Visiting Artist Lecture- Nao Bustamante


Nao Bustamante is a great performance artist. I did not expect such a great performance from her, especially when she started off her presentation by saying “I wasn’t supposed to be an artist” and remarking on how it had to have been a mistake. She then went on to hypnotize us, who she felt made the audience or viewers closer to her as the artist, and be able to visualize her artwork the way she does. She dimmed the lights, had us close our eyes, while she talked to us calmly. She then explained she wants us to visualize her art the way she does, through her eyes.  After the hypnotism, she went straight into some of her early performances, and described how she started her art career. She started off with her piece “Nails under the Rug”, where she was under a rug, and would allow people to interact with her. This piece took place in a gallery in San Francisco, which did not feature a lot of performance pieces. The interesting factor of the piece was that people believed she was not under the rug, and they punch and kick at it. Bustamante had a microphone, and would verbally react to people, but they believed her to be somewhere else watching and reacting by viewing the rug. The people ignored her moans and groans, and continue to interact with the piece. People started to realize she was under the rug when she would instantly respond to the kicks and punches. This piece allowed her own body to become the artwork even though she never showed herself. With this work I believe she wanted people to realize how they can affect others, and also how they can cause harm. The audience could fully interact with the piece, which I believe was the factor that made this piece most powerful in conveying its message.

After this, she continued to use her body as the main subject for her art. She had a job at a store called Good Vibrations, and one of her co-workers was an exhibitionist who referred Bustamante to an exhibitionist performance in New York. She had accepted to be on the Joan Rivers Show, and have a discussion about being an exhibitionist. Bustamante created an alternate identity to become fully engaged with the artwork. Her new name on the show was Rosa, and the title of this piece is “Rosa does Joan.” Bustamante decided to go, even though she was not an exhibitionist. She was accepted into the show after her comment “Well if I am riding a public bus, if I see looking at my butt I can squeeze my legs and orgasm.” After this false comment, she was immediately offered a spot on the Joan Rivers Show.  During the show, she kept the act of being an exhibitionist, and allowing the audience to fully believe her stories, even though they were all lies. She maintained the identity of Rosa throughout the entire show, and back stage she even questioned if they really believe what all she had to say.  This piece is interesting because Bustamante had to take on the personality and lifestyle of someone completely different than her. When her friend could make it to the show, she had asked Bustamante if she wanted to. Bustamante was nervous at first, but in the end she portrayed herself as an exhibitionist on the Joan Rivers Show.

Another piece she showed us was a film where Bustamante took on the appearance of Maria-Montez. Montez was a Dominican American actress who regained her accent so she could be placed in more exotic films. Bustamante was in the film, wearing a white dress, dancing in a field, with classical music playing the background. There is a lack of dialogue in the film, and a peaceful setting is created. When she reaches a decorated garment, the first dialogue is used, but instead of being from the film, Bustamante speaks the word herself in the lecture hall. Later in the film, a large amount of flying penises begin chasing her, and she later grows her own highly decorated and talking penis. Yes, I was very confused while watching this film, but with later thought and discussion with some of my peers it became clearer this piece was an expression of gender identity. At first she was reluctant to accept her new condition, but in the end of the film she does, and kisses her newly grown decorated penis. This piece displays the social constrictions based off of gender, and it displays some of the emotions that come along with them.

Her next piece was re-creation of Kevlar dress, which was worn by the Zappatistas of the Mexican Revolution. She made the dress so it would be functional and would prevent full impact from the weapons gunfire. The weapons used on it were weapons used during the revolution. She was willing to wear the dress and have another person fire the weapons upon her, but the man firing the guns refused to do so. The piece was a film of her and another man shooting the Kevlar dress, with many different guns with varying intensity. This process was very similar to an experiment; they would fire the guns into the dress, and then check the dress afterwards for the results. Her desire to be fully engaged with her artwork is what separates her from common artists. She uses her body as the main subject matter, and she is not afraid to take on the personality and lifestyles of others to make a powerful statement. I enjoyed her performances, and they proved to me that performance art is limitless in what the artist can do.

One Response

  1. I also attended Nao Bustamante’s lecture through the visiting artist program. At first I was completely in shock by her introduction and the way she wanted the audience to interact with her work. After I let go of my preconceptions I was really able to enjoy her take on identity and the humor that is so pertinent in her videos and performances. I loved when she showed her segment on the Joan Rivers Show. I think it is amazing how Bustamante is completely open to exposing herself to new experiences and how she is constantly experimenting in innovative methods to convey her ideas.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: