Nao Bustamante Visiting Artist

Megan Watry

ARTH 3539


Nao Bustamante Visiting Artist

            Nao Bustamante is entranced with the subject of bodies in performance; more specifically performance about the body. Nao doesn’t necessarily see herself as an artist but more as a story teller who uses her voice and her actions to tell stories. Stories can be used to explain, defend, recreate an event, and to create empathy. Stories connect people. Nao tells stories about human bodies through performance.

One of Nao’s stories is about herself. Nao uses her voice to help the listener become Nao in a project called, “Becoming Me”. Nao accomplishes this by hypnosis. Through hypnosis, Nao calms the listeners and helps them to be open to new ideas. Nao tries to get the listener to become Nao. At the end of the hypnosis, Nao dresses everyone in the same clothes and takes a picture of them together in front of a backdrop. I think that this project is very interesting because Nao helps the listeners realize that it is okay to think about our bodies and how we interact with our surroundings. It is okay to step out of our comfort zone and experience something new. More importantly it is okay to “step into another’s shoes” and think about whom someone is and how they act.

Another one of Nao’s pieces is called, “Nao Under The Rug”. Nao places herself under a rug with a microphone and interacts with her surroundings. What is interesting is that people would sit on her and still not believe that Nao was under the rug. Even when Nao grunted in response to being stepped on, not many people believed that Nao was under the rug. Part of the reason that people didn’t believe that Nao was under the rug is because not many people would actually sit under a rug and interact with people. Nao was trying to show viewers how a body can interact and relate with its environment. People are often skeptical when it comes to placing the body in uncomfortable position or place. How would you react if there was a human under a rug?

Nao is all about getting viewers to think about how our bodies relate to our environment and also what we do with our bodies. Nao went on a talk show, performed on air and called it, “Rosa Does Joan”. She told the world that she undresses and walks around public places. Nao was just kidding but it got her point across about how we and others think and view our bodies. People on the show took Nao seriously and were interested about Nao’s perspective about her own body. Even if she was lying, Nao helped viewers understand that it is okay to think about our bodies.

Nao later in her career took escapist self portraits, of herself, with a camera. These images seek distract the viewer from reality by participating in entertainment or fantasy. Nao would dress herself up in colorful clothes and portray herself in escapist scenery. What is interesting is that Nao didn’t dress up entirely in escapist clothing. For example, only the upper torso is covered while Nao wears jeans underneath a dress. What is interesting is the combination of escapism clothing and regular clothing, which is not visible, and is beyond the frame of reference. The viewer would have no idea of this clash of escapism and reality without Nao telling the viewer. Because the viewer can not see this, the question is can we believe the artist or is she lying again in order for the viewer to think about how the body relates to the environment? That is for the viewer to decide. Even if we try to escape from the regular world, do we really succeed or are we still tied to the real world? Do people experience a clash of escapism and reality when they try to escape? These are the questions that Nao’s photographs bring up.

I enjoyed Nao’s perspective about how our bodies relate to our environments and how we think about them in that context. I’m fascinated with Nao’s self portrait images of escapism. Clearly, Nao is not really escaping from the reality and will never truly escape. This is true for everyone. No mater how hard someone tries to escape from reality, they will always be part of the real world. Video games and TV help us escape but are still grounded in fundamental rules that are found in the real world. For example, how we interact and communicate with people; or even more fundamentally, how our bodies interact with our surroundings. It is not possible to not have our bodies interact with our environment because our bodies are 3D objects that take up space and time. Our bodies are part of us and it is impossible to ignore how our bodies interact with our surroundings. Nao tells stories in her performances, which help viewers to see how important our bodies are in relation our surroundings.

One Response

  1. I have never heard of Nao until your paper; I feel she is an artist very interested in the human body and human emotion which you did a great job of conveying in your paper. However, if there were something I would change I would work on making your sentences flow a little better, maybe use “she” instead of “Nao” so often. I really liked your insight about “escaping reality,” that was really cool. Pretty great paper overall.

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