Appearance as Value

Martha Wilson

1972, 01:50 minutes, B&W, English


The image I transmit to my audience is my ideal self, the self I am striving to live up to. Appearance is the performance of value. But as a performer I am more concerned with engineering the impression that my standards are realized than living up to the standards themselves. I am not concerned with which is more real, the fostered impression or the interior sense I attempt to conceal, but my objective as an active and therefore moral human being should be to make my appearance and my internal sense of myself congruent. This would involve either laying open all my activity to public scrutiny and admitting all “secret consumption”, or raising my backstage behavior to the level of performance, or moral behavior. The first tactic involves shame, the latter, effort. I reject both; my solution is to play practical jokes on myself, to engineer mock-serious disruptions of m projected definitions to keep myself in touch with the distance between my projections and my internal sense. This does nothing to alter the structure of perception, but at least it keeps the structure at issue. Simply airing this piece on appearance as value makes fun of my projected image of myself as a confident artist, while I assert that that is in fact what I am.

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