1890 c/o Josh Baines

In 1975 Carolee Schneemann unspooled a scroll from her vagina. She then read from the scroll. This unspooling and subsequent reading took place in East Hampton, New York and then it took place at a Canadian film festival. This is an example of performance art.

In 1980 Tehching Hsieh began punching a time clock every hour on the hour. He did this for an entire year. Each time he punched the clock, he took a photo of himself. This punching and photographing took place in Manhattan, New York. This is another example of performance art.

In 2002 Francis Alÿs persuaded 500 students to walk in a line up a sand dune. The students dug as they walked. The digging moved the dune. The digging and the walking and the moving of the dune took place in Lima, Peru. This is a further example of performance art.

I know that these are examples of performance art not because I am an expert on performance art but because I read a list on a website about performance art. The website usually covers trainers and rappers and Swedish pop stars who don’t give a fuck what you think, so I was surprised to see them covering performance art. Having read the piece, I am now confident in stating what is and isn’t performance art, at least within the parameters of the 25 pieces of performance art that the author had chosen to embody the best of performance art.

Performance art seems to involve using your body or other people’s bodies to achieve something that can later be written about by men or women who wear jumpers that make them look serious. This is what I know now. I know too, that these men and women in serious jumpers are often found in white walled rooms drinking red wine on Wednesday nights.

If you see these men and women in serious jumpers with their red wine and their black teeth do not point out the blackness of their teeth or how their jumpers carry the smell of hand rolled cigarettes. Instead, ask them what performance art is.

Disregard what they tell you.

Nod as politely as you can, drink the red wine at the most sensible and agreeable pace possible, promise to email them at an unspecified point in the future, arrange to meet again another place in time.

And then disregard what they have told you about performance art because they couldn’t possibly know anything about performance art because when they are telling you about performance art you are waiting for them to not mention some thing, or some things, that have to be performance art, and the thing or things do not fall from the wine-stained lips of the men and women in serious jumpers and because they have gone unspoken you are free to disregard everything they have said and not said.

On the first of January, 1890, the steamship Mackinaw burns on the banks of a river in Michigan. We do not know how many people died.

On the second of January, 1890, the steamship Persia is sunk off the coast of Corsica. 130 people die.

On the seventeenth of February, 1890, the steamship Duburg is wrecked in the South China Sea. 400 people die.

On the first of March, 1890, the steamship Quetia capsizes in the Torres Straits, somewhere between Australia Papua New Guinea. 124 people die.

On the twelfth of June, 1890, the steamship Ryan goes missing near Thunder Bay Island. We do not know how many people died.

On the thirteenth of July, 1890, the steamship Sea Wing is overturned in Minnesota. 98 people die. It is upgraded to a Disaster.

On the thirteenth of October, 1890, the J.F. Warner goes missing near Thunder Bay Island. It is a schooner rather than a steamship. We do not know how many people died.

On the twenty seventh of December, 1890, the steamship Shanghai burns in the East China Sea. 101 people die.

These are the things you were waiting to be said when you found yourself asking the serious man or the serious woman about performance art as you both held plastic cups filled with wine. You had wanted them to mention one or more of these incidents because there is no way, there is no possibility even, that so many steamships could burn or sink or vanish in the space of a year unless it was performance art.

If unspooling and reading things from your vagina or punching a clock and photographing yourself or asking students to walk and dig and displace is performance art so is the serial burning and sinking and vanishing of steamships. There are no other explanations for it.

Steamships don’t just vanish like that.

Steamships don’t just sink like that.

Steamships don’t just burst into flames and burn and char the flesh of hundreds of bodies like that.