Reclaiming the Trauma of ‘Clown Torture’

Artist Ondine Viñao offers a haunting, all-female take on Bruce Nauman.
One clown is endlessly doomed to repeat a rhyme. Another opens a door rigged with a bucket of water, getting soaked time and time again. Yet another eternally shrieks “No, no, no.”
Before Insane Clown Posse birthed a nation of Juggalos, there was artist Bruce Nauman, whose 1987 video art piece Clown Torture shook up the art world with its repetitive, unsettling, and deliberately grating vignettes of clowns enduring acts both humorous and agonizing.
Over three decades later, artist Ondine Viñao offers her own take on Nauman with Holy Fools, a 9-channel video installation that was on view at Lower East Side gallery Rubber Factory until this weekend. An all-female cast of clowns—Eileen Kelly, Rachel Fox, Jessie-Ann Kohlman, and Viñao herself—repetitively undergo their own forms of theatrical torment, which the gallery notes is inspired by the performer’s own childhood traumas, from sexual abuse to “the pressures to perform femininity.” It’s part sideshow spectacle, part exposure therapy.
by Cassidy Down Graves
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