Friday, September 19, 2003


The amount of verbal (and now physical) abuse occasioned by illusionist David Blaine's 44-day self-deprivation ordeal is truly astonishing. He is supposed to be the narcissist (according to received wisdom on the subject), but the truth is: we just can't bear not to be in on the act

Suspended in his glass cage over London's Tower Bridge, Blaine's antics naturally raise all kinds of questions. Isn't it more than a little tasteless for a super-rich American to dress himself in introspection and risk his life needlessly in a world where many have no choice, where people face death daily? And how much less does someone have to do, in practical terms, to court a world media transfixed by the glare of mere spectacle?

Those are among the obvious issues. But, as with much postmodern performance, there is something rather more threatening at stake. Blaine is doing no more or less than holding up a blank canvas to his public and seeing what projections they decide to thrown on to it.

His role is passive. But what is revealed about some of the watchers is disturbing, frightening even. We are ready to vilify and scapegoat even the most unthreatening of presences. We hate so easily. We are stirred to anger so needlessly. Even those who "couldn't give a monkey's" are obviously enraged.

Blaine sits in his cage, eyeing his spectator-tormentors. But they (we) are the ones caught in the spotlight. Who is afraid of what -- and why? What's worse, a slow sapping of life or the shock of utter emptiness? In certain respects that box might as well be a crucifix.

Meditative musings aside, there is nothing overtly religious about Blaine's fast. Nothing Christ-like about his 'sacrifice'. And thankfully no religious system has yet been able to 'claim' his presence. Quite the opposite. The cage is a voluntary non self-emptying, a none (sic) event, an exercise in purposeful fruitlessness. But perhaps that is exactly what it takes to expose the massive cruelty at the core of our palpably vacant agenda...

Comment on this post: FaithInSociety

No comments: