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The Meat is Not Meat (2048): A 21st Century Archive of Failed Performance Art

The Kleeman Kenyon Review Workshop Crew (2022) reunited for one last job.

My Country in Pieces (2004): The artists are known as Mother and Sister. Sister lays out a box of baby dolls’ arms arranged in the shape of the American flag. The audience keeps accidentally stepping on the arms, cutting their feet. The Feminist Mothers League calls it a crime against childhood. The NRA, citing anti-patriotism, stages a boycott of the gallery space. Outside the exhibition doors on the morning of their respective protests, each party stands staring at each other, nodding.

Mother and Sister watch, eating hot dogs.

Mother eats hers with ketchup.

Sister eats hers with mustard.

Spa Day (2006): Sister massages a raw chicken breast. Mother stands in the corner, exfoliating herself. Sister disrupts the illusion of tranquility by shouting that she got salmonella from licking the chicken breast.

When Sister recovers, Mother and Sister try again. They rewrite their artist statement and update their website.

Although they have a joint website, Mother demands Sister code a separate one just for her. Text crawls across Mother’s homepage: As an artist, but also as a spirit in this world, I seek to deconstruct the inherent hegemonic struggle between generations. Sister takes this personally—Mother and Sister are the same age.

After Sister has secured Mother’s domain name for a year, Mother instructs her to delete the website. Being together is bigger than being apart.

Nuestra America/Our America (September 21, 2007, International Day of Peace): An interactive map of Latin America made out of glass installed above the gallery’s basement. Gallery visitors are encouraged to “Rearrange the borders at will!” Visitors soon realize that the floor is fragile and opt to sit in folding chairs lining the map's perimeter.

Mother drops pieces of Latin America on the various folding chairs. These visitors do not pay extra.

A musician from Rio dances on the map, cracks it, and falls through.Caralho,” he says, looking up from the bottom of the museum basement. Someone posts a video of it to YouTube and shares it on MySpace. Six months later, the musician restages it all at the Brazilian embassy and earns a grant from the NEA. Sister spreads the news and tells Mother that their work lacks social commentary.

Spaghetti Dinner (2008): Mother cooks spaghetti for Sister. Sister chews with her mouth open. One bite every thirty minutes while Mother chain smokes and surfs TV channels. This is a commentary on gender norms, generation to generation.

After a day, Sister is ill from food poisoning.

Mother eats the leftovers and never vomits once.

Sister accuses her of divinity.

Jesus in Air, Jesus in Water (2012): Sister, dressed as Jesus, falls backwards off a diving board again and again. Her arms are spread for crucifixion, her hands and feet bleed. She falls in the same shape but every time the water catches her in a different way. Sister breaks her collarbone after Mother convinces her to dive into the shallow end, and the exhibition closes.

CyPork (2014): A meat processing plant, redesigned! Think: organic curves. Think: wonderful natural light. The workers have chosen the theme of the employee lounge and it is Scandinavian Minimalism.

The redesign includes Temple Grandin’s cattle handling system. Employees walk single-file to the factory floor. As with the cows, the workers forget where they are going; perhaps going back to where they came from. Home. Employee well-being goes up 5%, but no one wants to visit the meat processing plant.

The meat is not meat. The meat is textured soy protein and cardboard.

Sister plays one of the workers, shredding her own foot-strips into the batch. It is not part of the script.

The mainstream vegans write strongly worded emails claiming their way of life is being unfairly satirized. A Catholic vegan pens an essay about Jesus being vegan. Its subject: The Right Way to Live.

Fissorp (2016): Sister and Mother have their big idea. Mother plays a woman sitting on a stool; Sister a young boy. Sister massages Mother’s feet. Audience member plays a teenage boy who sits in the upper right corner of the stage. Teenage boy fiddles with a recorder. Young boy slowly fissorps woman’s toenails, picking at and removing them. Mother yells. She throws them to the audience, which has come for a piece of her foot. When all ten toenails are gone, teenage boy offers his tongue.

According to the show’s flyer, Fissorp is a commentary about the state of the world. “We are all perpetually ripping off one another’s toenails,” Mother will tell PBS in an interview years later.

Chuck E. Cheezus (2017): An animatronic Jesus offers “free hugs!” and cauliflower pizza. The animatronic is miscalibrated and has a tendency to aim too low.

The animatronic is not an animatronic. The animatronic is Sister playing an animatronic. This is not listed in the playbill. Sister does not get credit because Mother reminds her that they are a collective.

Pleasure and Leisure (2018): Sister acts as mother to Mother. Sister plays with Mother’s toys in the center of the gallery and yells hee hee hee hoo hoo. She steps on Legos.

Participants must draw their family tree. They receive grades by mail. They find that instead of labeling relationships, audience members have marked their trees with examples of familial dysfunction. Mother looks at Sister and yells hee hee hee hoo hoo. They take this as only half a failure.

Mother, Mother! (2019): Sister sits at a Dell laptop writing in Courier New and authors a piece about Mother.

Mother knifes audience members who break Sister’s flow (i.e. sneeze, whisper, ding, hiss, cricket, chirp-chirp).

Fissorp (2016): The Sequel (2020): Mother offers Sister a piece of hair to floss with. Sister breaks it between her teeth. Mother fissorps her pinkie fingernail and offers it to Sister. Sister pries the hair out.

Sister enjoys the salty taste.

Hee hee hee hoo hoo, they yell at the audience. The audience knows it’s a call and response.

Audience members join the chants and fissorp each others’ fingers. Some fissorp toes. Others use teeth. Peace be with you, hee hee hee hoo hoo!

The vegans in attendance differ in their beliefs about whether eating one’s own body parts is vegan. The first camp believes it is, because the toenails are given with consent. The more radical vegans accuse the first camp of being soft. The fight turns bloody.

Communion (2023): Mother and Sister, sensing the imminent end of their careers after the carnage of Fissorp (2016): The Sequel (2020), seek to recapture the creative energy of the Fissorp era and appease the vegans, while also resurrecting Jesus.

Mother and Sister build a statue of Jesus made of vegan meat.

Mother tells Sister to consensually harvest toenail clippings. Sister puts out a call and receives donations from some generous benefactors who, while loath to give up their collections, have been fans of the artists since My Country in Pieces (2004).

Sister sticks the toenails beautifully onto the toes of the vegan meat Jesus. Thirty-three toenails because Jesus is Divine.

On the big day, the line for admission goes around the block. Guests are encouraged to eat the toenail clippings and grab chunks of Jesus’ flesh. This is the Catechism.

The exhibition is going well until the radical vegan splinter group stages a protest, claiming that soy protein is violence because it too closely mimics the texture of meat and therefore normalizes meat. A service dog begins to eat Vegan Jesus’ ankle. Several guests vomit from food poisoning as Vegan Jesus lists to the side.

A conservative Christian group bursts onto the scene with their own picket signs: “Jesus Loved Steak” and “My Culture is Not Your Meat Puppet.”

Mother blames Sister for the badly textured soy protein. Sister blames Mother for not doing enough research on what is considered violent these days. Mother says their career is over, thanks to Sister. Sister slaps Mother. Mother stares at Sister, open-mouthed.

When a cry is raised from the crowd, everyone else falls silent. It is the vegan Catholic, in desperation to bring everyone together.

But nobody is listening. They stare at Vegan Jesus, who is falling. His chewed ankle has failed. The conservatives and vegans brawling next to Jesus’ right foot stop and watch in horror as the Son of God crashes down upon them, crushing them to death, their flesh undergoing a mass transubstantiation, intermingling with the textured soy protein of Jesus’ body.

One final voice is raised from the carnage—a paper-thin “Hallelujah.”

Mother and Sister declare Communion (2023) a success.

Chloe Alberta (@chloe_alberta) likes frogs and various mustards. Kennedy Coyne

(@kenlcoyne) likes toads and various ketchups. Eshani Surya (@__Eshani) believes all food

should be served with a condiment, even mac and cheese. Nicole Zhu (@nicolelzhu) puts

Tabasco on everything (seriously, everything). Maggie Hohlfeld (@MaggieHohlfeld) has a thing

for hands. Daniel Pope (@PanielDope) lives with his mom and is a little too into birds right

now. Rosa Boshier Gonzalez (@RosBossGonzalez) is taking over the world, one condiment

at a time. Aleksia Silverman (@AleksiaMira) will have a witty and zany brain one day.

They all agree: dill relish on a veggie hot dog. There is nothing better.


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