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The Village Voice on BFA Fine Arts Alum Bettina Banayan’s Controversial Subway Performance Art

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Recent BFA Fine Arts graduate, Bettina Banayan, is well known within the Parsons AMT community for her fantastic performance, 100 lbs, during last year’s Parsons Festival “Crossing Screens” exhibition. In 100 Pounds, Banayan created dough to equal to her body weight, 100 pounds. This performance called out the way that consumption has become a spectacle. Food-based television shows, which portray a person cooking or eating–sometime excessively, such as in shows like “Man Vs. Food–are fitting examples of this.

The focus on food and food-based performance in Banayan’s practice has now been recognized on a mass viral scale, with videos of her subway performances being viewed over 370,000 times, and picked up by media outlets including Anderson Cooper Live, Buzz Feed, and most recently, The Village Voice.

Read the excerpt below and the full (and very interesting) article here.

Bettina Banayan in her home studio. Subway art, she says, "can change people. It can make people's lives better, even just for five minutes." Photo by Jena Cumbo

Bettina Banayan in her home studio. Subway art, she says, “can change people. It can make people’s lives better, even just for five minutes.” Photo by Jena Cumbo

Banayan ices a two-layer cake on the train as fellow commuters look on. Still from video by Vanessa Turi (Parsons BFA Fine Art '13)

Banayan ices a two-layer cake on the train as fellow commuters look on. Still from video by Vanessa Turi (Parsons BFA Fine Art ’13)

By now, the 12-minute video of Banayan chopping onions on the subway has been viewed more than 337,500 times. In the video, shot in early 2012, the diminutive, almost sprightly Banayan is clad in a sleeveless black dress. She has wavy black hair, a cutting board across her lap, a large onion, and the aforementioned cleaver. She chops away as the passengers on either side of her cast wary sideways glances and occasionally snap a photo.

“I wanted to look socially acceptable and trustworthy,” Banayan says cheerily, recalling the stunt. Throughout the performance, she adds, “Nobody said anything to me. Even though I was holding a meat cleaver, which was potentially very dangerous.

“Not that I’m dangerous,” she adds, after a beat.

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