Willow Smith spent 24 hours in a box as performance art


Willow Smith just spent 24-hours in a box. Like most people who spend an extended period of time in a box, it was for a performance art piece. Willow, who is 19, and her “best friend” Tyler Cole staged a rental event (meaning it was not a part of official curated programming) at Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art’s Geffen Contemporary. (Tyler and Willow are thought to be dating but they refer to themselves as best friends instead.) The performance entailed them acting out the stages of anxiety, over a 24-hour period, which began at 9PM last Wednesday. According to the LA Times, Willow has suffered from anxiety since she was a young girl. Her body would tense up so much from it that one of her vertebrae is shifted to the right from it. Tyler and Willow just recorded their latest album, The Anxiety. The experience proved so cathartic that once they were finished, the idea came to them for the exhibit, to “personify this experience.”. Thus was born the box installation.

Willow Smith is taking an artistic — and unconventional — approach to expressing her anxiety by holding a 24-hour performance art event from the inside of a glass box.
Beginning at 9 p.m. Wednesday, Smith and musical collaborator Tyler Cole will kick off a performance at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Geffen Contemporary in Los Angeles in which the two will visually enact the eight stages of anxiety.

According to the LA Times, Smith and Cole will cycle through stages of paranoia, rage, sadness, numbness, euphoria, strong interest, compassion and acceptance, staying in each emotion for three hours at a time.

While the two will not be speaking during the performance, Smith, 19, told the outlet, “We might grunt or scream — it’s going to be very primal.”

The 24-hour experience will allow the performers to break for periods of sleeping and eating as well as short bathroom trips, which should be no more than two minutes long.

According to the outlet, the non-MOCA curated event will let audience members watch Smith and Cole, 21, for up to 15 minutes at a time.

After exceeding the time, guests can continue to watch the show in a room with a live stream, where self-help books and donation stations for mental health organizations will also be available.

Smith told the outlet that the piece is “for a real cause” and not just about raising awareness.

“‘This is not so that people are like, ‘Oooh!’ This is for awareness,” she said.
“The first thing we’re going to be writing on our title wall is something along the lines of: ‘The acceptance of one’s fears is the first step toward understanding.’ So then you know this is on something real,” she added.

[From People]

At first, I got hung up on how this was not to raise awareness. But this quote in the LA Times from Willow answers that, “We understand this is a very sensitive subject. And we don’t want to be like, ‘Our experience is the experience.’ This is just us expressing our personal experience with this.” So the piece should be received as it is being advertised, as performance art. I like that they added the self-help books and donation stations, though. As art, it sounds interesting to me. I’d have to watch it on video though because I’m claustrophobic, and the confinement of the box is enough to trigger me. I also wouldn’t have it in me to stick around for24-hours to see the full piece, so I’d prefer on time-lapse. But I would like to hear what Willow and Tyler took away from it. Immediately following the performance, they’re releasing their album. Even if this piece is all just publicity stunt for the album, it’s still very creative.

Willow claims she’s ready for the criticism she’ll get for this piece because she’s been dealing with it for most of her life. I feel for her on that, but it also highlights how the Smith children can still somewhat miss the point. The criticism on this won’t be about her expressing her own experience, it’s the optics of isolating herself in a protected environment while she asks people to gather together in a small space during a pandemic to support an album concept.

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Photo credit: WENN/Avalon and Getty images

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9 Responses to “Willow Smith spent 24 hours in a box as performance art”

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  1. babsjohnson says:

    I love her. All 19-years-old miss some point here and there. She has substance and so much potential.

  2. Snowslow says:

    This is awesome. As an art curator and researcher married to an artist with a daughter who is studying to be a choreographer/artist/dancer/film-maker, I am very proud of Willow. Thanks for putting art, and performance art in particular, out there in a sea of Marvel freaks (I love Thor Ragnarok and Black Panther but I know there are other things out there unlike a lot of the people I’m surrounded by).

  3. Leslie says:

    Ridiculous and self indulgent. Their kids turned out so odd.

  4. Jules says:

    this is pure nepotism. if any other 19 year old pitched this idea to a museum, they would be told to go take a hike.

    but she’s so woke ya’ll.

  5. MDT says:

    Interesting how MoCA super clarifies that they did not curate the show and that it is an event rental. The establishment is NOT giving their stamp of approval to this piece 🤣

  6. Smacd says:

    Good for her. I’m not mad she’s able to use and abuse the system that’s rewarded boring, no-talent white people for years. If even 1% of us are able to do this, I’m ok with it.

  7. Yup, Me says:

    Good for her. We need to be creating and putting our creations out into the world. It’s very easy to sit back and judge, but you learn more about yourself by exploring and producing. Maybe people will connect with their commentary and get something out of it. I’ve been finding it intriguing how common it is for young people to talk about their anxiety in an open way.

  8. Cali says:

    She is so gorgeous.