The Flash and entourage are more than fashionably late in arriving at the autoMATIC art and performance space, which is located in an old warehouse at Ninth Avenue and Jackson.

It's a dark neighborhood teeming with dark characters. Ambient derelicts. They meander everywhere, in every direction, as if they have someplace to go. It's very Blade Runner. The silhouettes of a scruffy scrum down the block cannot be as foreboding as they appear. Perhaps they are, though. The doorman is holding a golf club.

We enter the big boxy edifice, which actually sports a blinking "Crack Land" marquee. A couple of hundred chairs are positioned flatly, in 10 or so rows, against a stage. It's all set far back from the door. The industrial concrete floor stretches away, gray and cold, toward the performance area. Very gray. Very cold. Coffee helps a bit.

We are here to see the very famous performance artist Karen Finley and her new piece, Shut Up and Love Me. She is notorious because she has a tendency to disrobe and smear things on her naked body. Her antics caused Jesse Helms to pass stones, and got her banned by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Finley's performance starts an hour late, but that's okay, because we're on Crack Standard Time. She lodges mock complaints about the help, the unmet sound and light cues. Finally, the red-maned maven bursts forth, bares her breasts and jerks them up and down to the beat of a Barry White torch song. She does some lap dances and rubs her nubile body on patrons. It's a real laff riot.

Then she gets up onstage and rants about her sexual frustrations and her Electra complex. She makes a lot of hissing sounds and animal sounds and screeching sounds. She makes several jokes about needing a grant.

She is brash and bold and beautiful and boring. It's so bad, it's interesting.

The Flash laughs twice, chortles once. Mostly, the Flash wonders how this barely clad woman was tolerating the incipient chill.

After a jeremiad about wanting to sleep with her father, Finley asks that someone bring out the honey.

Having neglected to bring our down parkas, the Flash and entourage are now shivering, physically uncomfortable and intellectually insouciant.

We are wusses.

We slip out into the shadowy jungle, earnestly debating whatever on earth Finley might do with honey.


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