Sensationalist, comedian, and gonzo provocateur, Sacha Cohen steals the show at the 2012 Academy Awards. Flanked by two buxom, pouty “bodyguards” in referent paramilitary garb replete with berets, Cohen strolled up the Red Carpet in his newest character – Admiral General Shabazz Aladeen. This spoof, a composite of various banana republic figure heads, festooned in regalia of the most ostentatious sort – the epaulettes, a diagonal silken sash, a ten egg omelet of campaign ribbons, eyes shielded by impenetrable sunglasses, head adorned with a captain's hat, and the entire visage of the face haloed with a beard of extraordinary masculinity – is the main character in Cohen’s latest film endeavor: The Dictator.
In his Oscar night stunt, an urn embossed with the photographic likeness of Kim Jong Il is carried up the red carpet, and the contents spilled on the host Ryan Seacrest. Seacrest good naturedly rolled with the stunt, as Cohen and his entourage were whisked away by event security. The inherent satire of the incident remains a divisive tenet among performance artists: what lines are not to be crossed. The basis of performance art is one of surprise and “out of sortness” – to conflate and perhaps challenge norms. Such is not new – from the Dadaists to the practitioners of Fluxus and other schools of performative artistry – doing non normal things becomes the paintbrush, and the normative environment: the canvas. The art really happens on the edge, and only on the edge.