Video still courtesy of Franklin Furnace Archive, Inc.

Interview on Performance Art (1995)

Martha Wilson discusses Franklin Furnace’s history as an avant-garde venue that presented political performance art during the culture wars in the United States. Wilson begins by explaining how performance art evolved from art movements such as Futurism (1909–1944), Constructivism (1915–1940), and Dadaism (1916–1920). She defines performance art as a medium that transmits conceptual thinking through live actions. Furthermore, Wilson discusses how presenting Karen Finley, Scarlet O, and Annie Sprinkle—artists who explore feminism, pornography, and sexuality in their performances—impacted Franklin Furnace during the culture wars. She notes how religious groups falsely accused the art organization of using government funds to show pornography to children. These accusations prompted the National Endowment for the Arts to rescind a grant awarded to Franklin Furnace. Despite the upheaval, Wilson proclaimed that “Until they cart me away in a straitjacket, I am going to continue to present performance art.” While Wilson advocates for federal art funding, she is critical of the government’s regulation of artworks that examine sex as a legitimate subject of contemporary art.