk in the Hub space from 2:30 to 4
Mothergirl will be simultaneously performing “Don’t Sleep, There’s a War Going On” in a nearby public space from 4 to 5:30
And then stay for the two performances following mine in the DFB space behind the Electrodes windows in which I’ll be performing. Andrew Barco’s “Pale Blue Eyes” has a particularly nice synergy with my work as it also works with carving but in an entirely different way.
When people first hear about the Burlesque Butcher, they automatically think I’m a dancer, and although I love to dance, I’ve never practiced enough to be adequate to perform in that role. The incredible recent popularity of “burlesque” has led to a fairly narrow view of what this word means, especially with respect to a woman. Burlesque today, particularly in the popular imagination, conjures a sexy, erotically clad woman who does a dance rooted in strip tease with costuming and music often informed by a nostalgic sense of history (the icon for the new burlesque movement is someone like Dita von Teese–who I love, although I tend to prefer the more wide-ranging interpretations of the burlesque strip-tease artist presented in shows like Chicago’s Kiss Kiss Cabaret).
I do certainly mine this strip-tease history for the Burlesque Butcher’s work, but more often I play off of other definitions and historical contextualizations of the word. I also try to incorporate the more “male” side of both contemporary and historical burlesque shows by fusing elements from the “supporting acts” with those of the star performers.
I recently came across a historical Burlesque Butcher in the pages of a book, published in 1897, called Puppets at Large: Scenes and Subjects From Mr. Punch’s Show by F. Anstey (aka Thomas Anstey Guthrie).
Mr. Punch’s Show, if you are not familiar with it, refers to the “Punch and Judy” puppet shows which have a long history of parody, critique, and education. The scene goes on to provide similar glimpses into the characters of a variety of other market vendors and attendees but few are described as evocatively as the Burlesque Butcher–the “Farsical Fishmonger (with two comic assistants)” and the “Lugubrious Vendor” come close). [Note: you can read the whole text here.]
What was so exciting to me about this 1897 Burlesque Butcher find was not only his gender but that someone dramatically and “triumphantly” selling something gory and cheap–“the scrag-end of a piece of mutton–had so many resonances with some of what I am trying to do with my Burlesque Butcher character in terms of nose to tail eating. Yes I love fancy food, but I appreciate the scrag-ends of pieces of mutton too (although true mutton is pretty impossible to come by in America these days).
It also prompted me to look up a then-contemporary definition of burlesque. As food for thought (pun intended!), I will leave you with this definition from the 1919 “concise” Oxford English Dictionary (I’ll try to track down the full first edition definition some other time):