Chill Perth, it’s art!

A CABARET performer whose act involves graphic piercings of his body says he shouldn’t be linked to self-harm.

Damien Kenny’s recent performance at the Fringe festival cabaret El Bizarro had the Voice’s reviewer scrambling out of the front-row to the safety of the back seasts, and caused her companion to faint, prompting her to question whether it was really just too gory (“Too far?”, Voice, March 3, 2018).

But Kenny says he mostly found Perth audiences very responsive to the heightened drama of his live performance, while in New York’s famous Slipper Room where he performs, it barely raises an eyebrow.

• Damien Kenny performs at El Bizarro for Fringe. Photo supplied

Pondering whether Perth’s isolation may leave some in the audience a bit more sensitive to performances that take them out of their comfort zone, Kenny says his show is far safer than MMA fighting or boxing.

“My performance will never result in brain injury, sudden injury or death,” the former boxer told the Voice.

“In terms of my recovery … well, no MMA fighter can fight night after night, but I have done 26 shows in a row.”

A decorated navy veteran, WA-born Kenny says he started body piercing in the 1990s, starting with baby steps before working up to his current performance.

“No one is performing body piercing in the artistic way that I am doing it,” he says.

“It is a traditional sideshow act, but no one was creating art out of it.”

He says his mime, accompanied by music from artists like Nick Cave, is similar to ballet in that the audience can enjoy the spectacle without necessarily understanding the story on which the piece hangs.

But he notes it bares no resemblance to self-harm and has never received feedback that his performance has led to anyone hurting themselves.

In fact, he says many former intravenous drug addicts have approached him after the show to say that it was a cathartic experience.

“I liken it to a Vietnam veteran returning to the country to clean away the trauma,” says Kenny.


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