SHAPES OF THINGS: Complicit in the Act of the Meme

“Everything is shit. We apply meaning, value, and worth to the shit surrounding us. We live by this meaning and by our words. We live by worth and apply value, but everything is shit.”

“She mutters her poem backwards in monosyllabic form while rubbing the old black SpaghettiO’s onto her shirt. Stolz cuts open her denim leggings and puts her dirty fingers into her vagina, expelling vaginal discharge. As the camera turns away, Stolz urinates into the empty can of SpaghettiO’s sitting on a platform. Stolz takes off her shirt with her bloody and dirty hands, wipes up the mess, and exits the room. The audience applauds.”

"As the video gained popularity, Stolz’s personal information was revealed, including her Facebook account, phone number, home address, college, and website. She was added on Facebook by several people, and dozens of photos of her and her art were leaked. Stolz later unlisted her Facebook from searches and the name in the video description was changed to Gabbi Colette, causing many to believe that a Facebook account by this name was indeed the performance artist featured in the video. The video was also flagged, thereby excluding it from the “Most Viewed” page on YouTube. Since the video’s “explosion”, threads about the performance and its creator have been rampant on 4chan and other forums. Due to Stolz’s insertion of SpaghettiO’s into her vagina, she has been dubbed as SpaghettiO Girl in a large amount of media. Blog posts and articles have mostly referenced her use of SpaghettiO’s in her performance."

Some of  better known Internet memes, and pastiched videos,  have generated dozens of pages of learned discussion in academic and on-line circles; the latest sensation focuses on the value of performance art and the new audiences it might encounter online.

The You Tube video film, “Interior Semiotics”   is a fairly amateur recording of an event  that happened last Spring in an obscure gallery in Chicago. It shows an audience, almost all  student age,  crammed into a space, most of them sitting on the floor, to see a young woman, Natacha Stolz, doing a performance that involves reciting a couple of nihilistic lines and then doing strange things, art school adult entertainment, with a can of SpaghettiOs. Some of the things that the woman does are deliberately shocking, and there is brief nudity, but of the non-pornographic  variety. In fact, its  an anti-erotic and aggressively feminist critique.Still,  The question is why have a million people watched it- it requires an account- and most remarkably over thirteen thousand have disapproved of it.

Carolee Schneemann Interior Scroll 1975.

The piece is ostensibly  an homage to an artist called Carolee Schneemann, who did similar performances years ago, and even the title,”Interior Semiotics” , is a reference to a well known 1975 Schneemann performance called”Interior Scroll”.

“Interior Semiotics is a viral video uploaded in May 2010 on YouTube, later gaining widespread popularity in early-August 2010. The video depicts a young art school student engaging in a bizarre art performance, which includes opening a can of SpaghettiO’s, rubbing them on her shirt, and proceeding to finger herself and urinate in a can. Due to its prominent display of “hipsters” watching the performance, the video quickly became an example of the ridiculousness of hipster culture.” ( Know Your Meme)

Natacha Stolz:What happened was I started thinking about alphabet soup and how I used to eat it all the time as a kid. And I was thinking about what sort of meaning is contained in alphabet soup, in that material. It’s this incredibly processed, condensed consumer product. I thought that was kind of similar to how we process language and how we use words; how we just kind of consume what’s given to us, what’s pre-processed, and just digest that. I really like Carolee Schneemann’s Interior Scroll and I like how the structure of that piece is mirrored in the text that she reads. I wanted to create a piece like that, where the text mimics the overall structure. The poem I read is supposed to be really simple; it’s a simple text that repeats itself, and it’s meant to be a flat, everyday thing. But I wanted there to be a final reveal, like in Interior Scroll.

A large amount of debate concerning the video has been centered on what happened while the camera was turned away from Stolz during the course of her performance. Although the YouTube video depicts Stolz putting her SpaghettiO-covered fingers in her vagina, the camera turns away after this point and is focused on the audience’s reactions to the performance. Some have speculated that she defecated, but what actually happened remains to be seen.

Interior Semiotics has become a work through its reception online, albeit, unwittingly.The type of reception it has received, mostly negative, rarely addresses the content of the video. Hardly as provocative now as its namesake was, Interior Scroll, 1975, by Carolee Schneemann, the majority of the negative feedback attacks against hipsters, etc., revolves around the audience members and their reactions as they are prominently featured in the video. Anonymous, who conducted the Rhizome interview, likens it to a class consciousness flare-up, saying, “[The reaction to Interior Semiotics] stands at a nexus of hot-blooded issues; issues relating to class, status, accessibility, belonging and

belonging.” Yet, what does seem to be ignored is the collaborative nature of the work.

"watching her re-enact carolee schneemann's interior scroll work (pictured above), filled with refereneces to beer slogans and terrible boganisms was glorious and painful at the same time. in fact, the highlight for me was watching a room of hipsters raise their glass in toast to a 'big cold beer' automatically, before they realised what they were doing with this blonde mole and by then it was too late. the performance finished and there was a palpable sense of shame and remorse at being complicit in the act. oh god it was awesome!"

Interior Semiotics has become an artwork through its reception online; very much following the expression from Amber Case that “participation is the new consumption” As the performance and reception is archived by different  sites  and the artist herself, the meaning expands and therefore the work does as well. Performance art in the age of the internet provides the best proof yet that the value of a work lies in its reception, not in the artifact. Performance, in an interactive public arena such as the internet where the viewer is also a maker, ensures that a work is never complete. This creates the illusion that the workings of time are sped up and consequently shifts the chief interest of the art historian to aggregation.

Natacha Stolz interview Rhizone: One common complaint about confrontational, or oppositional, or incendiary artwork is that it only ever reaches a niche audience, an art world audience, people who already know how to interpret it and file it away. Your piece, though, reached a more varied audience. I’m wondering how you feel about it being moved into another context like that?

---Tracey Emin I've Got It All (2000) For a discussion of this work see Clare Johnson's article 'Preposterous Histories: maternal desire, loss and control' in Carolee Schneemann’s Interior Scroll and Tracey Emin’s I’ve Got It All', Feminist Media Studies, 10:3 (Sept. 2010)---

I have mixed feelings; I go back and forth. It was really exciting, in a way. Not necessarily because of how many people were viewing, but because it was on 4chan. Watching it go from 4chan to Facebook to redditt to Hipster Runnoff to Know Your Meme and all these viral websites was strange. Sometimes I feel—I wouldn’t say I feel bad—but there are some people who don’t intend to view it. That’s just part of the internet, though. You see things that maybe you don’t want to see. And 4chan is definitely not a place to go if you don’t want to see controversial things. It’s interesting that it was such a big deal there, because child pornography gets posted there, and a lot of other, crazy pornography and really intense, violent stuff.

Russell Smith:This one video seems to symbolize everything that's wrong with the kind of privileged white kid who doesn't have to do anything in the world but go to art school. It's not clear what people hate more – the art, or the pretentious audience looking so damn serious. People start making mashup videos of the original, editing the performance and setting it to music.

It is an interesting group to offend.

But part of what’s interesting is that it really is an anonymous group. It’s the epitome of anonymity. There’s a stereotype about the people who go on 4chan, but it really could be anyone; we don’t actually know.

Obviously, if large corporations are extremely interested in knowing the trick to getting digital velocity out of flogging their wares:

Russell Smith:So now the bulk of the online discussion is about the fallout rather than the original video; it is an analysis of what kind of person would become obsessed with it and why. Many commentators agree that the outrage must have some class resentment in it, since so much of it focuses on art schools and hipsters and their clothes and poses.

The tempest also shows us something new: Performance art no longer happens in private, in those white-walled downtown loft spaces. One person has a camera, and the performance is instantly internationally accessible.

This hipster party was crashed by almost a million outsiders. It will be interesting to see if or how the conventions of this art form will change to adapt to this massive and impatient new public.

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