The screen is ever- present in both life and art, and even when being used as a tool of information or communication, one is generally hiding behind it. Frances Stark spends the majority of her performance Put a Song in Your Thing (curated by Mark Beasley), behind a screen, but still manages to reveal quite a bit. Her vulnerability is a constant focus, whether it be in her self-consciously sexy online chats (which are further explored in her video My Best Thing, currently on view at MoMA PS1), her surrender to the unrelenting bass of Mark Leckey’s onstage sculpture BogBOxSoftSculptureTelephoneAction, or her willingness to be “daggered” by a master of the dance move, Skerrit Bwoy.
We as an audience are there not to delight in the potential of her failure, but to relate to the willingness to put herself on display with the full awareness that it may not work out as planned. Acknowledging that to be a contemporary artist is to constantly perform, Stark’s stage presence is as endearingly exposed as possible. (Underneath her complicated telephone dress, she is not naked, but instead in a nude suit.) Near the beginning of the piece, we watch a montage of moments in which she is not performing; she is on stage, in costume, but appearing as thoroughly herself. Ums, uhs, and other uncomfortable utterances are compiled to create a portrait of the artist as a human being. In a later video clip of the same performance, Stark’s perpetually smiling avatar accompanies her onscreen, dancing unfetterdly, never needing to worry about messing up. The performance closes with Stark, before the screen, now taking a literal leap off the stage and onto the waiting body of Skerrit Bwoy. The stage goes black at the moment of landing, her success left unknown.