Shaye Saint John
by Chad Van Wagner
Performance art is one of those things that’s a bit like sex, drugs, or ambient music: In a lot of cases, what you get out of it is exactly what you put into it. Sometimes, however, you get something “back” that you weren’t really looking to get.
The idea/story/mythos behind Shaye Saint John is that she was a hot woman who was horribly disfigured in a car accident. As a result, she appears in public wearing this weird-ass, creepy as fuck mask, and hobbles along with clunky prosthetic legs and hands. Her mind appears to have sustained a bit of damage as well, as the numerous short films, bits of wisdom, and assorted clickables on her website can attest.
Now, whether or not Shaye herself (or her story) is who/what she claims to be is kind of beside the point. Despite (or, arguably, because of) a clunky web interface, there’s a palpable sense of eeriness, like an early David Lynch character somehow melded with a sleazy B-movie bad guy and one of those freaky, staring dolls you see in antique shops. The performance art/films/whatever have an odd sense of enthusiasm that would be ridiculous if not for some weird, genuinely batshit sincerity that takes me right back to being a scared-out-of-my-wits five year old sneaking a TV viewing of Night of the Living Dead at two in the morning.
Because that’s what it reminds me of. What will it remind YOU of? Who the Hell knows? Like I said, you get what you give (or, in this case, remember). This stuff ain’t everyone’s cup of tea, and the responses will range from laughter to rolled eyes to serious, goosebump-inducing disturbance. If art is the act of communicating what cannot be communicated in objective terms, this succeeds. Consider yourself warned.