Artist Martha Burgess invited Trestle-Gallery-goers to sit on cakes as part of her show ‘Performing Audience’

‘Let them seat cake!’: Artist

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They had their cake and sat on it, too.

A performance artist hosted a so-called “Cake Sit” at a Gowanus art gallery on March 7. Participants arrived with pastries in tow and promptly flattened them with their backsides. The artist who masterminded the event said those who voluntarily made a mess of their pants were in good company.

“The cake sitters ate cake in a flamboyant manner, joining the likes of Marie Antoinette, Tina Turner, and Beyonce with reckless courage,” artist Martha Burgess said, the latter two names referencing Jay Z’s controversial invocation, in his and Beyonce’s hit duet “Drunk in Love,” of a scene of abusive cake-smushing by Ike Turner’s character in the Tina Turner biopic “What’s Love Got to Do With It.”

Unmentioned but no doubt on at least one reporter’s mind was Sparky Lyle, the Yankee pitcher famous for his locker room habit of sitting on birthday cakes while nude.

The cake-destroying extravaganza was part of Burgess’ larger, ongoing Trestle Gallery exhibit “Performing Audience,” which is supposed to break down the walls between audience, institution, and art, according to Burgess.

For the sit-in, Burgess constructed a cardboard bench inspired by minimalist artist Donald Judd and watched as about 17 cake lovers, or haters, squashed the treats with reckless abandon.

“It was so fun — we had a really enthusiastic response,” gallery manager Mary Negro said.

The artist said she has always enjoyed doing unconventional things with food, especially because she was always warned not to play with it as a kid.

If there is symbolism in the cake sit, it can be seen in the smashed sweets, Burgess said.

“It may be like reading tea leaves,” she said.

“Performing Audience” at Trestle Gallery [168 Seventh St. between Second and Third avenues in Gowanus,, (718) 858–9069]. Mon–Fri, 11 am–6 pm, Sat by appointment. Through April 4.

Reach reporter Megan Riesz at or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her on Twitter @meganriesz.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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