Okay, I’ve seen the light. These protest tantrums that regularly go viral on youtube—your Trigglypuffs and Trigglyprofs, the shrieking coeds and the one and only Zarna Joshi and their like—are not protests or cris de coeur or the voices of oppressed women refusing to be silenced. They are performance art.
The penny started to drop with the Wailing Woman at Mr. Trump’s inauguration. Caught by a tv crew, she sits cross-legged on the sidewalk with arms raised and eyes screwed shut in anguish while the inauguration audibly proceeds in the background; and when Mr. Trump is pronounced president, she throws back her head and howls a NOOOOOOOoooo that reverberates for some time around the world, or at least around youtube. Afterwards, she grants a interview to the tv crew, catch-voiced, sobbing, and not making a whole lot of sense:
There’s just no way…there’s, like, just no…no way to even comprehend what this means…like, this very…for me, this very moment is like in a cell…like, in a cell…it’s like the dark and the light are so tight right now at this moment, it’s…there’s so much potential…for beauty and for devastation in this one moment…it’s almost incomprehensible that they can exist right now, so…close.
Interviewer: How seismic a day is this for your country?
[Screeches] I am so sorry…to my world…I am so sorry to my world, this is not what we want. [Sobs] I love you people…I love people…and I…this is so alien, this is so false and broken, and… [clip ends]
Well, a bit of sense-free babble would be understandable in one so overcome with emotion—except she’s about as convincing as a four-dollar bill, adjusting for inflation. The giveaway is in the moment before the “visceral, spontaneous” banshee howl, when she unscrews her eyes and glances around to see if the camera is still there. And throughout all the screeching, grimacing, and broken sobbing during the interview, not a single tear reaches her cheek. This was pure street theatre.
But even more theatrical was the potty-mouthed meltdown of artist Rebecca “I’m a professor” Goyette at the violent NYU protest over conservative Trump-supporter Gavin McInnes’ appearance on campus. By all accounts, the anti-Trump antifa protesters were the aggressors, scuffling with and pepper-spraying not just the invited speaker, but students attempting to attend the event. Eleven protesters were arrested, though none of those arrested were students. It does seem that Ms. Goyette was just fine with the violence, and indeed wanted more of it—specifically, she was outraged that the police were not wading into Mr. McInnes and his supporters (who consisted largely of students) to kick some serious ass.
Who’s protecting NYU from this bulls**t? Why are you here? You’re not here to protect these students from Nazis. No, you’re not! This is completely f***ed up. And these students had to f***ing face them on their own. You should be ashamed of yourselves! You should be standing up to those Nazis! You should be protecting students from hate! This is hate! These are f***ing assholes … you are a joke. You’re grown boys! You’re grown boys … and I’m disgusted! I’m a professor! How dare you! How dare you f***ing assholes protect neo-Nazis? F*** you! F*** you! F*** you! These are kids who are trying to learn about humanity! They’re trying to learn about human rights and against racism and xenophobia and LGBTQ rights, and you’re letting these f***ing neo-Nazis near here! You should kick their ass! You should! You should be ashamed of yourselves! You should! F*** that s**t. F*** that s**t. It’s not up to these students to kick the ass of a neo-Nazi! They don’t have to raise their fist! They were taught to be peaceful! F*** you! F*** you. I’m a professor. God f***ing damn it … you’re here to protect neo-Nazis! So f*** you! God f***ing damn it! Those kids should not have to take fists up to neo-Nazis, and you’re putting them in that situation! Go to hell. F*** you NYPD! (Hat tip to The Blaze for the partial transcript.)
Ms. Goyette was promptly dubbed “Trigglyprof” (in homage to the frankly tragic Trigglypuff) and came in for some ferocious roasting on youtube, reddit, and 4-chan, among other places. Eventually she was identified as a performance artist, video-maker, lecturer at the Museum of Modern Art, and Adjunct Professor at Montclair State University, with a hefty list of shows and residencies to her name. Which is where things got kind of revelatory.
So it seems that if you make porn badly enough, it becomes art? Is that how it works? Ms. Goyette’s art videos involve a lot a simulated copulation while wearing a homemade lobster costume; or simulated fellatio using long, skinny fabric phalluses made on her own sewing machine and attached in bunches to the crotches of Y-fronts. She makes vulvas, too. And lots of fantasy drawings of grotesque sexual violence, in a style which one reviewer was kind enough to call “faux-naive.” And knick-knacks of the amateur craft variety, most somehow involving phalluses and vulvas. Her latest video masterpiece, entitled “GhostBitchUSA,” features a male student in a Trump wig, tied to a tree, mock-castrated, and poked torturously with a cloth phallus, among other indignities. (The video vanished from youtube after some rather pointed critiques in the comments.) And yes, she is a professor of sorts, in the business of mentoring young minds.
Anyway, it dawned on me as I surveyed Ms. Goyette’s art: her performance at the NYU protest was completely in the spirit of the rest of her oeuvre. She may as well have brought her lobster suit along. Reviewing her performance, I would give her full marks for lung power, and the acting was considerably better than in any of her videos; though I would deduct points for plagiarizing the trademark “How dare you? HOW DARE YOU?!” from the very loud Zarna Joshi, and I felt the script lacked a certain creative breadth.
But really. Performances like those of Ms. Goyette and the Wailing Woman of Washington—like those of the punch-a-Nazi and antifa anarchist brigades—are a gift to Mr. Trump and his sinister coterie. Society has polarized; looking across the divide, all the left sees is a mob of Nazis; all the right sees is a mob of degenerate drama queens calling them Nazis. Where, oh where, have all the sane people gone?