Friday 30 March 2018

Exhibit Alexandra by Natasha Bell

This is a stroke of genius in so many ways, and it throws up some interesting questions about ethics and morality. Also about what society expects from women.

Should art be cruel? Are artists allowed free license to create any piece of work they consider to be art? Even if it causes another person pain?

What shines through without any question is the ego-maniacal mindset of the performance artist. Where no betrayal, emotion or action is safe from the narcissistic personality of such an artist.

To be quite frank I'm not sure whether the artist or the audiences who lap these so-called performances up are worse. It is all so en vogue, pretentious and the emperor's new clothes.

Events or performance art such as a bunch of naked people playing tag in a concentration camp gas chamber. Rhythm 0 by Marina Abramović, a performance during which she placed a rose, a feather, a knife, a gun, and more in front of her. Visitors were invited to poke, prod or do anything they liked to her with the objects. Towards the end of the day the interactions became more violent, she and her clothes were cut and someone even put the gun to her head. Or Mao Sugiyama who underwent elective surgery to remove his genitals, then had them cooked and served at a so-called upscale dinner party. Five paying guests were then allowed to taste them.

These are just a few examples, and regardless of what the artist says their intention is, the convoluted inspiration and the supposed results at the end of the art exhibit, some people think it is a step too far. I count myself as one of those people, especially when you have to hurt others to make your point. Not all performance art is art, the majority of it is just inflated egos seeking attention and wanting to be noticed by the masses.

Alexandra does what is expected of her. She is the doting mother and wife, and does everything to make everyone else happy. She does what most women do, she takes a step back when it comes to her own desires, so her husband can succeed in his career. Society expects it and Marc expects it too.

Her need for the extreme outlet isn't entirely hidden, she makes really crass decisions and has no problem crossing boundaries, because she doesn't think there are any. If she did those things with my daughters, even as a friend I wouldn't have any qualms about calling the police or social services. Apparently the rules don't apply to Alex, which is probably one of reasons she ends up gone. She puts herself into dangerous situations, and yet never expects any consequences.

I enjoyed the conundrum this story represents, and the discussions it will generate.

Bell isn't afraid to confront her readers with the ugly truth. Personally I think the premise and the title are extremely clever, in fact the connection between the two didn't even dawn on me till I had read quite a bit of the story. It's an accusation and a dissection of society at the same time. What lengths will we go to entertain and to be entertained? Where is the cut-off point? When does exhibition equate to entertainment, and when is it a crime?

This is an innovative read, a cruel read, but it is also an eye-opener.

Buy Exhibit Alexandra at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.
Follow @byTashB @MichaelJBooks

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