I don’t like broccoli (but I’ll try anything once). A performance by Elizabeth Prentis.
This specific performance by young artist Elizabeth Prentis took place at Lungley Gallery, a happily unassuming and very versatile venue designed in the basement of The Haggerston pub in London.
In this occasion the gallery becomes a multi-coloured dungeon; in essence an installation with a performance in-waiting. It contains a mixture of readymades (an industrial hoist, a keyboard, a yellow soft bucket, a pink stereo, a microphone, a blue carpet); designed props (a strangely attractive alien plant, some broccoli-themed hats and most significantly, a painting on a wall which faces the ‘stage’.
This painting comes before anything else. An abstraction of a female body immersed in a sea of green, broccoli heads and red nails, is then translated and extrapolated into a three-dimensional pop-tinted, hilarious and very eloquent critique on the expectations and perceptions of gender. And of course not less vocal about the added issues of control and sexual practice.
The canvas acts as a prescriptive tool, or better yet, as a score to be read and amplified by the performance. It’s important to notice the painting is made by the artist in a vertical position, that is, she is in control. During the performance however, Prentis is in a horizontal position as she is hoisted and singing a Westlife song. This apparent lack of control is really illusory as Prentis has authored the whole process.
With plenty of humour and uninhibited gestures we are invited to think about the vulnerability and inadequacy of both genders, which comes from the unrealistic expectations of what is a heterosexual social construct. This fantasy is amplified on the web, which is the thread that connects and isolates people around the clock.
Dating sites are just another tool to make people bump into one another, if the ‘looking for fun’ fails. Self-assured, aggressive, ‘funny’ males with killer bodies abound in these realms but the physical encounters that follow are hardly dreamlike – crude is a more apt word for a hurried affair.
Prentis’ responds to these microphone in hand, delivering ‘You raise me up’ off-key while she is lifted by a hyperbolic-bodied male which cranks up the hoist on cue. His body, excessive for the task in hand: like trying to light a cigarette with a flame-thrower. At the back, two ordinary young men in broccoli hats and green pants play the violin and the keyboard in tune with her vocals. The minstrels never fail: ‘Give me a C’, one of them requests before the show starts.
The room is small, sweaty and smelly. Prentis’ legs are up in the air, and the soft bucket bubbles up in a continuos loop of Nesquick infused liquid without ever going over: an exercise in edging bordering on abjection. What could have been but never was. Four minutes of sexually-charged symbolism and fun. A surreal event which is streamed live and online for the enjoyment of the punters-spectators-voyeurs, which are kept at bay upstairs. The boundaries are clear.
In four minutes, the sound and motion cease and the canvas absorbs all that energy like that silent alien plant. It’s all part of the ritual that Prentis presents. With humour and plenty of broccoli. Watch her.