Save the Date is a performance by Kathryn Cornelius that explores the life cycle of marriage and divorce and the wedding ceremony’s complex mix of private emotion, public spectacle, social expectation, and state power.
Date: August 11, 2012
Time: 10am - 5pm
Location: The Corcoran Gallery of Art
Event: Take it to the Bridge, Performance Art Series, hosted by The Washington Project for the Arts and The Corcoran Gallery of Art, a part of the Free Summer Saturdays at The Corcoran Gallery of Art
Follow on Twitter: @SaveTheDateDC
Every hour, on the hour, Kathryn will wed and eventually divorce seven suitors, six of whom will be personally selected by the artist from submitted proposals, and the seventh will be chosen by public vote.
The event will take place inside and outside The Corcoran Gallery of Art, with the entrance “bridge” transformed into a giant wedding cake upon which Kathryn and her suitors will stand atop.
During the wedding ceremony, officiated by ordained minister B Stanley (of DCAC), individuals from the audience will be asked to serve as members of the wedding party and witnesses to the marriage. After the obligatory kiss, the wedding party will have their photograph taken to memorialize the event.
The celebration begins as all enter into The Corcoran Gallery of Art for the couple’s “first dance, ” followed by a champagne toast and wedding cake in which all are invited to partake. Wedding party music will play for all to dance to in celebration as the couple ascends atop the wedding cake bridge.
As the music dies, the relationship will heave its final breath and death rattle; the couple will descend into the museum to meet their divorce lawyer and put an end to their time together. The artist will then meet her next partner outside the entrance for the next hour of wedded bliss.
There is hardly a grander spectacle of private emotions and public display than the wedding. Predicated on the unspoken connection of love and devotion between two people, “to have and to hold,” marriage is one of the oldest institutions upon which civilization and government (via property rights) locate private/public control. With the passing of Prop 8 in California, and more recent turns in North Carolina, the looming presidential race is already teeing up the topic of marriage in its political rhetoric as ideological artillery for the coming election. What better location than the Corcoran’s liminal space, in clear‐glass view of the White House, to stage a massive spectacle of the lifecycle of marriage and divorce?
As a child of one of the first divorced couples in my hometown, a long‐time supporter of LGBT equality, and an “aging” (soon to be 34) unwed woman, I am of a demographic that shares the myriad complicated, contemporary anxieties about the use and function of marriage in modern society. Laura Kipnis (in her 2003 Against Love: A Polemic) asserts, “love is the latest form of alienated labor.” Today’s idea of love and marriage is a historically new one; we labor to define ourselves through our choice of partner, and receive public (the wedding) and legal (the marriage certificate) approval of our private desire for companionship.
Various forms of media (e.g., Hollywood movies, television, self-help books, etc.) seethe with an underlying ideology that asserts the “right” age for a woman to be married, purports that a divorced person is a “failure” responsible for their loss of marriage and “flawed” as a result, and, to chose not to marry is to face the egregious fate of being deemed an “Old Maid” or a “Terminal Bachelor” in society. These notions are further complicated by a general anxiety towards same-sex couples as somehow defiling the institution of marriage. Yet as divorce entered the vernacular in the ’80s and ’90s, little has changed in the rhetoric toward heterosexual marriage’s “sanctity”; in 2011, the divorce rate in America for first marriage was between 45% to 50% (divorcestatistics.org).
Regardless of where you publicly or privately stand on these issues, it remains a fact that State recognition of union through marriage codifies whether you can attend to your partner on a hospital deathbed; literally, a piece of paper is the State signifier that says we can or can not hold our partner as they make their final passage into another state.
Let’s not get too emotional here; let’s save that for the performance.