Dodie Bellamy first turned me on to Ariana Reines two and a half years ago after she took me to see Rape of the Sabine Woman. I don’t remember exactly why Ariana was brought up while we drove through the rain and excitedly discussed the show we had just watched and became part of, but I am very thankful the name was dropped. When I got home I did some googling and found excerpts of “The Cow” posted online. I read the excerpts and immediately a fascination developed. Flash forward a few years and after much online stalking and book buying, I finally got to meet her after the staging of the second act of her play TELEPHONE which took place at the Guggenheim museum last fall.
This past year Ariana Reines has been segueing into music and more performative acts. Recently this manifested with her opening for one of my all time favorite bands and biggest crushes Psychic TV. When I found out Ariana was opening up for Psychic TV, I approached her and asked her to do an interview on the subject. Two days before the show, she read poems at The Red Horse Cafe as part of the P.O.D. reading series. As she opened up her reading, she gushed, “it’s really weird that I’m opening for Psychic TV and I’ve had the shits for the past 3 days so if I have to suddenly run off stage at any moment that’s what’s happening.” Later that night my life went up in flames, my long term girlfriend suffered a minor injury during her fire performance and we broke up. I too was suddenly in the shits… two days later Psychic TV cleansed my soul. By the time we got to a diner with Ariana, about four days later, my life had completely come undone. Dodie Bellamy posted the story I wrote about it all here.
When we first met up with Ariana for the interview, I was extremely nauseaus and unsure how I could function fully enough to work out a descent interview. But Ariana and JT were great. She annointed me with sandalwood oil and JT fed me lamb. Originally we set out to focus the interview on what it’s like to share the bill with Psychic TV but Ariana is such a major person, working on so many varied projects and giving so much of her energy to the world that it proved impossible to keep the interview tied to just one inspired subject. It brings J.T. and I immense pleasure to bring to you all an interview with the fabulous Ariana Reines.
MP: We finally get to interview you! How did you get in contact with Psychic Tv? What is your relationship with them like?
AR: It’s such an honor because I love you both. I first met Eddy their drummer two and a half years ago by chance. I had gone to see them before Lady Jaye died at the Bowery Ballroom. It was one of a few concerts I went to in my life alone. Because no one I was friends with was interested at the time, I don’t really know why. It’s funny I was talking to Eddy about this the other night. I’m in between a lot of things in my life and there are a lot of little worlds that don’t seem to spill over into each other even though I think they should and Psychic TV for me and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge is one, I don’t know, four or five years ago when I realized that Genesis Breyer P-Orridge existed, I happened to have the money and found out about the show and was able to go to the show all in time which usually doesn’t happen for me since I usually find out about things after they happen. Two years later I made friends with Eddy, we have the same birthday.
AR: A year ago Genesis and Eddy and Bryin were going to do a performance at the Issue Project Room but Genesis had to go into the hospital that day, and it was sort of a strange semi-cursed day in many ways. I hadn’t met Genesis and then she had this sudden lung inflammation, so Mal-O-Mar nite turned out to be the writers and Holy Shit but no Thee Majesty and Holy Shit was amazing, though of course we missed Thee Majesty. It was just sorta this tacit thing, I guess Eddy gave her some of my books.
MP: And Genesis must have loved them.
AR: I don’t know. We never discussed it. And then I was on the bill. I don’t really know what went on on their end of things. Is that an answer?
MP: Yes! Earlier we were talking about how people pay to go and see things, people spend time and plan to get tickets ahead of time, schedule the night off to give themselves to something, to take part in an experience but you get there and it seems so many people are just there to act like they’re hanging out at their local bar…
AR: Can I interject?
MP: Yeah, of course…
AR: Well a friend and I were talking the other night, she was the person I went to see Marina Abramovic’s “Seven Easy Pieces” with. I don’t know if you two know about this, but in 2005 Marina did I think seven nights of performances at the Guggenheim. Many of the performances were extremely violent and very difficult. But for me the most violent and difficult thing to bear about the performances was that people were talking throughout the performances. People talked like they were at any other sort of gathering where sophisticated people talk, like they were at the races, or if you have ever read Edith Wahrton she describes how high society people talked through the Opera. It’s like this is how a sophisticated acculturated place functions.
For me what was interesting and devastating about the Five Easy Pieces performances was that I felt she was providing an example of a kind of concentration that is lost to the world. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen her perform but she has an extraordinary amount of energy which she can communicate to those people who are really there, really there. Of course many people have a very powerful experience of her performances, and the internet has helped to document this; perhaps it has become more popular to offer oneself to her as her fame has grown? I don’t know. But I remember in 2005, it was a very peculiar situation. The Guggenheim was totally crowded, and it was this combination of a chic meet-and-greet and a space of radical emotional and psychical upheaval. It is not just that what she did or simply how she was made people cry.
My first time being in the New York Times happened then, by the way, not that this matters and they didn’t know who I was, but I yelled, “You don’t have to do this again” in a very wrung moment that bizarrely made it into the review of the show. She was cutting her stomach open and from one of the high coils of the Guggenheim a man yelled back “yes you do” and I started sobbing uncontrollably and ran out of the building, having definitively experienced the most overpowering trauma and elecrification ever inflicted on me by art. It was the most powerful experience I had ever had from a live art experience.
I turned my life upside down for a year forcing myself into what had made that experience so enormous for me. And not just for me. It seemed to me that her concentration and her generosity were a colossal triumph, because in many ways she in these performances was also merely a kind of centerpiece for high culture to rotate around like a carousel of painted ponies bobbing up and down. Like at a fine dinner there may be a centerpiece with plums and candles or whatever. Or a giant Thanksgiving turkey. And that was her. Or a maypole that people circulate around. And that is often what art is for people. And that’s also what ritual is. So it functions on both a low social level and on a very high level. And most of the people, or lets say half, are there to participate in it socially. But there are other people there that want to participate on another level or who cannot help it, who are hungry, whose souls are hungry.
I mean, opening for Psychic TV was weird…. Continue reading