Tosun Bayrak's Love America or Live

1970 | 00:46:15 | United States | English | B&W | Stereo | 4:3 | 1/2" open reel video

Collection: Videofreex Archive, Single Titles

Tags: Art History, Documentation, Performance

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The Videofreex document a street intervention by Turkish artist Tosun Bayrack (b.1926). The performance was to become a notorious example of the element of "shock" in contemporary art. Within the work:

 a huge piece of brown butcher’s paper covering part of Prince Street in Soho was pulled back to reveal “piles of offal from a slaughterhouse, a copulating couple and other quite unsavory items.” The piece, which also included a naked boy covered in animal organs and the release of a sack of white rats, ended with a video collective dumping large containers of blood from the roof of 98 Prince Street onto a dancer below. (Ah, New York in the ’70s!)

— Jennifer Schuessler, New York Times 

When Village Voice reporter Nancy Barber reviewed artist Tosun Bayrak’s 1970 street performance Love America or Live she asked, “Could this be some major political-metaphysical-sexual statement to awaken the people? Or is it better to view it as form?” In this video, the Videofreex capture both the forms created by participants’ physical acts, as well as the confusion, playfulness, and absurdity of Bayrak’s performance.

Enacted on Prince Street in front of Paula Cooper gallery, onlookers crowd around the paper-strewn avenue to watch as lives animals, spilled blood, public nudity, uniformed police, and painted words collide in a mash-up of actions. This video, shot at street level and later from above, lends unique entry into the lived experience of witnessing such an event, while also capturing the general attitude of skeptical amusement that observers deployed when approaching conceptual performance and street art just as this type of art practice evolved and gained momentum in the U.S. 

Though an artist and professor of art in New York in the 1960s, Bayrak left the art world by the early 1970s to become an author, translator of Islamic spirituality, and Sufi sheikh.

Read More: Barber, Nancy. "Of Rats and Men" The Village Voice (November 12, 1970)