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To Perform/ To Construct/ To Witness

by Meghan Moe Beitiks

I am watching Larissa Kopp make a meat bouquet. Very literally, She is sitting wearing white in a white room at a white table wearing a white collared shirt, and white pants. On her white table are piles of kale, leafy greens and other vegetables, and stacks of meat. It is deli meat: bologna, salami, bacon. There is a giant white flower pot.

Larissa is rolling the meat into blossoms. She is sewing them into little buds. She is methodical, she has done this before. But we can’t easily see her tucks and rolls: she is partially obscured by the mound of greens, the white pot.

Larissa puts the meat blossoms on the ends of sticks and puts them into the flower pot. A meat bouquet slowly blooms. I am watching the build of a designed object, an ironic collage. But I am left wondering: why?

Why am I witnessing the build of this thing, as opposed to simply experiencing its finished form? Performance is necessarily a part of the life of any artwork. A painting must be painted, a sculpture must be built. These forms have movement vocabularies in them, individual gestures and timelines, of course. The object itself performs its own presence. The question becomes: when is the performance of the build of an object necessarily part of its material, meaning and concept, and when is it simply a build, a means to an end, an invisible process? I don’t mean to imply an artwork and its process are separable. I am contemplating the expansion of the art-frame to include the objects’ making.

I don’t know why I am watching Larissa make a meat bouquet, as opposed to simply looking at the final form. I am very deliberately made to gaze upon Larissa and the bouquet coming into its formation. As the buds-on-sticks accumulate, they ask questions of value– is lunchmeat somehow more ubiquitous, given more cultural heft, than flowers? Is the modern day floral industry cranking out beautiful blooms on par with factory farms? (this isn’t a rhetorical question– they are. This is an interrogation of the bouquet.) But these questions would be present in the completed work, without the gesture of build. Larissa’s outfit does not speak to a factory worker, or butcher, she wears no gloves or apron, her clothes speak only of cleanliness. She could be working in a highly designed floral shop, except: meat.

Larissa is making a bouquet, and my brain is abloom with questions.

photo courtesy of the artist
Meghan Moe Beitiks is an artist and researcher working with associations and disassociations of culture/nature/structure. She received her BA in Theater Arts from the University of California, Santa Cruz and her MFA in Performance Art from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
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