Nao Bustamante-Katie Hitch

Nao Bustamante’s ideas are many times driven by the idea of “anti-art and anti-entertainment,” as she called it. She told the audience that she didn’t believe she was a real artist and that she was amazed so many people showed up to see her. She uses her body a lot in her works and considers her work to be a “crazy quilt”. She opened her lecture with a “hypnosis” of the audience. She asked us to become her and to understand her fully without judgment. I thought this was an intriguing way to start a lecture and it made me interested in what she had to say.

A lot of her work deals with her body. She works in many different mediums and believes “there’s no hierarchy of self expression” and that it’s important to express yourself confidently by any means.  An example of her using her body is in the performance piece where she hid under a rug. While under the rug she spoke out of a microphone and interacted with the audience. Bustamante stated that some people didn’t even think there was an actual person under the rug, so they proceeded to sit on her and kick her while she was under the rug. 

She also tends to trick people with a lot of her work and is known some what as a trickster. Her piece titled Rosa Does Joan is a great example of this. She gets on the Joan Rivers Show by pretending to be an exhibitionist, one who likes to be looked at. She fools the audience into thinking she really gets turned on by voyeurs looking at her. She even sees how far she can push it and still be believable by including her made up phrase “multi-gendered ambisexual at an aquarium”.  When viewing this I couldn’t help but think how fascinating it is to change ones persona. For one second you can be you and then the next second you can be someone completely different. She plays with identity in such a humorous and sneaky way; it makes me wander who else is out there tricking their audience. Humor is the driving force in a lot of her art and it works to her advantage. She doesn’t take herself too seriously yet she is still a successful and very serious artist.

My favorite work that I saw by Nao Bustamante was definitely her live video/performance piece called Silver and Gold. In the beginning of the film the main character is seen picking lilacs in the forest. We then see her walk deeper in the forest until she stumbles upon a goddess like mannequin covered in sequins and jewels. She takes the mannequin with her and proceeds to dance through the forest until the dress is no longer the mannequin’s and she transforms into the queen of her realm. This is when the movie takes off and transforms into a completely different (but excellent) chain of events. The woman happily looks down but to her horror she notices that she now has a penis. We then see her running trying to escape the penises that have started to chase her. At this point of the film the audience was laughing hysterically, probably unsuspecting of the current penis scene. I really enjoyed the pacing of this film, in particular right when she notices she has a penis. She truly shows the audience what they have not seen and she does this by combining the familiar and the unexpected. Also, I couldn’t believe how genius this film was; it made me want to become best friends with Nao Bustamante. Silver and Gold has the perfect combination of exotic bizarreness, comedy, and good pacing.

Jack Smith is one of Bustamante’s influences and this is obvious in the film Silver and Gold. Jack Smith creates escapist films that focus on the exotic/kitsch in Hollywood. He also employed orientalism, drag, and aesthetics that came to be known as ‘camp’ and ‘trash’.   Nao Bustamante is similar in the sense that she is inspired by the exotic as it is portrayed by Hollywood, crude theatrical technique, as well as the ‘camp’ style. 

Whether she acts as an exhibitionist or a transvestite or a lady under a rug, Bustamante has this sense of humor that translates into her work. Her work is very unique which I appreciated a lot. It also had a bit of shock value to it, which was also refreshing. She definitely wasn’t boring! Another thing she mentioned was being inspired by “what’s outside the frame”. In her piece Around the Edges of the Image, she plays with the idea that you are not who people think you are. Photos are staged, and she’s more interested in what’s outside the frame than what is in it.

One Response

  1. I definitely agree that this was the best guest artist lecture I have been to. Your paper gave a great overview of the lecture and really highlighted Neo’s eccentric style of art!

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