It was a great honor to present the performance “Temptations in Fairyland” on March 16 in celebration of Leonard Greco’s exhibition “Fairyland” at Lancaster’s Museum of Art and History MOAH:CEDAR gallery. I was asked to create a short performance art piece taking inspiration from 19th Century Author, Gustave Flaubert’s novel “The Temptation of Saint Anthony”, a rather hallucinatory journey one night as the devil attempts to lure the desert hermit, Saint Anthony the Great of Egypt, away from his devotion to God. It was certainly a daunting task to undertake, but Leonard Greco’s work was so wild and fun, I could not resist (the temptation)!
Fortunately for me, an idea of how to construct a performance came to me in the midst of reading the novel, allowing me to merge both Greco and Flaubert’s work with that of my own unique experience and relate it to the rather unusual history of performance art. While I was glad that audience seemed so moved by the performance, I was exuberant that Leonard Greco was happy about it. Not only did he like it, but he wrote a lovely article about it in his blog, and he captured my essence as well. I have never heard of a Jongleur de Dieu before, but I have always seen myself as following the path of a Fool in service of a the greater mystery and divine powers of life.
I think he explains it quite well here:
“Temptations in Fairyland , Jason Jenn’s site specific performance piece, which delighted not one but two separate audiences last Saturday at MOAH/Cedar in Lancaster CA, immediately called to my my mind the Jongleur de Dieu, the prankster tradition of tumbling and juggling in order to best serve the Lord. Harking back to the early Church with Symeon the Holy Fool and his manic, mad pranks in which he cleverly brought the Gospel to a feckless and indifferent world, this enthusiastic tradition continues still. In relatively contemporary times, the late theologian priest Henri Nouwen has been described by his biographer Professor Michael W.Higgins as such. In referencing the trapeze artists The Flying Rodleighs and their impact upon the priest, Nouwen acknowledges his own place as a Holy Fool:
…the Flying Rodleighs allowed him to see his life as that of a Jongleur de Dieu, a Tumbler or Juggler for God. Although a medieval conceit-linked with courtly love tradition and the troubadours- the jongleur had a special, subversive and beatific function to perform.”
Genius Born of Anguish:The Life Legacy of Henri Nouwen, Michael Higgins
“Special, subversive and beatific” was indeed the “function” of Jason’s astonishing performance last weekend. Set in the middle of my Fairyland, I hadn’t known what to expect, I can say I hadn’t expected such a completely immersive experience-you simply have no choice but to jump onto Jason’s wild speeding train of boundless energy . I am a full throttle artist, I frankly do not know how to make art without giving my all; Jason is a brother, a comrade in this. His performance so complete, so fully committed to embodying Flaubert’s Temptation of St. Anthony, my own Fairyland and his own very personal understanding of performance art and its place in understanding how best to be a human. We as enlightened, gifted beings kissed by an unknown, unknowable god, God, spirit, power, have struggled with this from the very beginning, Jason, performing as the anchorite Anthony and as the ambiguously evil, delightful, seductive desert companion Hilarion tackles this conundrum with wit, wonder and moving pathos. I giggled between gasping, it was a dizzying, manic performance that delighted me at the moment and now a week later leaves me wondering how best to move forward.
Deep, deep respect to you my friend , Jason, your tribute meant so much to me.