It’s hard to know if The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein doesn’t care in the slightest what anyone thinks of her and her work or if she is, on the contrary, the biggest attention and affirmation seeker in the world.
Her piece How to Become A Cupcake is a mix of both extreme arrogance and extreme self-deprecation capable of inducing absolute confusion. That’s not necessarily a negative thing: after all it’s not that often that a performance forces the audience to think this hard about its creator’s intentions. Full of derogatory statements about its own ‘appalling’ quality, the piece at the same time makes no attempt to look like anything more than a rehearsed endeavour, a train-of-thought trail of ideas.
The Famous sticks to her recognisable style, but still manages to deliver a concise if chaotic piece on what could broadly be seen as the commodification of the female body. The show is a collection of subverted pornographic images – the most memorable of which includes The Famous using a hairdryer to melt an ice-cream neatly and hygienically stationed in her vagina – as well as a series of choreographies to horrid pop songs (the rest of the cast spray can after can of whipped cream on The Famous during a rendition of I Want It That Way) and half-baked dramatic scenes, the main one of which combines Pinocchio with Frankenstein.
Together, these images, choreographies, and ultimately even the purposefully trashy production values all create clear associations of the treatment which the female body often receives in both the lower tiers of all things adult and, possibly more importantly, in the higher levels of pop culture.
Barri Holstein’s mood swings combined with the generally phlegmatic and bored attitude of everyone else involved in the show also helps to generate an atmosphere which suggests there’s nothing inherently thrilling or exciting in abusing one’s own body for profit and for others’ pleasure. To further emphasise the shallowness and hollowness that often encompasses fetishisation and commodification the show also includes its own live-tweeter – as long as the vocabulary is in superlatives, the clothes are off and the props (like the cans of whipped cream or the tutus the cast are wearing) are in place, all the boxes seem to be ticked; all that’s left is to ensure the most poignant details are zoomed in on, courtesy of a live-feed.
All these elements however also contribute to the aforementioned confusion. Was the show, as the author claims, really put on in just four days –or is this assertion just another way or emphasising the amount of thought it takes to come up with a porn gimmick? Is the constant self deprecation a convoluted way of putting on a persona, or is it actually – as it mostly seems – just a defence system against those who might find the close up of ice-cream melting over a shaved crotch off putting?
The level of trashy fakeness in the show seems to favour the latter over an honest disclosure; that in turn makes all the double-speech passages seem like an act of passive aggression towards the audience – who presumably might not be able to distinguish between actual commodification and its depiction or subversion. Strangely, the very character that drives the performance, that of The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein, also turns out to be the only detrimental force in it – as if she still hasn’t quite made up her mind about whether it’s acceptable not to piss anyone off with a show of this kind.