LINDA MONTANO:SEVEN YEARS OF LIVING ART,Moira Roth, 1984
In 1984 ,Montano began her seven year performance and went once a month, for seven years to The New Museum, where she performed Art/Life Counseling.Roth wrote this essay for the performance and each year it was paper printed in the color Montano was wearing and made availabe to everyone at the front desk of The New Museum .Introduction by Jennie Klein.
Linda Montano, a sculptor and ex-nun, performed for the first time in 1971. With whitened face, wearing eight-foot-long white polyethelene wings and wrapped in white gauze robes,she and Mitchell Payne(her future husband) lay motionless on a white-covered table in a New York State college art gallery.Two live and twelve papier mache chickens surrounded them, and the taped sounds of chicken calls filled the room. LAYING:DEAD CHICKEN,LIVE ANGEL lasted three hours and was repeated three times.(From the start Montano has always had a predeliction for performances of considerable duration, repetition of action and for the use of mystical numbers.
)Later Montano wrote of this event in her book, Art In Everyday Life: "I experienced a state that I had not known in my work before....a personal transformation. I was attendiing to my own stillness and the audience participated in both the visual and psychic imagery of the piece. I was elated...I could go into deep states, relax, do nothing and call it art." For more than a decade now, Montano has used such peerformance art frames(some public and some private) as settings for prolonged attempts at "personal transformation." She defines this transformation as the practice of increasingly sustained, conscious attentiveness to all acts of her spiritual and physical self--"The dream is to do dishes and be attentive."
At the same time,and without naming the activites as art, Montano practices karate and other Eastern exercises, which focus attention.On December 8th(the birthday of both the Buddha and Montano's father),1984, Montano is beginning her most ambitious attempt so far to use "art in everyday life" as a means of spiritual development for herself and she hopes, others. She has scheduled this SEVEN YEARS OF LIVING ART to end in 1991, the year of her fiftieth birthday. During these seven years she will live, for the most part privately and meditatively, in her home in Kingston, a small town in upper New York State.Once a month for one day, she will meet with people in a window installation space in The New Museum of contemporary Art in New York City to give "Art/Life Counseling" and read palms.
In Kingston, she intends to spend several hours each day in a room, which will be painted a single color(for the first year ,red),she will dress in the same color and will listen to a designated tone--the single color and tone will change annually. These strictures are to insure......"That I am in the "state of art" or consciousness 24 hours a day for seven years but while living a relatively normal life. My intention is to reach to the place of no art so life is enough."
Thus, to the color, sound,and meditaion, which were the primary ingredients of her earlier LYING:DEAD CHICKEN,LIVE ANGEL, Montano has added two further sets of frames in SEVEN YEARS OF LIVING ART.These are her highly personal interpretation of the Eastern disciplines of the chakras, which she associates with certain colors and tones, different organs in the body, different psychic centers and different "accents" gathered from her earlier-invented characters, such as the Nun, Doctor and Country Western Singer.
In the ancient Vedic tradition of India, the chakras are nerve centers within a system of subtle energies, which correspond to, but are not identified with those of, tangible physiology. Each chakra aids the function of a different organ in the body, and also governs a different psychic capacity(for example,intuition, compassion, bliss). Five of the chakras are located in the vertebral column(beginning at the coccyx);one in the middle of the head("the third eye"), and the seventh on the top of the head. When "coiled up" energy, which normally remains at the base of the spine, is released(through the long term practice of certain Eastern exercies of breathing and concentration), it passes from chakra center to chakra center, and generates awareness, compassion and self-knowledge.
Montano's goal for herself in SEVEN YEARS OF LIVING ART is to release this energy, and to explore the different states of mind and focus of the chakras. Why the color and tones? In one of the traditional systems of teaching, students are asked to visualize colors in the meditations on the meaning of the various chakras. Montano has drawn the idea of the colored room from the experiments at Naropa Institute of Colorado, in which students are placed in various rooms of different colors and different shapes as aids to meditation and equanimity. Tones may be employed also in traditional chakra exercises;different systems associate different tones with each chakra. Montano has devised her own tonal system in a series of Cagean chance operations, in which she consulted a pendulum--as one would consult Tarot cards or the I Ching--for advise on choosing tones.(Bob BIlecki, who has worked with La Monte Young,has invented for Montano a small oscillator,an instrument which transmits one pure pitch and has a repertory of seven tones in all.)
Why the "accent"in which Montano will speak for a whole year? In the mid-1970's, Montano began to develop a series of characters(at roughly the same time as the persona experiments of Eleanor Antin and Lynn Hershmann),which,from the start,she saw as embodimentsof the various chakras.In a year long series of private experiments in front of a video camera, she created the literal voices, the "accdents" of these characters in order both to extend the boundaries of the self and ,not incidentally, to lift herself out of a rather severe depression.
In 1977,Montano presented these characters in public(in a typically private fashion)when she went into character, one per day,for five days in LEARNING TO TALK AT UCSD:"I lived in a (sealed) classroom as five different people,changing clothes every day. A video camera monitored my events and projected the image to the next room(where it could be watched by an audience. Each day I made a three hour drawing as a different person."