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SiteWorks: San Francisco performance 1969-85

Museum of Conceptual Art (MOCA), 75 3rd Street, now redeveloped

Tony Labat, Red Nail (1979)

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Elevation

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Labat nails a long pinky fingernail to the floor of the museum, tearing it off and leaving it behind. (Labat 2005: 198)

I was looking at the way the first generation of video and performance artists in California treated the body, and then struggling with the sort of emotional, psychological, and even political content that I wanted to bring into my work. That long pinkie nail was like an extension of the body, and there was a sculptural aspect to it – the maintenance of it, to care for it, and to see how long it could get. Then of course you had the cocaine reference to Miami, to the sort of Cuban image that people weren’t quite familiar with here in San Francisco. So that’s another example of a sort of abstraction that had a subtext. It brought a cultural reference into the minimalist, very formal kind of work that was influencing me at the time. (Labat in Phillips 2008: 150-1)