Soap at MOCA… discuss
In a recent LA Times interview, new MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch mentioned that James Franco would be taping a segment of the soap opera General Hospital at MOCA Pacific Design Center. According to the storyline, his character, the artist/serial killer “Franco,” scores a solo show there. Harmless enough, right? The usual Hollywood location shooting? Well, hold the phone. MOCA has decided that this taping will be an actual work of performance art, worthy of an entire press release, and that it is “an example of a project that will be part of a new series of performance projects at MOCA Pacific Design Center.”
Franco says that this project, which even has an official title (Soap at MOCA: James Franco on General Hospital), will blur “the lines between different disciplines, between life and art, between art and popular culture, and between representations of the self as both performative character and as non-performative self.” Meanwhile Deitch, who will also appear in the episode, goes so far as to say that Soap at MOCA “allows mass entertainment to be viewed through an art world filter. Franco’s artwork examines performance: it looks at the multiple levels of identity that are wound into performance; the legitimacy of some performance over others; the contextualization of performance; and how this changes perception and even the nature of performance.”
I haven’t been able to bring myself to sit through any of General Hospital in order to check out Franco’s “work,” so in all fairness, I can’t really comment on it. Who knows, maybe it really is an interesting examination of performance art. But at first glance, judging from the substance of this press release, it looks more like an embarrassing, misguided attempt at cross-breeding based on one good-looking actor’s half-digested concepts of “performativity,” most likely gleaned from a few skimmed articles and conversations with his new BFF, Marina Abramović. That MOCA is choosing to legitimize it to such an extent is really frightening; in my opinion, it starts to establish an ominous pattern, following Deitch’s lauding of Dennis Hopper and Julian Schnabel, two of the most overrated hacks of all time.
I have to wonder what other “projects” will emerge from this new “performance series.” Maybe the next one will feature Betty White “hosting” a “fundraising dinner?” One can only hope…