An Analysis of the Performance Art “Lightsabers”

At first glance, “Lightsabers” appears to be a dull mockery of both its brilliant Marxist precursor “Cereal” and a poor re-enactment of the groundbreaking movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens; with further analysis, it is clear this performance is illustrative of how audiences debase that which is not fashioned of clever sound effects. “Lightsabers” appears to be childish play — a broken, futile attempt to recreate such a beautiful film such as The Force Awakens — but our scorn at such childishness and low production costs only reveals hidden inner truth: we retain hidden inner classism. Art that is created by the bourgeois ruling class is no revolution; only proletariat artwork is worthwhile — and yet, we fail to recognize the validity of such performance. “Lightsabers” both exaggerates the poverty inherent in homemade re-enactments of Star Wars and subverts audiences’ expectations of lofty, cutting class criticisms by switching from branded cereal consumption to a lightsaber fight. In such satirical exaggeration, Marxist truths of art’s worth are discovered.

“Lightsabers” and “Cereal” must be compared as separate entities; yet in their juxtaposition meaning is derived from “Lightsabers”. Without previous knowledge of the inherent meaning of “Cereal” — its conceptual elements of equality and its ultimate triumph over the status quo, questioning how inequality functions in the corporeal world — one cannot appreciate the value of the juxtaposition between the two. In essence, “Cereal” stands as “pure art” — that which is fully funded (e.g. via the consumption of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Darigold whole milk); in contrast, “Lightsabers” is composed of two viciously fighting bodies armed only with low-cost lightsabers, with the expensive cereals hovering in the background.

The inclusion of the bubbles is quite interesting: Murphy and McMurray set the bubbles on the table, yet make no action to blow aforementioned bubbles; although childishness seems inherent in the battle between Murphy and McMurray (due to the lack of effective weaponry) the lack of “fun” — conceptualized in the bubbles — is inherent in the performance. Murphy and McMurray maliciously battle; there is nothing childish or “playful” in the life-or-death scenario, yet we laugh in the face of the plastic lightsabers, again illustrating our inherent classism and inability to recognize true violence in a world of desensitization. In essence, such exaggeration of the loss of childhood — the bubbles — in order to participate in the rat-race of the modern art world — Star Wars: The Force Awakens — illustrates the meaning. In a complex series of juxtapositions and tools such as exaggeration, Murphy and McMurray potently demonstrate a decrepit world of class conflict and existential futility.

Marx remarked that “[t]he bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every activity hitherto honored and looked up to with reverent awe … [intellectuals] live only as long as they find work, and … find work only as long as their labor increases capital. These workers, who must sell themselves piecemeal, are a commodity like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all vicissitudes of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market.” Murphy and McMurray mock the state of the artist by re-enacting Star Wars; asserting that art has fallen in the hands of the bourgeoisie and no “true art” can exist within capitalism without an inherent proximity to the language of the oppressors — symbols, indirect references, illusions and constructions. Star Wars’ popularity is due to its proximity to bourgeois sensibilities; “Lightsabers” mocks such a popularity yet woefully mourns art’s state without such a proximity. Without a proximity to capitalism, art cannot be considered “great”, and “Lightsabers” is such an example in its dull exaggeration of homemade, low-budget re-enactments. Too, its inherent sadness within its demonstration of violence and the audience’s lack of response is a cutting illustration of modern class warfare and the despair of poverty.

“Lightsabers” is intimidatingly complex, yet accessible in its use of modern cultural references such as Star Wars (again, shocking the audience by its very use of such blatant capitalistic imagery). By illustrating classism and class warfare in such stark, exaggerated terms, we become aware of our own participation in the perpetuation of the mockery of the proletariat. Murphy and McMurray create an environment for self-reflection within “Lightsabers” with the eloquent use of exaggeration and Marxist criticisms.