About the Artist
Linda Mary Montano is a seminal figure in contemporary feminist performance art and her work since the mid 1960s has been critical in the development of video by, for, and about women. Attempting to dissolve the boundaries between art and life, Montano continues to actively explore her art/life through shared experience, role adoption, and intricate life altering ceremonies, some of which last for seven or more years. Her artwork is starkly autobiographical and often concerned with personal and spiritual transformation. Montano’s influence is wide ranging – she has been featured at museums including The New Museum in New York, MOCA San Francisco and the ICA in London.
ARTFORUM: 500 WORDS
IT WOULD TAKE pages to remember and unravel my past traumas: near death from anorexia, PTSD, the Catholic Church’s failings . . . but needless to say, my art cured and continues to heal my life.
7 YEARS OF LIVING ART + ANOTHER 7 YEARS OF LIVING ART = 14 YEARS OF LIVING ART
This Robert J. Shiffler Archive Project, documents Linda M. Montano’s life/art performance 7 YEARS OF LIVING ART + ANOTHER 7 YEARS OF LIVING ART = 14 YEARS OF LIVING ART. The project includes illustrated narratives by the artist as well as, photographic and multimedia documentation about the performance.
A 2 DAY PERFORMANCE
WISH LISTDEATHATHON-LIFEATHON- A 2 DAY ENDURANCE-PERFORMANCE
DAY 1: DEATH-ATHON.
Death is out of the closet. It’s really on TV, been googled and you tubed. Nothing is hidden anymore.
For years I have made a study of death in my art and this 4 hour marathon will be a sharing of my videos and performances which address old age, sickness and death.
A. DEATH IN THE ART/LIFE OF LINDA MARY MONTANO. This video is a re-seeing of a slide lecture that I presented in 1997 at the University Of Texas Austin. It includes death customs and the death rituals of different cultures. I have re-made it as a video, 2014, and open the marathon with an overview of death in my art/life and the lives of others. 40 minutes.
B.DYSTONIA, 2011. I developed a neurological chronic disease, cervical dystonia, and receive botox injections in my neck every 3 months to control spasms. This is my first physical illness and I include this video as a part of the trilogy of the Buddhist teachings on old age, sickness and death as preludes to the impetus to study of the Dharma. DYSTONIA is a metaphor for what happens when the body becomes fragile and the immune system begins to weaken.20 minutes.
C. NURSE NURSE!! 2013. This video is a spoof and an ironic look at dementia and it’s cure which is compassion, mindfulness and surrender. I play act being totally bananas and out of control, angry and aggressive. And then I counteract the same scenario, for example, being given meds, with a kind and gentle response to the nurse giving me pills. It is not funny, it is tragic. But it is a necessary rehearsal for a fait accompli waiting for many of us boomers. A song of thanks to caregivers ends the tape.30 minutes.
D. BENARES, 1997. I went to Benares to observe and film cremations on the banks of the Ganges. I was also interested in seeing how elders were cared for and how they spent their time. It happened. I went there, saw everything and cured myself of my need for any more death voyeurism. The resulting video is a powerful meditation on the swiftness of life and the open and visible disposal of the mortal coil. 30 minutes.
E. MITCHELL’S DEATH, 1981. In 1977 my ex-husband Mitchell Payne, photographer, was murdered. I was devastated and went immediately to my art to feel it. I wrote, made films and the video classic, MITCHELL’S DEATH is the resulting, raw document of the time from the minute I heard about his death to the time that I saw his body in the funeral home. 22 minutes.
F. DAD ART, 2005. I took care of my father Henry Montano for 7 years and we started doing a video film together. Then he had a stroke and was in bed for 3 years. I didn’t put the camera down but hid behind it for those three years so that I could be protected from my sorrow as I watched him slowly die. This film is a song to him and his last breath. a 2 hour video with performance by MONTANO and 5 volunteers.
During this 4 hour marathon, I will be available and share ART/LIFE COUNSELING with those in attendance. Pot luck food will be shared during the marathon and people can come and go, visit, do their internet business and use the time to have face presence with each other.
(After MITCHELL’S DEATH, we will have a 15 minute intermission and prepare for THE DAD ART VIDEO-PERFORMANCE.(2hours)
DAY 2: LIFE-ATHON
I have been using the concept of Endurance in my performances in order to obliterate time and my preoccupation with past and future projecting, so that I can stay in NOW. I do things for a long “time” so I can forget “time” and simply “be” and not do.
In this 7 hour Lifeathon, I will be sitting on a mechanical lift raised in the air 14 feet, and singing either RAKA MUKERJEES Ragas or LINDA RONSTADTS Songs , along with their CD’s.
I have used a mechanical lift in many other performances over the years as a symbolical and ironical tool to indicate ascension, flight, release and more truthfully and probably a subconscious arrogance and narcissistic need for height over everyone else!
- See more at: http://www.lindamontano.com/wish-list/#sthash.XVXmE5ac.dpuf
- ENDURANCE:THEN AND NOW : Linda Mary Montano 1998 This presentation/paper is not only about my work; it is also designed to include you the listener/reader because I will be asking you endurance questions. Share with me.ENDURANCE:THEN AND NOW : Linda Mary Montano 1998 This presentation/paper is not only about my work; it is also designed to include you the listener/reader because I will be asking you endurance questions throughout. For example: What event in your life challenged you to endure? Take a minute and review the event. Where are you now with this event? Are you in the waiting stage, feeling the emotions? (Pause) Or are you in the anger stage, confronting the event? (Pause) Or have you transformed the event, accepted it, made art with or about it? Wherever you are, the non-defined feeling stage, the anger stage or the transforming stage, is where you are and the place you need to be.
NOTE: The week before Christmas, I sat by my father’s bed, 24 hours a day for 6 days and nights , in an upstate NY hospital, as he recovered from disc surgery. I listened as he hallucinated from the pain killers and observed visually the woman down the hall strapped to her chair across from the nurses station, sounding like the female comedians from the British TV sitcom, Absolutely Fabulous.
Barbara was her name and she was raging, remembering past injustices from childhood, calling to God (This is not the only reason to be nice to people…they never forget any unkindness on a cellular level.) I was the observer, watching it all, choosing to be there. Who was waiting in this scenario? Who was enduring? Was it art or just a case of life waiting to be magically changed into art?
I have always been interested in enduring. As a young Catholic girl, I knelt before the bloody, gory, Crucifix in our upstate NY church and I waited, endured the discomfort that comes from kneeling, endured the isolation that comes from choosing church over play and “fun”, endured the possibility that I might not be good enough or saintly enough to go to heaven or be like Jesus. I was definately linked to suffering , penance and the guilt fast track at a young age. I remember how nuns would talk about Christ and how He endured the suffering of carrying the cross, how he fell down, how he was nailed to the cross, and died miserably, forgiving everyone. His endurance etched itself into my belief system and when I was seven years old, I wanted to be a saint and I thought to do that I had to suffer like Jesus. That became the plot and story line for my entire life quest.
To do thatAt twenty I entered a convent, “enduring ” two years as a Catholic nun ,living in silence those two years except for one hour a day when we all talked together in recreation. I loved the community and dedication to a higher good and absolutely pure goal, but I left anorexic, having lost nearly 50 pounds in six months, high as a kite on endorphins . Holy anorexia? Delusions? Endurance gone amuck?
When I was introduced to art soon after I left, I immediately found a way to transfer religious fervor and my prediliction for penance and suffering into my work; first as sculpture and then as performance art.
For example, I sat for hours, lay down for hours, danced for hours, in public, asking audiences to watch me endure. Give me attention I demanded, witness my long-term commitment. And in so doing, I felt more alive as I soaked in their curiosity. It was as if I couldn’t exist without them. Their presence was like a bath of recognition and approval and I wanted them to delight in my actions. Without the other’s gaze, I didn’t feel at all so I learned more intricate ways to raise my own energy and get others to view me doing so and then there would be this synergistic marriage of static electricity going on. They were in this web of my mysteries as viewer and manipulated into the role of voyeur, mid-wife to my happiness and co-creator of my art.
Some images from that time:
1.Lying three hours in a bed surrounded by 12 paper mache chickens, me dressed as a saint….enduring.
2.Sitting as a saint , in 9 places in Rochester, three hours each place , holding a home-made chicken sculpture….enduring.
3.Walking on a treadmill for three hours going uphill, telling my life story…enduring.
4.Lying in view three hours with acupuncture needles in my conception vessel…..enduring.
5.Standing outside ringing a bell as a Salvation Army bell ringer….enduring.
6.Living 3 days handcuffed to Tom Marioni….enduring.
7.Living blindfolded for a week, preparing for old age and potential blindness…. enduring.
8.Living in a gallery room as five different people, one a day…enduring.
9.Studying the martial arts so as to channel rage into good action…enduring.
10.Mouring the death of my ex-husband for two years as art….enduring.
11.Singing a song for three hours to my husband after his death….enduring.
12.Camping out in many galleries, museums and art spaces , using everyday life as art….enduring.
13.Going to the New Museum once a month for seven years, giving Art/Life Counseling…enduring.
14. Living for a year tied by a rope to Tehching Hsieh in his ONE YEAR PERFORMANCE..enduring.
15.Living for 14 years in seven different colors to honor the chakras and sacraments…enduring.
PAUSENow take some time and imagine your own performance. Create an action in your imagination that would mirror one of your life issues and see yourself enduring.
Certainly there is a psychological and freudian view that can be seen in my work but let’s also suppose that the work is a very intuitive shamanic and ritualistic way that I invented to lead myself into altered states of consciousness while bringing the viewer along with me on this interior and mysterious journey.
Possibly there are many ways of viewing my intentions and I believe that sometimes there is a thin line between neurotic narcissism and tantric, shamanic soul travel.
Like Catherine of Siena, and many other Catholic saints and mystics, I was enamoured of endurance so I could tough it out, prepare myself for the hard knocks of life, so I could fight the good fight, bite the bullet, so I could keep it up, go the whole nine yards, get the job done and give my all. (For me? For God? ….that took a long time to decipher.)
Once I learned of Hindu yogis and their methods of achieving stillness, concentration, equanimity and inner silence, I felt in the company of kindered spirits and brother-sister travelers. For example, Tibetan nuns, lost/found in trance, endure rigorous/repetitive mantras, visualizations, penances, charnel ground watchings, all meant to make then impervious to Himalayan cold, pain, the mind and illusions of the relative world.
These practictioners are some of my guides, helpers, teachers mentors and inspirations on my path.
PAUSEWho is your helper? See this person. Thank them. Vow to become a helper to someone else in the future.
We have looked at my background. Let’s now look at some universal reasons why we all endure. Endurance is built into our system because under this skin is a galaxy of networks, a mysterious world of muscles, bones, veins, and organs which endure our turbulent emotional states, endure our tortured thoughts, endure our various and punitive diets, endure the torture of climate changes and home-uprootings, endure our lovelessness, endure our fertile negative imaginings and paranoias, endure our tortured memories and traumatic secrets, endure our disrespect for authorities and bitterness toward everyone’s good intention .
See your body in great detail. Clear it of all past endurances that hurt.
We artists love to create solutions to all of the above and in the late 60′s there came into the art stream a group of creators who made Body Art. Many of us used endurance as a primary material for our work. Some of the reasons might be:
1.That endurance was a reaction against the linearity and dogmatism of minimal art.
2.That endurance artists were interested in leaving the world of buying and selling art, of making our work for each other, for ourselves, not for slick documents, mindless magazines, judging audiences or uncaring strangers.
3.That artists publically used the drugs of the day; marijuana, hashish, LSD, and peyote. Drugs which allowed them to hang out and endure for long periods of time in trance and altered states, as art.
4.That the womens’ movement and civil rights movements inspired artists to experiment with issues of sensitivity training and consciousness-raising, as art.
5.That artists of the 60′s formed deep bonds with both eastern spiritual teachers and with American Indian elders who helped us see and feel new ways of honoring and appreciating our bodies and the earth. These wise teachers taught us self-initiatory and risk-taking rituals which could be used to mark important passages. They introduced us to death-defying actions, risk-taking attitudes, and important maturity retreats. Later, once we learned from them, we translated the teachings into our performances. Now reality tv’s souless translations of our experiments mirror our work but miss the inner meaning.
ENDURANCE AND WOMEN ARTISTS
There has always been division around gender. How did women “endure”? And men?
Performance art became the art of choice for women artists in the 70′s since it offered a fluid, intuitive, healing, versatile, spontaneous and dynamic method akin to the physical waitings/endurings that women perform at childbirth and in the act/art of child raising.
Some women who endured:
Faith Wilding ,waited;
Nancy Youdelman exaggerated;
Judy Chicago healed;
Carolee Schneemann liberated;
Hannah Wilke exposed;
Eleanor Antin satarized;
Annie Sprinkle shared;
Katren Finley raged;
Suzanne Lacy aged;
all of them used time and material in new ways and courageously forged ahead of a tired system of painting/sculpture current at that time.
MEN AND ENDURANCE
Men also played with time and initiated themselves but somewhat differently.
Joseph Beuys wrapped;
Tehching Hsieh deprived;
Chris Burden crucified;
Terry Fox cured;
Richard Long walked;
Vito Acconci yanked;
Tom Marioni drank.
And not to confuse the issue, what about couples?
Alex and Alison Grey processed;
Marina Abromovic and Ulay stared;
Barbara Smith and past lovers embraced;
Linda Montano and Tehching Hsieh got roped.
PAUSECan you imagine how you would initiate yourself into a life passage? Write it, sing it, perform it , keep it secret but by all means BE SAFE!!
Or join an invisible internet community where travel, audience and applause are non-existent.
My father once told me when I was complaining about a life issue….I think it was insurance prices….He said, “Life is hard enough. Don’t make hard things harder.” And in his year book his legacy is, SOMEONE WHO MAKES DIFFICULT THINGS SEEM EASY.By practicing endurance, possibly we can prepare in a strong way for times when we need to be even stronger.
This paper was given during my last performance at UT Texas as a good-bye.