CREATIVITY IS LIKE SHITTING
Creativity is like shitting.
Most people do it.
Everyone needs to do it....
More or less regularly.
Every shit is different.
There is nothing like a good shit!
Some people obsess on their shitting!
Some obsess on their own shit,
Others obsess on others’ shit,
Even buying it!
I just enjoy a good shit!
I’ll let you in on a secret...
I play with shit!
Creativity is just playing.
Originally published in Skin Passion, 2012
Art of A Shaman (excerpt)
“My first stroke of good luck was I was born spastic, unable to walk or talk. Add to this good fortune the fact that my formative years were in the sixties—my fate was assured!
When I was born, doctors told my parents that I had no intelligence, that I had no future, that I would be best put into an institution and be forgotten. This was a powerful expectation with all the force of western science and medicine, as well as social influences, behind it. It would have been easy for my parents to be swept up into this expectation. Then that expectation would have created my reality. I would have long ago died without any other possibilities.
Instead, my parents rejected this expectation for the possibility they saw in my eyes, for what for them should have been true. This rejection of the cultural expectation of reality could not be a one-time choice. They had to passionately live their choice every day, every minute, or the cultural expectation would have sucked them and me into it. It fought them at every new possibility they opened to me. Their passionate commitment to how they thought things should be attracted people to me who kept opening new possibilities for me. Of course, these were in the minority. But I focused on them, making them how people should be, how I wanted to be. So I expected people and myself to be like that. So people were for the most part that way ... at least I saw them that way. This opened up to me what is called luck. It also gave me the ability to trust and the ability to use opportunities.
This is the level that saved me, protected me, guided me. On this level, my parents won over the cultural expectation. By their winning, I won. By my winning, you win.
Yes, I always have been lucky. I have a body that is ideal for a performance artist. And I have always wanted to be a performer. When I was a kid, my younger brother used to get mad when people looked at me when he pushed me to the movies or to the teen club. He cried. But I liked people looking at me. That is what I mean by ‘I am lucky’. I am lucky I am an exhibitionist in this body. One time, I was working out on the jungle gym outside of our house—a kid came by and asked if I was a monster. I just roared like a monster. It was fun.
But on another level, the cultural expectation had won by shaping reality, making me into a physically ugly cripple, a burden that no woman would want. No matter what I accomplished, no matter how smart or warm or giving I was, I would still be an ugly black hole always taking more than I gave. I was stuck in that piece of the cultural frame that I had accepted. The cultural expectation had won. I and everyone had lost because I bought into it. But there was a point when I was around 28 when one day I decided that I did not want to be in a reality where I was ugly, where I could not give all I needed to give. It simply was not how things should be, not just for me, but for everyone. So I decided to act and think as if I were beautiful. I did not tell anyone of my decision. But within two weeks people started telling me that I had physically changed. I used this feedback, this sign, to deepen the reality shaping. This new reality opened up new possibilities for everyone.
I was lucky. I was never under pressure to be good at anything, to make money, to make it in “the real world”, to be polished—and the other distractions that other modern artists have to, or think they have to, deal with. So I could focus on having fun, on going into taboo areas where magical change can be evoked. In fact, a major reason why I am writing this is to encourage artists, who have not been so blessed with bodies that mark them as misfits, to aspire to be misfits anyway, to do misfit art anyway—even if you are handicapped by your normal body. Your road is definitely harder than my road. But that’s life.”
Originally published in Frank’s autobiography Art of a Shaman (2011) which was originally given as a lecture at NYU in 1990.
WHAT PRICE FAME
I don’t know why artists think fame is all that hard to get, or something worthy of seeking. Why, it’s as easy as falling off a log, as easy as dying. You just have to surrender to the forces of gravity and decay. The mainstream entertainment, by it sheer mass, has always sucked artists out of the fringe, the underground. That is just gravity. In reality, it takes a lot to enter, and to stay in, the underground. The underground is where the real freedom and the real ability to change society are to be found. This is why artists CHOOSE the underground instead of the mainstream. This is also why, when an artist is pulled into the mainstream, this freedom and ability decay. In my own career, I have worked very hard to stay in the underground…this work has been hard precisely because some of the pieces have turned out to be “popular” (whatever that means!)…attracting the mainstream sharks.
The mainstream has always tried to create a fake avant-garde with fake controversies, fake taboos, fake “hipness”, etc. to give the marks a controlled fun-ride through a Disneyland to keep them away from the real edge of life. This is because the powers-that-be can not control or exploit what is in the real avant-garde.
About every five years, the fame makers “discover” me, want to make me famous. I always play along. But I also always do “the wrong thing” to keep my work surfing just below the “fame wave”. Fame cripples art. But the sub-fame level is where the hidden channels of effecting, healing, changing, dreaming, myth‑giving powers lie.
It is easier to stay in this sub-fame level when you do private performances than when you do public performances…because in public performances layers of seductions, limitation, consideration, taboos, morals, ways of being politically correct are laid on the art and the artist by either the powers of the establishment or the "alternative" power systems of the present society or both. But I like the challenge of doing very public work without surrendering to the fame manufacturers.
When I do a public piece, I am not swayed by how many people come or by how many walk out, because I am still functioning, and rooted, in the channels of magical change that I became aware of by doing private performances. This rooting in private rituals gives the artist freedom from, and weapons against, the corrupting concerns of money, fame, competition, good taste, acceptance, and the search for an audience. This freedom is important in shamanistic art, which is art that acts for nonlinear change, because, by bringing new dreams, new myths, new visions into society from the universal underworld, it radically changes society. By being linked to a power system, be it establishment or alternative, the artist is trapped in a basic conflict of interest, because she has aligned herself either with protecting the social system or with a certain manner of change, when her true job is to carry the new visionary myths from the gods into this world through her body.
When the artist is rooted in private rituals, it becomes clear that she is not an agent for society, or some political movement, or the art galleries and art "experts", or even for her own individualistic imagination. Instead, she is an agent of the gods, of dreams, of visions and myths. This causes reactions in society, especially when the piece is public.
Karen Finley is criticized for limiting her audience because she offends them by her words, anger, nudity. An artist who is rooted in the private channels is not affected by this attempt to curb the power of the art by strapping it to audience acceptance and agreement. The power of a Karen Finley is the taboo‑breaking energy she releases into society. This societal pressure to tame art down, which usually sounds very reasonable and comes even from liberal sources, is very hard for the artist to resist who is not familiar with the hidden channels of change.
So it is always tragic to see artists who are known for doing underground, shamanistic, and/or risky art get sucked, seduced, absorbed, tricked, bribed into “the mainstream.” It is tragic not only in personal terms for the individual artists, but in terms of the big picture. When an artist sets herself up as being an artist who goes beyond the normal frame, who tells the hard truths, who explores the unknown…not to be hip, or controversial, or to be interesting…but because that is how our tribal human being evolves, so it has to be done…when that kind of artist then goes after money, personal fame, and/or glamour while still claiming to be doing avant-garde art, it is denying society the real evolutionary function of the real avant-garde. It tells people, audiences and artists alike, that the avant-garde is just a branch of the entertainment complex with the same rules, goals, reality as television, rock music, Hollywood, and sports. This is like telling people a can of Slim Fast is a balanced meal of real food. It is a lie. And the scary dangerous thing is artists are buying/selling this lie.
Another example of society's attempt to rechannel the change coming from shamanistic art is what an "art expert" told me: "Your work is...not art...(because) it doesn't address the concerns...(which are a) part of the current art dialog, whether it be mainstream or 'alternative'...curators and presenters are (not) obliged to show it." She went on to say that I should stay "in (my) own sphere", and that I don't need the public channels that galleries represent. Which is true. But galleries and the people who think what is in galleries is the full range of art needs the artists, not the reverse. The magic of private performance is needed to expand the narrow, shallow river of "the current art dialogue," controlled both in content and depth by the art experts. Fortunately, there are galleries which are willing to go into the magical unknown represented by private performances.
Another way society tries to deball the magical power or private performance is to co‑opt it by absorbing it back into the normal reality. What happened to Paul McCarthy is a classic example. Paul is, or was, the best of the modern shamanistic performers. In the 70's, he did performances in run down motels. He transformed into a rubber‑masked trickster who called forth realities of vomit, of messy meals of dog food, mayo and catsup..., of wearing women's clothes...of hard‑ons dangling out of girls' underwear fucking dolls, tubes up asshole and down throat and up the nose..., of fucking alone in a motel bed in mayo..., of walking bloodied barefoot on glass. Friends watched via video in another motel room. But most ran out in shock. This shock is a special kind of shock. It is not the shock of when a youngster uses obscenity or when a guy exposes himself. It is not a reaction or an aggressive act. It is more like culture shock. It is a reality shock. It is when two different realities come together, collide, and combine. This happened around Paul's pieces. Most people could not handle it. But the shock released incredible amounts of uplifting energy.
By the early 80's, Paul had been discovered by the art scene. He was invited to the San Francisco Art Institute to do a performance. The big hall was packed with students. Paul did his rituals, which in the past would have cleared the room, shocked and physically disturbed most people. But this time, the audience laughed and clapped at everything this clown did. They even drank catsup with him to show how hip they were. There was no shock, no magic, no colliding of realities. Paul stopped, defeated. He was cut off from his private, magical roots by being transformed from an outlaw magician into a hot artist.
He told me the day after he felt the loss of the magic but did not know how to get it back. After a few more performances, he stopped performing...which is a great loss to us all. He was defeated because he underrated not only the importance of his private magic, but how much it threatened normal reality.
Originally published in Movement Research Performance Journal #16, Spring 1998
By Frank Moore
When I cried out,
they said crying out
was not “appropriate behavior”.
I do not think appropriate behavior
that is not
makes me feel.
As not appropriate behavior!
All outside of
That’s where I live
February 2, 2003
AN OPEN LETTER TO SENATOR JESSE HELMS
Enough is enough. I have read in the L.A. TIMES and THE VILLAGE VOICE that you have the General Accounting Office investigating Karen Finley, Johanna Went, Cheri Gaulke, and myself. Why are you going behind our backs? Why aren't you talking directly to us artists, instead of having the G.A.O., at the taxpayers' expense, going to the galleries and the theaters we have performed in to ask veiled questions about us?
Here I am. Let's talk, man to man. It is the American Way. What do you want to know about me? You had my address because I sent you my article about how I think what you are doing is patently offensive to the Bill of Rights. After all, it is the American Way to directly confront your opponent, giving him a chance to answer, and giving the people a dialog. But you did not send me a letter. You sent the G.A.O.
This is not an investigation for information. It is an investigation for extortion. It is part of the campaign to smear us four artists as well as HollyHughes, Tim Miller, Annie Sprinkle and John Fleck as untouchable, unfundable, unbookable. The paint that is used to smear is that of "obscene artists". Are you trying to find out whether or not our work falls into the legal definition of obscene? Have you seen my performances or even talked to anyone who has? Have you read my writings on art in professional and scholarly journals, or my resume of over 20 years? I think not.
I think you know you can not show that any of us untouchable eight are even remotely legally obscene. So you and your ilk are trying to create the atmosphere of fear by using the extortion tactics of the mafia. The N.E.A. chairman, Frohnmayer, used this atmosphere of fear, under the catchy phrase "certain political reality", to take away the N.E.A. grants from Finley, Hughes, Fleck and Miller. Your extortion is what has created this political reality.
This extortion is an attempt to blacklist us untouchable eight and other artists who have the nerve to do difficult art. This so-called investigation is really the extortionist's message to galleries that, if they book us or artist like us, they are risking the possibility of funding being cut off, of being audited, of being closed down by the fire department, of being hassled by the vice squad and other governmental agencies. All of which has occurred to the galleries that have booked us untouchable eight.
Why are you closing channels of expression and of funding to me without due process of law? It is a political and cultural blacklist under the cover of obscenity. Extortion and blacklists are against the American ideals and spirit.
If you have anything to say to me or to ask me, come to talk to me man to man. Otherwise, get your big brother foot off my back.
Written in response to the investigation of the NEA, which granted Frank an Individual Artist Grant in 1985.
I HATE NICE PEOPLE
i get worried if my words and images fit through veins clogged with fatty taboos of polite appropriate of comfortability.
i get worried...is the art that small that it fits through that pinhole of a hole...so small that nudes on the walls, words on telephone poles, any shift in the social power structure threatens the very reality fabric.
i'm too proud to admit the art poetry is that small. so my art becomes a roto-rooting balloon covered in razors tipped in draino acid, pushing pressuring uncomfortable unsocial grinding against the grain until the killer fatty clots of taboos burst out the other end and go down the drain like trouble.
i don't really go after the hitlers, the mccarthys, the helms, or their brown shirts.
they are just limp-dicked power-junkies with swiss-cheese egos, each hole filled with inferiority. they are just moons with no power light of themselves, just reflecting fear.
no, i go after the nice people who never asked where the trains were going, boxcars filled with people. didn't have to. only suspected, only heard rumors...after all, the general is a friend. never said, excuse me, i am a jew too, arab too, a jap too, a gay too, i've negro blood running in my body, aids too. i'm a commie who took home movies of our nude kids. so better put me on that train too. better put us all on that train. there ain't no train big enough!
i go after the nice people who keep going to work after seeing their friends missing, after hearing rumors of blacklist and blackball. must write something about that subject to THE TIMES. he used to be such a pleasant fellow...but now he is a whining paranoid...not a sort to have to tea. he is like a wet messy fart. not in my backyard!
yes, i go after nice people. but my time in the belljar is about over. so i'll leave you with this. what is happening in your backyard is what really matters. so be sure to weed!
Thursday, April 11, 2002
THE UPDATED NUMBERS GAME
Originally written in 1997 and published in Lummox Journal, October 1997, this version was updated in 2002.
Most people think to be the most effective, you have to reach as many people as possible. And to do that, they think you have to do it through the mass media. And to do that, they think you have to fit (water down) the content, style, and form to the mass media, to play by the rules of the game. This is based on the faulty formula of Effectiveness = Number Directly Reached (or how big the audience is). It always seemed to me this formula is extremely simplistic and inaccurate. A more accurate formula is Effectiveness = Purity-of-the-Art x (Number Directly Reached x 10). Purity-of-the Art is a measurement of how close the delivered art is to the original intent, content, message, power, etc. Obviously the higher the P.A. Count, the more effective the art is. It is simple science! And you can just imagine what happens if the P.A. Count happens to be in the negative! By the way, the 10 represents Number Indirectly Reached, which in reality is always an unknown number.
I have never focused on how many people have come in contact with the work. I focus on doing the work. So I have never been sucked into the numbers addiction, have never been tempted to shape the work to get “an audience”.
But it is fun to look back at the almost 30 years of work and try to figure out how many people have come in contact with the work. In reality, I can figure out only the rough minimum.
To start with, I average one public performance (including lectures, concerts, performances) per month. So in 30 years, I have done at least 360 public performances. My biggest audience was about 500...but I have had a lot of 5-people audiences. My average audience is probably 30. So at least 10,800 people have come to the live public performances that I have done.
In addition, over 500 people (cast, students, other artists, clients) have done over 1,080 private performances (private rituals, workshops, rehearsals). So at least 11,300 people have directly experienced, and have been directly affected by the live work. By the way, since some of the performances lasted 48 hours, the average time of a performance is probably 5 hours. So I have probably done about 7,200 hours in performance.
As well as we can keep track, every month at least one article (written either by me or by someone else) about the work or about the philosophy behind the work is published somewhere in the world. This is mostly small zines, but with some large magazines and newspapers. So maybe 1,800,000 people have read about the work in this way, if the average readership is 5,000.
On average, once a year, I pop up on radio, on TV, in a movie, or in a book. If we take 5,000 for the average audience of these venues, we have reached another 150,000 people.
So through media, the work reaches 1,950,000 people. So the work reaches, more or less directly, 1,961,300 people at least...without even trying!
Add to this the 17,575 people who have visited our website at www.eroplay.com during our first year on the web, and the number jumps to 1,978,875.
But in reality, each of these people affect/influence, on average, at the very least 10 other people. So the “real” magical circle of influence is 19,788,750! Talk about mass communications!
(I am sneaking back in here in 2002. The website has grown over the years. Now...when we last checked over a year ago...over 3,000,000 visit the site a year. My work is also on other people’s sites. So let us say I have reached 18,000,000 people in the 6 years on the web. In addition, my local cable public access show airs 3 times a week. If 3,000 people watch it a week, 156,000 people have watched the show in the first year. So we can add 18,156,00 to the number that the work has directly reached, bringing it to 20,117,300...and 201,173,000 indirectly reached! This doesn’t include even the people who see our fliers on telephone poles, our art car on the street, our house from the sidewalk, etc., etc....all parts of the art!)
Of course, if we placed any significance on this numbers game, the magic would dry up in the work. But it’s fun to just trip out once in awhile!