My Piece About Cyril Butler, from Current
No one has ever come on my face.
From what I’ve heard, once the sperm gets in your eyes, those little guys just swim their hearts out. It hurts.
Nor have I ever appeared in public with a giant vibrating dildo up my ass. Not that I recall anyway.
I’m always willing to take an artist much more seriously if they’re willing to put themselves at risk. What sucks worst about bad art is when you get the feeling the artist’s heart is so removed from their work that it’s just a kind of mindless exercise for them. Like filling out a form. That’s why Jerry Bruckheimer (BAD ARTIST) will never be confused with Rainer Werner Fassbinder (GOOD ARTIST).
In Newfoundland (and Labrador), there seem to be two very separate and decidedly unequal camps of artists. Those of the Jerry Bruckheimer variety: you know, the ones whose work will always have some reference to cod, or icebergs, or mummurs, or the innate friendliness and goodness of Newfoundlanders or blah blah blah (insert your own cliché here). There are then the Fassbinders: the ones who consistently challenge themselves and their audience through the form, content, conceptualization or whatever of the work. These latter artists, unfortunately, are in the vast minority.
Which brings me to performance artist Cyril Butler (GOOD ARTIST). Concerned primarily with representations of sex and sexuality in the mainstream media, Butler is perhaps best known for his performance at Eastern Edge Gallery’s Art Marathon last year. If It Fits consisted of Butler on stage in a pair of bright pink underwear with a heart-shaped hole cut out of the rear. He proceeded to lube up and insert a vibrating dildo up his ass while the crowd looked on. With both his mouth and the vibrator heard via separate microphones, Butler began reciting clichéd lines he’d memorized from the very dregs of so-called “queer” mainstream culture: Will & Grace, Queer As Folk, Queer Eye For The Straight Guy and so on, while the volume on the buzzing dildo slowly increased. What you eventually heard was only the drone of the dildo, as Butler’s voice was slowly drowned out.
Also causing a stir was Butler’s Free Money Shots at the Ship Inn, wherein the artist was splattered with fake semen by a friend while a third snapped photos. Audience members were encouraged to leave their e-mail addresses to receive the digital photos of Butler free of charge, and some even asked to have their own “money shot” taken on stage. Here Butler was interested in dissecting porn iconography and creating a dialogue about the reality or lack thereof in these shots, the literal climax of just about every porn scene ever recorded since, like, 1990.
But possibly most important to Butler as a performance artist in St. John’s is the fostering of a performance art scene in the city, something that’s been noticeably absent from the capital’s vibrant community of artists with very few exceptions. This summer, Butler is planning a performance series through Eastern Edge to take place in various locations around St. John’s and is requesting input and assistance from other artists and anyone else interested in performance art that challenges the conventions and norms of the art-world, and in creating a space of vulnerability and communication in non-traditional art venues. It’s a good step in the right direction in the struggle to make people understand that there’s more to Newfoundland culture than Screech, hard-drinkin’, rubber boots, dories, and the innumerable other sickening clichés currently plaguing the populace.