Karen Finley

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Karen Finley’s performances are all about exposure, and I don’t mean anything so prosaic as nudity. Her monologues unzip the viscera, getting at emotions so deep and raw that most people have no words for them except the four-letter variety. The unspeakable has always been her subject, come hell or Jesse Helms, and the two post-millennial works presented here approach new depths to reach new heights. After suffering through a decade as America’s most controversial performance artist, Finley suddenly reclaimed the psychotic joie de vivre of her early nightclub work, married it to uncommonly challenging material, and led audiences to moments of unexpected catharsis. Shut Up and Love Me deconstructs desire into a set of unlovely impulses, climaxing (so to speak) with Finley rolling naked in her golden pond of honey. This is a female libido run amuck – raunchy, messy, inappropriate, even grotesque. This is sexual power both flaunted and mocked. At the core of this work is Finley’s observation that women are defined by their sexuality, then demonized for it. Make Love approaches the inchoate emotions of post 9/11 New York so circuitously, so disguised in cabaret froth, that the lump in your throat will come as a surprise, somehow the rage, the fear, the sorrow beyond words (and a pricly New York chauvinism) are all held together by the unlikely metaphor of Liza Minelli. That’s Finley’s artistry. Always your friendly guide into “The Horror, The Horror”. C. Carr


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Shut Up and Love Me” 2004  

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