Actor James Franco Uses “General Hospital” as Platform for Performance Art

December 9, 2009 · Print This Article

Wall Street Journal.

Wall Street Journal.

Actor James Franco, star of Milk and Spiderman and other movies you’ve probably seen, is playing an artist right now on the soap opera General Hospital (I remember cutting school when I was a tween to come home and watch this show during its Luke n’ Laura heyday). For Franco, the guest-starring role, which is featured over 23 episodes, is a kind of experiment: an attempt to insert performance art into a long-running daytime serial.  Franco writes about the experience, and its relationship to performance art, in the Wall Street Journal this week. Don’t miss this article. It’s fascinating to read the perspective that a Hollywood actor brings to the types of performances that are enacted in other cultural spheres–the art world as well as the highly stylized narratives seen on daytime television.

An excerpt from Franco’s Wall Street Journal article:

“I have been obsessed with performance art for over a decade—ever since the Mexican performance artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña came to visit my class at Cal Arts summer school. I finally took the plunge and experimented with the form myself when I signed on to appear on 20 episodes of “General Hospital” as the bad-boy artist “Franco, just Franco.” I disrupted the audience’s suspension of disbelief, because no matter how far I got into the character, I was going to be perceived as something that doesn’t belong to the incredibly stylized world of soap operas. Everyone watching would see an actor they recognized, a real person in a made-up world. In performance art, the outcome is uncertain—and this was no exception. My hope was for people to ask themselves if soap operas are really that far from entertainment that is considered critically legitimate. Whether they did was out of my hands.”

I love this idea! Note to self: DVR General Hospital and check out Franco’s part. I’m not in a position to judge how effectively Franco’s appearances will work as performance art, because I think only regular viewers of the daytime drama will be able to judge how well it rubs against the rest of the narrative. So, if there are any of you out there who watch General Hospital regularly please email us at mail@badatsports.com and let us know what you thought!

Watch James Franco interview Marina Abramović about performance art in the WSJ video below (and learn more about Abramović’s golden cake piece that I so harshly ragged on a few weeks ago). And thanks for tipping me off to all this, Meg!

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