Part of: Black Saint
Live Stream

LiveStudio: Carson McColl

published on 17 June 2010

Carson McColl took up residence in the LiveStudio space in June 2010 to undertake a visceral and unique performance piece inspired by a Greek Cypriot folk tale — Saint Black. Watch the performance and read the live streamed Q&A with the artist.

Warning: Some viewers may find the content of this LiveStudio performance offensive. Viewer discretion is advised.

Carson McColl took up residence in the LiveStudio space in June 2010 to undertake a visceral and unique performance piece inspired by a Greek Cypriot folk tale — Saint Black. Watch the performance and read the live streamed Q&A with the artist.

9 Q&A Posts

17 JUN 2010. 13:28

Q. POWERFUL! Can the artist do more than critique consumption? Olivia

A. Absolutely! Criticism that isn't constructive isn't worth a pinch of shit. I think if you're going to tell people you think they're doing it wrong, you have to offer an alternative. That said, regarding this performance, I freely admit that the term consumerism was in fact a stalking horse for something a little more complicated.
I read this thing a little while ago written by David Hare, a sort of travelogue about a period of time he spent in the Middle East. There was one passage where he spoke of being at a party in Ramallah and someone telling him of a torture technique used by Hamas on those believed to be informants. It involves the victim being taken to a wall on which is drawn a bicycle, and being told to go and get it. The victim says he can't get the bicycle because it is a drawing. He is then told if he doesn't get the bicycle he will be beaten. This is a description of torture and yet reading it I found myself contemplating neoliberalism's big-door prize. Buy this car and people will like you, wear these clothes and people will respect you, look like this and people will want to fuck you - it's just the most obscene illusion ever.
I believe that the greatest human identity comes with the claim of freedom against material limitation - I want us to stand for that, but our generation is just so fucking complacent. And in turn, complicit. Business and technology have taken over completely. And it's nothing new, it used to be the church - but then, it's always somebody. Imperialism has gone mad. And the only way I believe you can begin to fight imperialism is through tribalism. You just have to turn on the news to see that it's something they don't understand. Fractious, fragmented tribalism. And that doesn't mean that you can't be transgressive, or have one foot in the mainstream - in fact, if anything, to create meaningful change it is critical that you infiltrate the mainstream. But I reckon it begins quietly, with real communication. A new generation of creative people that share an agenda. Like that Rickie Lee Jones song "revolution, revolution, everywhere that you're not looking".
It's about taking back control of our work, of our art and of whatever part of culture we can call our own. It's about going out on a limb, getting our shit together and most crucially, supporting one another.

17 JUN 2010. 13:27

Q. Whats the one thing you think you consume most of all?

A. Other people's patience!?.

17 JUN 2010. 13:16

Q. Not sure if I imagined this, but paint seemed to appear from nowhere at the beginning?!!?!

EXPLAIN!! George. x

A. Don't worry babe, you weren't imagining it. Before this, I had never done anything I had approached as performance art, but I guess it's just like boxing - go crazy or go down. To which end, I was holding a litre of black paint inside my arse, which is why I was shaking so badly at the beginning. Apparently, the body isn't made for that. Plus, I totally overestimated how long I could hold it up there and in the end it was pretty painful. But I knew I wanted to bring something jarring and visceral to the beginning of the piece... Not to mention a little offbeat humour.

17 JUN 2010. 13:15

Q. I would like to know, why are you painting the room black? Why not paint a black room white? Just curious!!
A. It definitely had to be black!
There are a couple of reasons, the first of which was that I always wanted to end with the light bulb being smashed and the live feed being thrown into complete darkness, which wouldn't have worked with white.
Also, one of the original ideas for the piece was to use coal instead of paint. This came from a conversation I had about a year ago with my friend Polis (he is Greek Cypriot and a filmmaker and therefore a cracking storyteller) and I don't know how it came up, but he told me this folk tale his grandmother had told him about a figure that supposedly wanders the hills around the village where he grew up, known as Saint Black. The story goes that she had been a real pretty young girl, and her parents were trying to marry her off. I think she fell in love, but her father, the village blacksmith, commanded her to marry another man, a man of great wealth and power (I told you it was an old story). Now, this guy must have been a real prick, because in order to avoid marrying him - and knowing that they would have never let her be with her true love - she made the decision to go to her father's workshop, and in a singular act of resistance she opened her father's forge and put her face upon a bed of hot coals, literally destroying her image. The story ends with her spectre wandering the hills, without policy or creed, her blackened countenance a symbol of her singlemindedness. It's a vision that stayed with me for months, but it wasn't until this came around that I actually managed to access what it stood for.

17 JUN 2010. 13:12

Q. What and who are your biggest influences? I love the severity of this.
A. Jean Genet. Thief’s Journal in particular. Especially if you are talking about what he calls the "legibility" of the body. His work also has this stark romanticism which I find appealing. Rid of Me era PJ Harvey is another. Actually any era PJ Harvey. Her voice cuts through me like a wire. And I respect anyone who has such custodianship of their work. Such custodianship of their body also... I'm just beginning to learn about extreme performance art - people like Ron Athey, for example. I'm interested in performances that scar, that blur the distinctions between beauty and horror, which it has to be said are much easier to come across in visual art than in music and poetry. Although, my boyfriend did play me a Diamanda Galas song the other night that made all the hairs on my body stand up. I'm not sure what that passes for? I don't know, it's a weird time for me and I seem to be I'm seeking out the extreme. Which is to say, severity is bang on. So I appreciate that.

Q. I would love to know what the music playing at the beginning was? Beautiful performance by the way!!

A. Cheers! The music was an aria from Act II of Tosca, Vissi d'arte, sung by the one and only Maria Callas.

17 JUN 2010. 08:51

Q. Hello from Australia...What (or who)is your greatest inspiration?

A. London. Every day is like a kidnapping.. Although we could seriously do with some of your weather!

17 JUN 2010. 00:14

Q. when you wake up in the morning, what is the first thing you think about?

A. Which record I'm going to put on, naturally.

14 JUN 2010. 20:47

Q. Being linked to such a well known partner; do you find it difficult to promote your own individual projects? Or do you find that having that connection allows you to have a platform and if so how realistic do you feel people take what you do?

A. I'm all for happy accidents - so I'm glad this question was asked, in that it is a perfectly candid snapshot of what we're up against. I shouldn't have to get into what is private to me or justify to a stranger that which is blood simple and sincere. Particularly when the terms — which are so reductive as to be simultaneously risible and insulting — belong more to the lexicon of business than that of love and communication.

At the end of the day, the work either holds up or it doesn't. As for the way people choose to take it — that's not really up to me. All I can do is decide how much to give.




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