Tuesday, April 19, 2016


In performance art, the artist’s medium is the body, and the live actions he or she performs are the work of art. The term, used loosely at first, arose in the early 1960s as American practitioners sought a way to refer to and describe the many live events taking place at that time. Performance art usually consists of four elements: time, space, the performer’s body, and a relationship between audience and performer. Traditionally, the work is interdisciplinary, employing some other kind of visual art, video, sound, or props. Although performance art takes the form of live action, it has reached a large public audience through documentation of the performance.

RoseLee Goldberg wrote the first history of performance art, published in 1979. Owen Smith’s Chapter One of Fluxus: The History of an Attitude.

   In your response to RoseLee Goldberg’s text (primarily chapters 1, 3 and 6 and the forward) & Owen Smith’s essay —- how can you connect the dots so-to-speak from Futurism to Dada to Fluxus —artists using their bodies to create work?
o   All of these groups were once considered to be avant garde, leading in creating new kinds of art and ways to create or present it. Futurism provided the basis of forward thinking ideas about what could be considered art. Traditional forms of art such as painting began taking on these ideas, as they depicted movement and speed in many of their works, finally deciding that it had to be taken into a different dimension in order to convey their message:
o   “The gesture for us will no longer be a fixed moment of universal dynamism: it will be decisively the dynamic sensation made eternal” pg. 14 RoseLee Goldberg
o   Questions about what made something “art”, the legitimacy / value of “art” and the divide between normal people and artists arose, leading to the conclusion that it was mostly about amplified aesthetic & artistic autonomy. These groups sought to alter the barriers between artists and the rest of the world, that which was traditionally considered art and that which was considered ordinary. These considerations led to the kind of avant garde thinking within Futurism, Dada and Fluxus – which gave a means of transmission for these ideas through the body, in performance.

   What unites these artists during the 20th century? What were their goals? The goals may vary among the art movements but what were the main goals of artists using their bodies to make art? WHY did use their bodies?
o   Their goal was to liberate themselves from rational conventions and established social norms to become as active, aggressive, and dynamic as possible- the best way to do this was through the use of their own bodies, in performance. The separation between the viewer and the artist was taken away, and ideas were more easily transmitted.

   Was performance art a medium like any other medium for art? Why or Why not?
o   It allowed for a collaboration of many media and art disciplines, making it incredibly innovative at the time of its birth.
o   “The artwork that interested [Al Hansen] most, he said, was one that ‘enclosed the observer [and] that overlapped and interpenetrated different art forms” pg. 128 RoseLee Goldberg.
o   It’s impossible to convey the things performance can convey through more traditional methods with the same effect.
o   There is a separation with other art forms- there is no separation in live performance, shared experience.
o   Could be used to convey and confront cultural issues and be engaged with them in a dynamic manner.

·      What is “Conceptual Art”?
o   The idea presented by the artist is more important than the finished product

    Late Modernism and its primary critic Clement Greenburg, believed that Art was and should be completely autonomous (independent) from it social context of production. Greenberg emphasized that Art was about the medium and the artist’s role was as a visionary (read: genius)…and “art for art’s sake” - not for the public’s sake — Art should remain separate from life and the everyday — Would you say Conceptual art was a reaction to Late Modernism? Why do you think artists rebelled?
o   It is difficult to separate art from life when there is such a fine line there- is art life? Is life art? If art is meant to exist solely for its own purposes, why share it with the public? Especially with performance, the audience is a crucial part of the art- shared experience is integral. They rebelled because the power of art was in its ability to alter the practices of life itself. The idea of having art for art’s sake was pandering to the bourgeois idea of art and culture- they wanted to take it back.

   In 1970, the American artist John Baldessari cremated every painting he had made between 1953 and 1966, and promised not to make any more boring art. PLEASE WATCH:

   Why do you think it took so long for someone to historicize the “avant of the avant garde”? Why has performance art largely been left out? As we noted this week after watching the Guggenheim’s brief video about their 100th anniversary show of Futurism - the exhibition concentrated only on objects, paintings and sculptures.
o   Once again, bourgeois ideas of art and culture permeated how we thought about and valued performance art. It was not a high art until someone with money said it was. You cannot buy a performance and hang it in your living room, as with a painting or sculpture. There is no value for those who wish to invest in this kind of art. It is not an art that is for them, so they aren’t interested.

   Discuss at least one Futurist performance and one Dadaist performance. How would you describe these performances to your friends who know nothing about these movements?
o   Dada performances were nonsensical, staying true to their “primitive” name. They would often read poems with words that focused on the sound of the word rather than the words themselves- while in large, odd costumes. Nothing could be rationalized.
o   Futurist performances were not as prominent in the movement, as they usually just had manifestos outlining the ideas of the movement. The performances that did occur had the same sense of nonsense of dada, but took inspiration from the movement and speed they tried to depict in paintings. Lots of focus on sound- used huge machines and things to produce what seemed to be random sounds and noises, then labeled art.

   In the US — Living Art begins to emerge in the 1930s - why? (chapter 6)
   What is a Happening? Why is PROCESS more important than a final product or object?
o   Josef Albers said that “art is concerned with the HOW and not the WHAT; not with literal content, but with the performance of the factual content. The performance-how it is done- that is the content of art”
o   The notion of chance was important- allowing for intentional and non intentional actions in the work.
o   Al Hansen turned to performance in revolt against the complete absensce of anything interesting in the more conventional forms of theater.

   What are “chance operations”? Why was it important for Cage to include “chance and change” as part of the artistic process?
o   Unintended actions
o   Turning away from intentionality is a bold move against the art that had been created previously – he was interested in zen Buddhism and thought a lot about psychology, especially of seeing humanity and what that means in nature.
o   Goal is to create new awareness of actuality and celebrate these awarenesses-life is significant, life is art-art is life.

   Why is John Cage a primary influence as well as Marcel Duchamp? What does Duchamp mean by “retinal art”?
o   Retinal art is the use of selected & sometimes altered ready mades, as art. Both Duchamp and John Cage used forms of art that made art more accessible to a larger group of people.

Jackson Pollack made drip paintings using his body to drip and throw paint onto a canvas lying on the floor in the 1940s. Japanese artists and specifically the Gutai Group (p. 132) These radical artists wanted to break through boundaries - cultural, social and through the conventions of art. The Gutai Group was founded in 1954.
(throw away your paint brushes!!!)

   Yves Klein, Carolee Schneemann and Piero Manzoni all made work using bodies:
how were the works Goldberg describes on pages 144-149 — similar and different?
o   They thought about bodies in similar but different ways- for Klein, the body was the brush, but for others the body was the art itself.

       Who is Joseph Beuys? Where do his ideas about making art come from? Why do you think he made “Coyote: I Like America and America Likes Me?”
o   German artist that believed that art should effectively transform people’s everyday lives. Wanted to change consciousness & revoluntionize human thought.
o   Action & time are elements to be controlled & directed by human will

These readings are very important for understanding key concepts involving body art. In the artist presentations that are up-coming - INCLUDE these concepts you have read about. John Cage, Duchamp and the Dadaists were extremely influential in performance art. Without them — the work we are looking at may never have been made.

1 comment:

  1. Jessica -- Duchamp's comment about "retinal art" refers to art that is purely made for the EYE and not for the mind -- to be void of ideas - just the aesthetic -- as in "eye candy". https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bwk7wFdC76Y