Review: Andrew Tay’s “You can’t buy it (but I’ll sell it to you anyway) SUCKA”

by Liliana Guevara Opinska

Andrew Tay Photo by Andrew Tay

Andrew Tay Photo by Andrew Tay

Andrew Tay’s new work “You can’t buy it (but I’ll sell it to you anyway) SUCKA” premiered Thursday, August 13th, at the Betty Olimphant Theatre as part of a two-piece series curated by Tedd Robinson and presented at the festival “Dance: made in Canada| fait au Canada” (d:mic/fac).

You can’t buy it…” starts with Tay hopping on stage from an audience seat and addressing the dolls and teddy bears arranged on stage: “Did you come here to be saved?” “I can’t save you”. Next, Tay faces the audience and directs the same question towards us. He repeats: “I can’t save you”. Since he can’t save us his next proposition is: “Let’s party”. What follows is a confusing series of random attempts at what I assume was intended to be thought-provoking art.

Early on in the performance Tay undresses down to his briefs, puts on nude-colored panties on top, takes out a tube of hair gel and squirts some gel on his stomach. Next, he squeezes his stomach in such a way as to make the gel come slowly running down his crotch. At the same time he rubs his nipples and tenses his muscles. The action is loaded with sexual tension. It is slightly uncomfortable to watch but nothing more.

When this is done Tay takes off his nude-colored panties and a black curtain is rolled up to reveal two large, colorful signs one with “What the fuck do you want?” and another with “Text: 4——–5”. The audience is now able to anonymously inform Tay and everyone in the theater of their desires. Someone wants “the 80’s”, someone else “money”, another person “to get laid”. Other wishes include: “a new government”, “to eat Pekin duck” and “dick”. I want Tay to start spinning around. Unfortunately, he does not grant us our wishes, instead he insists with perseverance on what I suppose, is called dancing these days.

The pathetic comedy continues, the list of wishes grows to include: “seizure”, “innocence”, “less resistance”, “go further”, “there is a voice reading out the texts”, “is there a bathroom break?”, “to see what you see”, “the sweet release of old forms” and a number of other wishes I did not understand. In the mean time Tay starts to convulse on stage. He seems to be in excruciating pain as he slowly crawls back towards a microphone to let us know that he is giving us the opportunity to anonymously launch our desires out into the Universe (I’ll admit that this is a very generous offer and would have been an interesting project if better contextualized). The agonizing manner in which Tay offers us this opportunity (as if he, like Jesus Christ, needed to pay the dues of humanity) is confusing and takes away from the overall experience.

Tay insists we should “get deep” as he fishes for a beige baseball cap with testicles and a penis on it and puts it on. Someone in the audience wishes for Tay to “do a cartwheel”. He does not follow the instruction, instead he demands “more” all the while contorting and breathing heavily into the microphone. Then he stops to pose, plays with his feet and contorts some more.

After all this, there is nothing left for Tay to do other then to get naked, put a latex hand in between his legs and dance around, albeit not very skilfully, then use a Hawaiian skirt as a blond wig and eventually exit.

In a note addressed to the audience Robinson describes Tay’s work as intriguing and curious. I strongly disagree. Despite his best intention to be controversial and provocative Tay’s work is really quite trivial. I don’t like Tay’s work not because I don’t get it (that would have been a better alternative as it would imply that there is a depth to it that I did not grasp), I don’t like it because I get it and it really isn’t that clever.

You can’t buy it…” is a shallow piece, product of a desire to be “hip”. It is a not so original portrait of our “oh” so shallow, consumerist and pleasure-driven society. Yes, we get it, art is a mirror of society, sadly Tay does not  unlock any hidden life-secrets for us. Instead his piece seems to propagate the shallow trend into the realm of art.

“We’re going through a period where it’s so easy to turn anything into a spiritual event” Tay told Kathleen Smith during an interview for NOW Magazine. I would like to add that, unfortunately, we are also going through a period where it is too easy to turn anything into “art” and in the case of Tay’s new work “dance” (What is the difference between dance and performance art? Where is the boundary? Is there one? These are important questions that are still waiting to be addressed by the Toronto dance community.).

There are some positive elements to the work. The stage design is visually engaging for the first few minutes. The “make an anonymous wish to the Universe” concept could have been really interesting, if it wasn’t mixed with a number of random actions that completely undermined the potential value of this idea.

Tay’s piece brings to mind work by visual artist Tianzhou Chen. His recent solo-exhibition at Palais de Tokyo in Paris, was in the words of Chen, all about depicting the “collapse of moral attitudes and beliefs we see all around us”. Just like Chen, Tay’s piece puts the emphasis on shock-value as opposed to meaning, introspection or technique. Tay should keep in mind that to shock an audience in 2015 is really no small task. We are Internet’s children, we’ve seen it all, sex, nudity, drugs, decadence, you name it. As such running naked on stage is really not going to do it for us.

In conclusion, if I could make one wish to the Universe it would be: please save dance, in particular, and art in general from where works like “ You can’t buy it…” are trying to take it. And I do not make this wish anonymously.