Gina Pane. Today many pronounce her name Gina Pain, turning the Italian word for bread into the English word for suffering. Pane, the queen of European body art, has been having something of a renaissance in the early 21st century art world, in the era of virtual bodies. Her art actions of the late 1970s featured constant demonstrations of pain. Called "that crazy lady with the razor blade" by some ironists, she cut the skin of her palms, hands, back, belly, mouth, tongue, and cheeks.
Some of her pain performances:
Non-Anaethestized Climb (1971): Barefoot, she climbed up and down a ladder-like structure whose rungs were studded with sharp metallic shards. She did this until she was bleeding profusely.
Food/TV News/Fire (1971): While watching news footage of the Vietnam War, with a bright light shining in her eyes, she ate raw ground beef, and later threw it up.
Sentimental Action (1973): Dressed in white, she entered the gallery with a bouquet of roses, removed the thorns from them, and pierced her arm with the thorns. She then began cutting herself with a razor blade, allowing the blood to drip onto the roses.
Conditioning (1973): She lay on a metal bedframe position over two rows of burning candles. She later confessed that the pain started right away and was difficult to master. The audience could see the pain she was in by the intense wringing of her hands.
Some details about him from a 1975 syndicated article by reporter Philip Hager (The Spokane Spokesman-Review - Sep 14, 1975):
Grimes Poznikov is the Automatic Human Jukebox — a statement that somehow renders anything that follows it anticlimatic.
For three years, he has been delighting the throngs of visitors to Fisherman's Wharf and Ghiardelli Square, popping out of a box the size of a telephone booth to offer such selections as "Sentimental Journey," "When the Saints Go Marching In," and, inevitably, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco."
But even as a minor institution in a city with a deserved reputation for unorthodoxy, Grimes Poznikov, the Automatic Human Jukebox, has found himself facing an unceremonious eviction from the streets of San Francisco.
Poznikov's problem is that he has been cited for occupying a public street without a permit, a charge he intends to fight before a jury.
In recent weeks, seeking that elusive permit, he has been turned down by the city's Public Works Department, the Recreation and Parks Department, the Art Commission and, finally, the Board of Permit Appeals.
As a streetcorner jukebox, he doesn't fit into a tidy official category.
"I'm in a gray area, somewhere between a musician and a street artist," he explained. "The Public Works Department pointed out that under their rules I wasn't a building either."
The concept of the Automatic Human Jukebox occurred to him in the early '70s when he read of a poll listing "jukeboxes" as one of the things Europeans liked most about America.
During the height of the tourist season, Poznikov almost every day erects his seven-foot-high jukebox on the corner of Beach and Larkin, using a wire cord to anchor the structure to a nearby maple tree.
Passersby are invited to make a selection from a list of tunes Poznikov has mastered and drop in a coin. ("AHJ practices no economic discrimination," a sign announces. "However, quality... will vary automatically with the quantity of coins inserted.")
Few of them realize it, but Poznikov has been peering right back at the crowds who peer in at him. He occasionally takes their photographs and, as a student of psychology, he has written a scholarly paper entitled "Deinstitutionalization of Psychotherapy Through Mass Psychotherepeutic Implementation — Automatic Human Jukebox, a Case in Point."
In his paper Poznikov has recorded his observations of his customers during what he calls three years worth of "ongoing demonstration of mass psychotherepeutic implementation," noting such details as "... a five to 35 second raucous laughter follows most AJH actuations."
Passersby, he has written, first refer to the jukebox in "non-personified pronoun terms" ("it") then, upon his emergence horn in hand, they speak of it as a "living component" ("he").
Poznikov regards the Automatic Human Jukebox as an experimental art form, patiently explaining to a puzzled questioner, "I want to legitimize and advance the system of non-verbal communication... the people who come here can interact with the jukebox, participate in the process of making music."
A few highlights from Patty Chang's career as a performance artist:
Eating raw onions with her parents
Having an eel crawl inside her shirt
Cutting through her bra (stuffed with melons) while ritualistically discussing her aunt's death
shaving her pubic hair with seltzer water
creating urinary devices with plastic bottles while traveling across an aqueduct in China
having women pump their breast milk while reading lists of worries submitted by anonymous people in Hong Kong and the U.S.
It seems that Chang is deliberately trying to be weird. She says, "Humor is a strategy that makes people aware and also uncomfortable... There are a lot of strange things that we don’t pay attention to, but I try to extract them."
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.