The definition of art is yet again blurred with the work of Berlin-based performance artist Mischa Badasyan. In his latest performance piece, Badasyan planned to use his body as a canvas and have a sexual encounter with a new partner every day for 365 consecutive days. He titled this piece “Save the Date,” and first announced his intentions behind the yearlong work in 2014.
Badasyan stated that his inspiration for “Save the Date” sprouted from the feeling of emptiness he associated with “hookup culture,” especially among gay men such as himself. He planned on using popular cellphone apps like Grindr to emphasize the relationship between sex and loneliness, a relationship he is already all too familiar with in his personal life according to Badasyan himself.
He also planned on using this performance piece to explore the philosophical idea of “non-places,” like supermarkets and airports, that perpetuate a “loss of identity.” These non-places are typically defined as public spaces where nobody pays any attention to individual identity, and they were the background setting to Badasyan’s piece. Badasyan decided to stage his sexual meet-ups in such “anonymous” places, which again reflects his own past personal experiences in reference to sexual anonymity. He believed that through hooking up in these non-places with anonymous partners, he himself will become a non-place.
Before this piece was conducted, there were obvious concerns about sexual safety both with Badasyan and all of his sexual partners; Badasyan explained that he would be working with a safe-sex organization that will supply him with any forms of protection needed, and that he has been tested for various STDS as well as HIV. Perhaps more daunting, however, are the emotional and legal ramifications of this performance experiment. Badasyan refused to inform his sexual partners of their involvement with his art piece, and therefore faced legal risks should they ever discover this news and decide to press charges.
Despite these risks, Badasyan was not concerned. If anything, the emotional vulnerability and violation is part of the project. He stated, “I don’t deny that it’s a big egotistic… it’s performance art, and a performance artist should always be pushing his own body and the performance.”
One year later, Badasyan has officially completed the performance piece he began one year ago. Upon being asked how it felt, he responded by explaining, “It has been a self-rape project which turned me into a machine.” He said that while he attempted to be open and honest to every date, he gave up after a couple of months and instead became a zombie with a goal to complete his project. At the same time, however, Badasyan states that he has never been more emotionally sensitive and inspired before. He does say that he is more afraid of physical rejection that he was prior to the start of the project. Nevertheless, Badasyan completed his quest of having sex with a different partner for 365 consecutive days, even having sexual relations with several HIV-positive people.
Badasyan’s art project is one of many that blurs the line between art and non-art. Can an underlying, deeper meaning behind the act of having sex promote it from physical satisfaction to fine art? This topic has been the debate of the performance art group for many years as artists come and go with sexual art of their own. For example, one man in London lost his virginity in front of a crowd of people as part of an art performance, and another man filmed himself having sex with a woman to be used in an art piece. These are just two instances in which people classify sexual acts as performance art.
Badasyan states that his performance piece was intended to exploit the feeling of loneliness and emptiness that is so often associated with hookup culture. He uses this explanation to connect sex with art, and it is the deeper meaning of the sexual encounters than makes it more than just an intimate moment. While some might argue that sex is sex, no matter what the meaning is, his broadcast and publicized nature of his endeavors and the significance of them make “Save the Date” an influential art piece that discusses the pros and cons of hookup culture. Through the use of sex to portray his stance on what he believes to be a negative subculture, Badasyan creates a lasting commentary that caught the attention of the world.