Falling Down

That’s why performance art is invariably so lousy – it spits in the face of honest human reaction, all those trust fund frauds locking themselves in a bathroom and claiming it is in solidarity with actual prisoners who don’t have Guggenheim fellowships.

So says columnist Neil Steinberg in the NY Daily News in response to a performance by a Chicago artist named Kerry Skarbakka (who just moved to Brooklyn) in which he repeatedly jumped off the roof of the Museum of Contemporary Art while flailing like the jumpers on 9/11. (using a safey harness, mind you, for a four-story building). Apparently this is the latest in a series of “falling” performances that he documents, selling the photographs as art.

Here’ the Daily News article about the reaction of 9/11 families.

Selected quotes from Skarbakka make him sound self-serving, but they may be out of context. Then again, as someone who was actually there on 9/11 I have to say I find the work distasteful. (Not to mention that jumping off of buildings as performance art was already done, many years ago, but in a fun and adventurous way by the multi-talented David “The Impact Addict” Leslie.)

What do you think? Art? Outrage? Publicity stunt? Is anybody familiar enough with his work to provide context??

Also, feel free to email Neil Steinberg and tell him what you think.

5 thoughts on “Falling Down”

  1. i will says:

    All you need to know is at SKARBAKKA.COM.


  2. Juliana says:

    I’m glad to have read Kerry Skarbakka’s statement, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Daily News flat out lied to create an anti-artist story. But I don’t think “all we need to know” lies squarely in Mr. Skarbakka’s statement either. I believe “All we need to know” is scattered across quite a large field, and is not mired in pro-artist/anti-artist camps. I did not see FALLING DOWN, but reading about it led me to looking at Frida Kahlo’s stunning “SUICIDE OF DOROTHY HALE” and Yves Klein’s beautiful “LEAP INTO THE VOID.” I hadn’t looked at either of these works since a childhood friend died in the WTC, and I’m grateful that Steinberg’s scree led me back there.

  3. de Soleil says:

    “It’s not about me. I’m an everyguy,” said Skarbakka, 34, taking a break from his falling to talk to a reporter and others who had gathered to watch his performance. “I’m interested in bringing new light to contemporary art. This is my attempt at reaching a new public.”
    Skarbakka, who grew up in Tennessee and later moved to Chicago, was inspired by the images of Sept. 11, 2001. He remembers seeing people jump from the World Trade Center and thinking about their emotions. He went about finding ways to get a small glimpse of what they might have felt…
    (from the chicago tribune article on his website)

    if his art was indeed inspired by the ‘falling’ of countless people who died during the 9/11 attacks…shouldn’t he feel or expect some sort of accountability?

    i am not impressed by his statement..i believe that what we put out in the universe will have repercussions…in a way his reaching for ‘new’ art may inspire others – and cause others to re-live experiences they are trying to put to rest….and we as artists should be cognizant of that…. or suffer from the ‘priviliges’ that can come with being oblivious…

  4. Juliana says:

    “If you label me, you negate me” – Kierkegaard

    I just read Skarbakka’s text which was handed out during the event. Wish I’d read it before my previous post. An excerpt (capitalizations mine):

    “Here’s this guy IN CRISIS falling off the roof. People are either going about their business, buying fruit and having lunch, eyes wide shut, or they’re gaping up at him. And if they are looking is it with compassion. Or sensationalism [sic] – just another amusing spectacle? Whatever – here’s a CRISIS and life goes on.”

    UGH. I am still glad this led me to looking up Yves Klein (who falls much more beautifully, pre-photoshop) but I find Skarbakka’s snotty characterization of his audience distasteful – particularly in light of the 9/11 allusions, after which much life did not “go on.” Lord, who thinks an artist-on-a-rope posing for photographs counts as a “CRISIS” anyways?

  5. Vvoi says:

    I think he is an ignorant artist, though I find this work visually interesting. Indeed, the last note kind of takes away any true value it could have had. I wish he hadn’t said anything about 9/11.
    I’ve written more about it at http://new-art.blogspot.com

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