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James Franco's latest art project: Getting compliments from Tennessee Williams' ghost

Offering yet more fodder to the morons who refuse to allow their minds to be penetrated by James Franco’s art dildos, yesterday saw the debut of Three Performances In Search Of Tennessee, James Franco’s latest conceptual piece exploring the barriers between celebrity and audience, real life and fiction, art and James Franco sitting on a stage pretending to talk to Tennessee Williams through a Ouija board. A one-off event for New York’s Performa 11 festival (scenes from which will supposedly go up at Paddle 8 sometime today), Tennessee was a three-act collaboration between Franco and video artist Laurel Nakadate based around Williams’ play The Glass Menagerie, with Franco and Nakadate acting as directors overseeing karaoke-style “auditions” for the play, but only after first holding a séance to “receive instructions” from Williams’ ghost. So how did it go, at least in terms of one person forcing a finite judgment on an intangible community experience that is forever ongoing, which is clearly ridiculous?

According to one such shortsightedly dogmatic reviewer, it was sort of rocky, but eventually saved in the end “thanks to some inspired, disastrous and scantily clad participants”—participants whose spontaneous auditions for roles in the play were revealed to be not that spontaneous after all, as most of them turned out to be fellow performance artists, thereby toying with and subverting the expectations of audience members who had never been to a performance art festival before. These took the form of various females arriving onstage to read close-captioned lines of dialogue opposite a video of Franco performing the role of the “Gentleman Caller,” with one female pretending to be so nervous that she stopped to call her mother on her cell phone, and another wearing nothing but a bikini and high heels (symbolic of the pageantry of auditions, or the sexist double standard applied to actresses, or something).


Male performers, meanwhile, read the closing monologue live—all of this while Franco and Nakadate offered direction and, at one performance artist’s request to help him recreate a “windy alley” and also make it look like he was crying, crawled underneath him “blowing his hair and spitting under his eyes." That segment of the performance culminated in Franco’s musical partner Kalup Linzy “singing the monologue in a long blonde wig and a very short neon green bathrobe of sorts, his voice alternating between an AutoTuned masculine pitch and overly feminine, soap opera-evoking shriek.” All told, a searing commentary on the inherent artificiality of acting and its dehumanizing effects. Plus, James Franco spitting.

Unfortunately, we’ll never know for sure whether Williams felt the same as the reviewer who believed this all did the "exceptionally heartbreaking Glass Menagerie epilogue justice." That's because the first-act séance, which received the majority of the pre-show attention, apparently came off like just a joke at the audience’s expense. Or, as always, was it? Franco, Nakadate, and a circle of 11 other "unseen sitters" were reportedly taking the Ouija board exercise “very seriously.” But as Williams’ messages from beyond were relayed from the medium, it turned out that “most of them were praise for Franco: ‘This is not about him, it's about you,’’” which the reviewer felt suggested it was all a prank. Which, it's either that, or just that by now even ghosts are familiar with the general thesis of all of Franco’s work.

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