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Performance By YI Artist-in-residence LaToya Ruby Frazier

MAY 21, 2012

LaToya Ruby Frazier during her performance, May 2012. Photograph by Carda Burke

LaToya Ruby Frazier during her performance, May 2012. Photograph by Carda Burke

On May 1, LaToya Ruby Frazier staged a performance at the Whitney, and YI teen played a special role. Frazier’s work is on view in the Biennial 2012 exhibition and she is the artist-in-residence for spring 2012 YI Artists. Her multimedia performance continued the themes of her work in the Biennial: an exploration of media, advertising, poverty, and identity in her hometown of Braddock, Pennsylvania. Around 7:45 pm, the lower gallery floor was filled with people chatting and waiting as well as the staff getting prepared for the event, but everyone went silent as the performance started.

Frazier’s performance began with a video consisting of interviews and a personal story, told with footage of a simple foot bath in a doctor’s office which led to a flashback, scenes that touched on the hardships and injustices faced by steel mill workers had faced in Braddock.The next part of the video included footage from a Levi’s commercial, which, in contrast, seemed to talk of this town without truly telling its story.

YI Leader Elleni, among other teens, participates in LaToya Ruby Frazier’s performance by cutting pieces from the large banner.  Photograph by Carda Burke
Frazier’s performance was open to the public, and many people, in addition to YI Artists, Leaders, and Writers who gathered to watch and participate. Photograph by Carda Burke
YI Leader Eloise is among the first wave of audience members to cut strips. Photograph by Carda Burke
A group of YI teens watch as Frazier begins. Photograph by Carda Burke
Frazier used this quotation from Martin Luther King, Jr. as a part of her performance. Photograph by Carda Burke
Pieces from the massive banner litter the floor at the end of Frazier’s performance. Photograph by Carda Burke

After the video, LaToya went to the top of a lift and held out a 30-foot banner which extended to the floor. We, the YI Artists, YI Leaders, and a couple of friends, were then allowed to cut off a piece of the banner. After we cut pieces, we passed the scissors to someone else in the audience, allowing them to part take in the performance as well. The banner was cut until all that was left was a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. about the deceptions of advertisements, the major theme of the performance.

Before the performance, YI Artists and YI Leaders were interviewed by a documentary filmmaker from the television series, Art21, who had come to record LaToya’s performance. Art21 is a non-profit organization which documents the work of contemporary artists. At first I was somewhat nervous, but as the interview went on, ideas seemed to just flow out and in the end I thought the interview was a great way to get a further understanding of what my fellow students thought of LaToya’s art. All in all, I was glad to participate. The interview was interesting, the performance generated ideas I never thought of, and I was able to further understand where LaToya was coming from with her interest in advertisements.

By Alex, YI Artist