Monday, March 17, 2014

Lonestar Explosion 2014 - Untitled by Nikki Thornton

Dean Liscum

Opening night of the Houston Performance Art Biennalle was at Box 13 and it began with a set of simultaneous performances by the Houston-based performance art collective Continuum and coalesced by the title Bound.

From the entrance, I could see several performance in progress. None of the performances collided or collaborated. Rather, each neatly and quietly transpired within the confines of its assigned space, its invisible performance borders. Nikki Thornton's piece immediately grabbed my attention because it was both such a spectacle, but also not at all.

Nikki Thornton, untitled, Pig Head, Red Thread

At the front of Box 13's large open space, Thornton, dressed in all white, sat on a white sheet on the floor with a pigs head between her legs. With a needle and bright red thread, she methodically sewed the pigs lips together.

Nikki Thornton, untitled, Pig Head, Red Thread

The piece was performed in silence. No music. No humming. No talking. Only the sound of her hands working the snout into position and the thread pulled through the flesh. She didn't acknowledge the onlookers or affect an attitude of disgust or disdain or desire toward the pig. She completed the task with an air of detachment.

Nikki Thornton, untitled, Pig Head, Red Thread

The white clothing, the placement of the pigs head between her legs, the blood lent to the work a visually superficial-sexual, possibly virginal quality. Perhaps, if this were the only performance in the space and it occurred on a dais, it would feel sexual or sacred. But it isn't, so it plays out profanely on an old linoleum floor in the corner.

Nikki Thornton, untitled, Pig Head, Red Thread

It feels familiarly uncomfortable. When I was may be 8 and used to run through the aisle of K-Mart playing hide and seek, inevitably I would come across a woman and child. She would be squatting in the middle of the aisle breast feeding the child or changing it's diaper or spanking it's exposed ass. She might make eye contact or she might not but she wouldn't stop. She would simply press on until the deed was done.

That was more than my little catholic in-training  self would know what to do with. So I wouldn't say anything. I'd run off not looking back because I was trying to fit together the nakedness and the intimacy and the matter of fact-ness while trying to give her some of my shame and realize that she had no time for it. 

Watching Thornton's piece gave me that same impression. She gave no indication of the symbolism of her clothing or of the position of her legs or of her relationship to the pig or of her choice of location. She simply performed her task and left, leaving the audience to deal with whatever associations-meanings-emotions it conjured up in them.


  1. I don't see what is the point of this performance. It's not artistic or poemetic except getting shocking attentions. I hope she didn't kill the pig just for this performance. I am a visual effects artist in film industry, I recommend her to use a piece of prop next time. And have some respect for all livings beings.