Today as I write this post, is the two year anniversary of the attack on the Capitol by MAGA’s finest, January 6th, 2021. Until recently I was still amazed at the stupidity and absurdity of it all, and confounded by the continuation of the conspiracies and lies that still fuel and put a fire under those who believe that the election was stolen from Donald J. Trump. I was amazed until I watched This Place Rules, a documentary film on HBO Max by Andrew Callaghan, then I realized that America is in a state of perpetual performance art, and I see no end insight.
“Performance Art is an art form that combines visual art with dramatic performance.” according to an online definition. As an artist of all the “art” that I’ve studied performance art was my least favorite. I always thought it too self indulgent and a completely ego driven exercise in the constant cause of “look at me.” From the performance artist that would throw his excrement at patrons to the artist that decided to live in storefront with a coyote, I thought it all absurd and narcissistic. So I hadn’t really thought about or considered performance art, in a long time, that is until Andrew Callaghan’s documentary. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I said it before and I’ll say it again we are living in a perpetual state of performance art and I see no end to it. Because so many are willing to do whatever it takes to get “clicks”, “likes,” and “followers.” It has spilled over into society yes but now it’s a part of our politics especially on the right…..for now.
A musician I used to idolize back in the day, Terence Trent Darby when asked what was art, he replied “Anything that you can get away with.” So if Donald J. Trump is not charged by the DOJ in the 2023 he will go down as the greatest performance artist of all time but especially of the 21st Century. It would be the “Magnum Opus” of performance art. Trump tried to steal the presidency twice, and got away with it the first time. And the second time there was a preponderance of evidence, and he got away with it again. That is so far. Like I said, I had ejected “Performance Art” so fully from my conscious that I didn’t recognize it as Trump came down the escalator, nor did I recognize it at every debate he had, his presidency, and every subsequent rally. He was bombarding us with performance art and many were eating it up. For any artist to be successful, the cliche’ goes “you have to give the people what they want.” As an artist that has always been hard for me to contend with, how does one give the people what they want yet stay true to thyself. It is a true conundrum. One that Donald J. Trump had figured out and had been honing for years. And the truest compliments for any artist is when others start to imitate your style. You see people running for office now acting like Trump, talking like Tump, and bullying like Trump. For the simple that fact the currency of attention is worth more than the value of policy, or even democracy.
As stated earlier so many of us are consumed by attaining “followers” and “likes” that we see those ‘abstracts’ as a valuable commodity. I mean do you really think a million people like you, do you really think they would if they truly knew you. We are becoming a culture of the performative and we have begun to consider “tik-tok” videos substantive. So when one get’s so many “followers” or “likes,” it not only justifies them, but it also validates who they are, how they think and what they do. For some it becomes more valuable than a real relationships. But I didn’t know this two years ago. That’s why I was so confused and amazed at how many people had their phones out on January 6th 2021, I mean if this were a true coup attempt why in the fuck is everyone filming each other? I’ve come to two conclusions, they thought they were going to get away with it, and they were doing it all for the “gram.” They had to feed the beast and get those “followers” as well as those “likes”. They had to show others that not only were they spectators but performers as well, in one of the largest performative art pieces ever created, by one Donald J. Trump. Of course he wanted to go to the Capitol, no artist wants an unfinished masterpiece, excuse me Magnum Opus.
When the studies come out on social media, and it’s, effects on society at large, I wonder how many people will suffer from a false sense of themselves years from now as the “likes” and “followers” eventually fade. Like I said I don’t see that happening at all, the beasts are being fed by other beasts, who in turn feed the beast, and it goes around and around. You get the “likes” and the “followers” by giving the people what they want. My paternal Grand Mother used to say, ‘it’s easy to be liked by somebody that likes you.’ So that is why we exist in these social media bubbles, we want to be liked by those who are more or less like us. Politically this is dangerous because that means there is no room for compromise or understanding.
Politically it also means now that you have politicians who are performative on social media but behind closed doors saying and doing something else. I believe that that distorts our political reality as a whole. And that distortion is being monetized by said politicians, so they themselves are pushing for “likes” and “followers,” instead of legislation. If you read any of my previous blogs you know that I lean to the left and in defense of the left I argue, that a mass group of leftist never attacked the Capitol as the right did on January 6th, 2021. Nor did any group of leftist have a President that wanted to commit a coup. We on the left can never let the right forget that. So there will be no whataboutism here. The MAGA right attacked the Capitol and now they want to destroy it not from the outside but from with in.
What Trump did as a Performative “Political ” Artist was yes create imitators, but also made the consumers of his Political Performative Art into performers themselves, the Beast feeding Beasts feeding Beast feeding Beasts. I’m not sure who said this and I apologize, I’m big on attribution, but anyway, “if you keep feeding people metaphorical red meat, they are eventually going to want to eat it. The January 6th, insurrectionist came to eat that day and some of them are still hungry. Some of them are in the Senate and in the House.
As I write this we are starting to see all this “performance art” play out right as I write this post, Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert are refusing to vote for Kevin McCarthy for Speaker of The House, not because they have any true policy goals they are doing it for their “followers” and the “likes”. Because that is where they will get their votes and their donors. So we are way past the point of decorum, policy, or lawmaking on the right we have gone full performative. The right has to feed the beast constantly because the beast has the appetite of a hungry ghost.
There is a glimmer of hope, maybe the Matt Gaetz’ and Lauren Boebert’s of the House won’t realize that making Hakeem Jeffries, Speaker of The House would get them more “likes” and “followers,”because they would get to spend two years vilifying and blaming a Black Man for the woes of America, as Nancy Pelosi was previously. This is going to be crazy.