After winning the Green Room Cabaret Innovation in Form Award in 2017 with her first solo work GRUMBLE: Sex Clown Saves The World, Betty Grumble continues her feministing cabaret smash up with a show that makes women weep for the fact we can’t bleed, break, breathe
without getting it wrong or being inhuman, terrifying many audience members in the process. Love & Anger is a mantric wish towards the dream of a society of justice. A vulva variety of the highest order, a call to arms, a long hard kiss and Womanifesto. With The Melbourne Critique, this curious artist spoke inspiration, activism, hope and desire.
Introduce us to the world of Betty Grumble. What first led you to become a performance artist and where do you find inspiration?
Betty Grumble’s world is one of movement and pleasure. She adorns herself with laughter and colour;; she reaches out towards the light; she digs her feet into the dirt, gets muddy, submerges and surges dance floors. She’s a grinning, contorting fool for you. She is so serious in her silly séance that she often shakes herself completely free of this world, revealing me underneath. We’re always coming and becoming together. I became a performance artist because I believe in magic and the stage is where I am able to create ceremony. I find inspiration in our ecosystem, Gaia and other humanoids being brilliant. Gazing upon art – because everything is art – feeds, and I’m very hungry.
Let’s talk about the world. Now, in 2017, it is perhaps (in fact is) a rather threatening place. What are you doing as an artist to combat this, and what more generally does art give to the world that nothing else can?
I believe in Love Energy. I believe it is a renewable fuel. Each person is a whole world to connect with. They matter. It matters to live graciously and in harmony with the world around. Cynicism creeps in; its sibling is fatalism, and these vibes are fostered by a capitalistic greeding machine. What am I doing? I have dedicated my life to entertaining people, making moments that can hopefully galvanise, shake up, and provide some comfort or let the bastards know we can see them. Art gives the world hope. It traces our humanity, massages it, tears it up and reconstructs it. It can give us some respite and armour. It can make visible the invisible. It is sensation that cultivates consciousness. It can make us stronger so we survive. It can build up courage, it can fire synapses, and its ephemeral power transcends the very language it uses to define itself. It’s also fun, and what is life if not to have fun. BE FREE IN YOUR FUN. YOU ARE WELCOME. WE’RE CONNECTED.
This new performance, talk to us about it. What does it combat, communicate and give to the audience? What should we expect to walk away feeling and having just experienced?
Love & Anger is a deepening of the autobiographical nature of my shows. It is a rage-on, indulgent speaking in tongues, whirling smash-up of lived experience and re-invention. I use Valerie Solanas’ SCUM MANIFESTO as a kind of textual spinal cord to guide me through the flesh riot. The figure of Valerie, largely misunderstood, flawed and violent is the kind of ‘revenge shlock’ I align with how the music of Bikini Kill or L-7 makes me feel. Thrashing, wild fantasies that provoke and reach beyond those actions that we perhaps won’t take, but would be justified in doing considering the state of things. The Love & Anger offering weaves some of my intimacies in Grumble’s exercise in an exorcism of apathy. You will walk away knowing a little more about a person. You will have some visual art to cherish and the knowledge that you are not alone in it. We will also have made love, if you want to.
Away from the current state of play, have you noticed artists and the collective embracing a perhaps more political bent to performance? Why do you think this is?
Yes. I think the artists I am inspired by have always been engaged in a push-backery. Legendary Performance artist and Sex Clown, Glitta Supernova is currently touring a show called Body Map which is right on the money in speaking back to a world controlled by corporation and sex panic. The personal is political. Everything engaged is about responding to this mad, bad political world. We’re in the SHIT. We want to do right by other bodies; we gotta be strong ourselves.
Finishing off, is art a commodity or luxury perhaps that the world one day may be rid of, and what might that look like if it becomes a reality?
Art is life. It’s a luxury that we can afford to make it and see it. But when we collapse the idea that art only exists onstage or on a wall… we see that we are living it each day, with ourselves and each other. The absence of art is a fascist thing. Art can give voice to the voiceless. It can also be a boring corporate thing. What we know as true art is spirit, and that is life. Life without art would simply be lifeless.