Reading performance art

Week 4

Birringer, Johannes 1991. Video Art / Performance: A Border Theory. Performing Arts Journal 13(3): 54-84.
Aparici's bilingual video lecture simultaneously translates and disrupts the ideological terms of the on-going commodification of the image in a predominantly visual culture. His disruption is also aimed at the quotational vogue that seems to dominate the self-reflexive aesthetics of postmodernist art. (Birringer 1991: 58)
Translating and disrupting ideological terms. Ongoing commodification of the image. The quotational vogue. Self-reflexive aesthetics. WTF am I reading?
Each movement, each gesture, each pose: a pre-recorded video scene replayed to the knowing audience in a ritualistic celebration of the power of the fetishistic image. (Birringer 1991: 59)
A "postmodern" reading of Madonna's stage performance.
The desirable identification she offers the viewer in "Vogue" is not with her but with the numerous poses she borrows from Hollywood stars. In naming and copying her (female and male) sources, Madonna's self-parodic message proposes her own video model of appropriation itself, as her image track refers us simulaneously to the nostalgic aura of black and white Hollywood film and to the dance style of "voguing," a very recent black gay club phenomenon in which dancers imitate the gestures of movie stars and runway models. (Birringer 1991: 60)
So that's what it is. Now vogue...
Carolee Schneemann, commenting on her Meat Joy performance in 1964, explained that the active physicality of her body could reintroduce smell, taste, and touch to art to art and "at the same time transform and integrate any action or gesture of performers and audience: an enlarged 'collage,' to break up solid forms, frames, fixed conversations or comprehensible planes, the proscenium stage and the separation of audience and performer." (Birringer 1991: 63-64)
I suspect the academia.edu research interest "New" senses in art: touch, smell, taste originates from Carolee Schneemann. She is in my list of readings, too.
In fact, I would go so far as to claim that video became the catalyst for a new stage in the radical critique of representation which had exhausted the Dionysian energies of the rebellious 1960s and led to a dead end in most of the anti-theatrical experiments, the narcissistic and self-lacerating autoperformances and body works (Rudolf Schwarzkogler, Chris Burden, Gina Pane, Vito Acconti, Günter Brus, Stuard Brisley, Stelarc, Marina Abramovic). In some cases the performers tested the limits of their bodies and then transplanted their ideas about participatory performance or ritualistic action into the closed circuit environment in which the camera interacted with the performers/viewers, and placed them within the production process or, rather, inside the doubled process of viewing and being viewed (monitored). The demonstrative presentation of physical presence became provisional, a function of an interlocked gaze and a continuous dislocation between "real" and "live." (Birringer 1991: 64)
Actually the most comprehensive list of the main performance artists I have yet come across.
For Damnation of Faust, on the other hand, Birnbaum does notuse found TV images but shoots her own footage in a children's plaground. Her edited and alted images of the children playing, shown on several monitors set into the walls of a room that is painted red, create a quiet, elusive and poetic quality that grows deeper in resonance when the physical language of the young bodies (the children sit on benches and wait or fly through the air on swings) is perceived as movement and as communication. And this movement of expression, contained in the gendered behavioral modes of "playing" on the swings and enclosed by the fenced-in urban playground, comes to be see in juxtaposition to the sculptural construction of large photo stills (in the shape of a folding fan or arch) that depicts close-up details of the body language through which cultural codes of sexual, social, and racial difference are inscribed in the children. Avoiding the tautologies of media-based critiques of the media, this sculptural installation enables a more profound view of political culture by treating it not as a ready-made, but dissecting a microcosmic process in an innocent playground where the "disciplinary society" (Foucault) exerts its invisible power to train children and to exploit the loss of their innocence. (Birringer 1991: 80)
I like this description for some reason.

Jay, Martin 2002. Somaesthetics and Democracy: Dewey and Contemporary Body Art. Journal of Aesthetic Education 36(4): 55-69.
...aesthetic, or rather artistic, experience involves the whole body not just the mind and imagination or even the senses as receptors of stimuli from without. Dewey thus resisted the time-honored hierarchy that still subtended contemporary taste, which, so he charged,
tends to reckon as higher the finer arts that reshape material, where the product is enduring rather than fugitive, and is capable of appealing to a wide circle, including the unborn, in contrast with the limitation of singing, dancing, and oral story-telling to an immediate audience. But all rankings of higher and lower are, ultimately, out of place and stupid. Each medium has its own efficacy and value.
For politics, it was therefore perhaps the performative arts that were even more important than those devoted to building permanent objects for posterity, an insight that anticipated Hannah Ardent's well-known distinction in The Human Condition between man as homo faber and as political performer. (Jay 2002: 56-57)
"Homo faber (Latin for "Man the Creator" in reference to homo sapiens meaning "wise man") is a philosophical concept articulated by Hannah Arendt and Max Scheler that refers to humans as controlling the environment through tools." The wikipedia article this explanation originates from also drew the connection I did: "In Ray Bradbury's novel Fahrenheit 451 (1953), a character named Faber constructs a hidden radio earpiece that he uses to guide the thoughts and actions of the book's protagonist, Guy Montag."
Building on Dewey's argument, the contemporary pragmatist philosopher Richard Shusterman has proposed an ambitious project of what he calls "somaesthetics." Hoping to efface the distinction between the fine arts and mere craftsmanship and undermine the exclusivity of art as an autonomous institution, Shusterman praises Dewey for his willingness to "exchange high art's autocratic aura of transcendental authority for a more down-to-earth and democratic glow of enhanced living and enriched community of understanding." Noting Dewey's fascination for the body therapeutics of F. Matthias Alexander, whose system of upper torso exercises were designated to enhance breathing, posture and motion, he argues that essential to aesthetic experience is pre-discursive corporeal development. (Jay 2002: 57)
All around interesting stuff.
Perhaps the most disturbing moment in the Actionists assault on bourgeois sensibilities, and as it turned out not on them alone, came in 1968 at the University of Vienna when Brus and his colleague were asked to join a political meeting called "Art and revolution," devoted to the role of art in late capitalist society. In what became known as "Action 33," Brus, standing naked on a chair, cut his body with a razor blade, urinated into a glass from which he then drank, defecated on the floor and smeared himself with his own excrement, masturbated while singing the Austrian national anthem and the university song "Gaudeamus Igitur," and capped it all off by inducing himself to vomit. (Jay 2002: 61)
This is very much reminiscent of what is known on the webs as "Interior Semiotics", a disturbing performance which can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9lmvX00TLY

Abramović, Marina, Chris Thompson and Katarina Weslien 2006. Pure Raw: Performance, Pedagogy, and (Re)presentaiton. PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 28(1): 29-50.
THOMPSON: And also this idea in Marx, from very early on - it's a lot like Joseph Beuy's idea of "Everyone is an artist" - that the ideal society will be one where each individual could be his or her own artist. (Abramović et al. 2006: 30)
This is a neat idea. And it almost seems that something to this effect is starting to take place, via deviantart and tumblr or even facebook. But the problem is that with such individual massification of art, the concept loses almost all of it's meaning and may become a way of communalizing art, like "sharing" pictures in tumblr (which is nothing more than mere participation in it's profusion) or the instagram phenomena which enables one to coat every random picture with effects that make it look in some sense artistic. Otherwise it's a good idea and I imagine that in an ideal society everyone would be in some sense their own artist, creating their own aesthetic environment. The option to put your own selected image as a banner for your profile on facebook moves towards that, inasmuch as it is more individual than the option in rate.ee to choose "skins" (css templates) and pay for it.
Finding your own function, and then fulfilling that purpose, is very important. (Abramović et al. 2006: 32)
Right you are, miss Abramović.
The performance is a process. The public as well as the artist has to go into it. They must meet in a completely new territory, and build from that timeless time spent together. That's very important. Because you need that time so that something can really happen as a performer. But the public also needs time for something to happen to them. Because they need time to adjust. I'm totally against all these short performances - two minutes, three minutes. It's really feeding an audience who doesn't have time. I don't have time in my life, but I have time in my performance. I always have time in my performance. (Abramović et al. 2006: 34)
I remember her remarking about something similar in an earlier interview, about being-there, making a connection with the audience. The requirement of time to adjust seems valid, as the audience needs to get to know what it's getting into. In street performances this aspect is lacking, bringing about situations in which people really don't have time to pay attention and may come up to insult the performer for intruding into his routine. I once had an experience in the public space, walking past the mall with my girlfriend when a guy was yelling something with a megaphone. I turned to my girlfriend to say something sardonic addressing the megaphone guy to the effect of "you should shut the fuck up", not knowing that the guy with the megaphone had closed in on me and by the time I was saying this was right beside me. It really did shut him up, but insulted him in the process. He happened to hear something that was addressed to him but not said to him.
THOMPSON: We had read a couple of texts for that week's class, and each week a group of students, four or five of them, leads a discussion. So they decided how we'll talk about it. They said that, instead of me teaching, what they were going to do was this: They would read one passage aloud, then we'd take five minutes to just sit. And then after that, anybody could talk. But after each person talked, we had to wait a full minute before anyone spoke or responded, and continued the entire class in this manner. (Abramović et al. 2006: 34)
This sounds great! Like giving time to digest what is read or heard.
THOMPSON: ...if you have to sit for a minute, then you have to decide what's worth saying. You're also cognizant that after you're done, no one else can talk for a full minute, so you have truly to measure what you say. (Abramović et al. 2006: 35)
It was an essay by Gilles Deleuze, called "Mediators", which they read.
ABRAMOVIC: ...So we are going to invite you. We can talk, we can attack you, you have to defend.
THOMPSON: Defend for real, or just with words?
THOMPSON: I always thought it would be nice to have a bit more physical struggle present in academia.
(Abramović et al. 2006: 35-36)
I'm starting to like this Chris Thompson.
Also within the structure of the academy, there was this attitude that students are not supposed to show their work outside of the academy. I totally disagree with this. I think that is you absolutely think that you have a good idea, it should be shown regardless of your age or the limits of your study. (Abramović et al. 2006: 37)
I couldn't agree more. Currently I'm struggling with the face that I am merely a BA and can't apply for many neat scholarships that would let me travel around, meet others in my field and improve my work, because the understanding is that your work only becomes important when you're already in the MA. In a word, conformism: the structure of an ideal student is layd out so if you want to accelerate, you can't, because there are all these procedures that are set in place to hold this back.

Keidan, Lois and Daniel Brine 2005. Live Art in London. PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 27(3): 74-82.
In the UK the term "live art" is understood not so much as a description of a singular practice or discipline, but as a cultural strategy to include a catalogue of processes and practices that might otherwise be excluded from more establöished curatorial, cultural, and critical discourses: a strategy - or approach - that acknowledges ways of working that do not sit easily within received structures and strictures, and that privileges artists who choose to operate across, in between, and at the edges of more conventional artistic forms. Live art is, in other words, a framing deviden for artists whose work is rooted in a broad church of disciplines but are, albeit in a plurality of ways, making art that invests in ideas of process, presence, and experience as much as the production of objects or things; art that is immediate and "real;" art that wants to test the possible and permissible limtis of "liveness." (Keidan and Brine 2005: 74-75)
An apt formulation that lends itself easily to semiotic vocabulary. The rest of the article, I'm sorry to say, falls very much short of the initial premise but rather promotes some Agency's doings. It is filled with sentences like: "The opportunity to collaborate with Tate Modern in locating live art practices and discourses within one of the world's most influential cultural institutions represented a significant sea change in the position of live art within London and in the advancement of its critical and popular currency."

Week 5

Phelan, Peggy 2004. Marina Abramović: Witnessing Shadows. Theatre Journal 56(4): 569-577.
A significant aspect of the US-based performance art of the early 1970s defined itself in opposition to the commodity based art market. Attempting to create art that had no object, no remaining trace to be sold, collected, or otherwise "arrested," performance artists of the seventies were working against the accumulative logic of capital. (Phelan 2004: 570)
A valid point.
Great art accumulates relevance and meanings as it moves beyond the control of its creators; weak art decides in advance what the piece is about. (Phelan 2004: 571)
Words that could just as well be applied to academic work.
Each day the artist wore a different color linen jacket and trousers. A metronome was also usually clicking throughout the performance. Whether one calls it environmental theatre or social sculpture, House extends something of the repetition and serialization at work in Warhol's Shadows into the realm of live art. While Warhol was operating within the economy of the object and setting up repeating copies of the same image, Abramoviç was theatricalizing the repetitive everyday acts of sleeping, showering, elimintaing waste, and sitting at a table. But these acts, each perhaps an homage to the quotidian, did not render the performance a literal treatment of these common acts. On the contrary, the symbolic and metaphoricla associations were dense, ranging from Kafka's Hunger Artist to the prayerful acts of a Sufi mystic. The accumulcation of associations and meanings people brought to beat on the art quite literally added to its energetic force. (Phelan 2004: 574)
define:quotidian - "Of or occurring every day; daily." or "Ordinary or everyday, esp. when mundane."
Performance remains a compelling art because it contains the possibility of both the actor and the spectator becoming transformed during the event's unfolding. People can often have significant and meaningful experiences of spectatorship watching film or streaming video. But these experiences are less interesting to me because the spectator's responses cannot alter the pre-recorded or the remote performance, and in this fundamental sense, these representations are indifferent to the responses of the other. Interactivity holds more promise, but thus far most of the technology delimits in advance the kinds of interactions possible between audience members and performers. (Phelan 2004: 575)
A relevant piece of the puzzle of performance art: the performer's and audience's copresence makes the latter's responses a possible source for alterations in the performance. The theater-goer is a spectator or viewer, the performance audience is interacting with the performance.
If Levinas is right, and the face-to-face encounter is the most crucial arena in which the ethical bond we share becomes manifest, then live theatre and performance might speak to philosophy with renewed vigor. So far the language of this conversation has been largely nonverbal. Becoming fluent will require practice, patience, humility, and the recognition that the social body, like our own all-to-human body, is both stronger than we guessed and unbearably tender. (Phelan 2004: 577)
Noice. The reference goes: Emmanuel Levinas, Ethics and Infinity: Converstions with Philippe Nemo, trans. Richard Cohen (Pttsburgh: Duquense University Press, 1985). [utlib]

Cheng, Meiling 2001. Cyborgs in Mutation: Osseus Labyrint's Alien Body Art. TDR 45(2): 145-168.
In this country [U.S.], staging a live action in even the remotest public sites requires a government permit and exorbitant insurance, obstacles not encountered during osseus labyrint's international tours. (Cheng 2001: 147)
Hmm... This is the first piece that brings up this issue.
In conceptual terms, I regard the performance of THEM as beginning with the dissemination of the postcard that invites audience participation. By calling the information line, which urges callers to reconnect at a later date - preferably an hour before the designated event - potential specators are enmeshed in a psychic theatre that attracts their consensual actions with a promise tantalizing in its mystique. Since there is no advertising for THEM other than the postcard itself and since the performance is free and its site unusual, callers tend to recruit themselves as messengers who carry the clues to a treasure hunt. Word of mouth spreads among potential viewers like self-generated rumors hatching a cult. The condition of the exchange - free admission for volunteering as extras in a film - further heightens the excitement, especially in a city where being in a movie is as easy as eating a takeout pizza - always easy, yet always delicious. The contingency that occurs on the date of the event offers a serendipitous plotline that tests the performers and entertains the audience. But a central player in this matrix is the environment of the Los Angeles River and the multiple sensory stimuli it provides - before, during, and after the anticipated performative action. (Cheng 2001: 147-148)
In short, the key for a successful performance is building an atmosphere of excitement.
This formal language deeloped collaboratively by Sim and Steger starts with the visual design of their stage present - skin as uniform: the standard costume for the couple is their naked and clean-shaven bodies. Their convention of not wearing clothes in performance emulates the natural state of nonhuman animals, while reinforcing the ethological dimension of their choreography. The two artists not only move but "dress" like beasts, fish, fowls, insects, or microbes - covered by nothing but that with which they were born. (Cheng 2001: 150)
Here the use of naked body is actually somehow justified, in contrast with some feminist acts which give no justification but simply imply "I'm a woman, look at me."
Stegner mentioned that "labyringht" also has an evolutional implication. In our email correspondence, he cites a stetement from the well-known palontologist Stephen Jay Gould as an inspiration for osseus labyrint's art: "the history of life is a labyrinth, not a ladder of progress" (Steger 2000).
The current usage of "osseus labyrint" came about becuase of an incident in their 1990 tour to Czechoslovakia, where the local press happened to drop the "h" from "labyrinth". Sim and Steger decided to accomodate the accidental slippage. This choice in response to a chance incident exemplifies the artist's affinity for mutation. After all, what is mutation if not a radical alteration through chance or through design? (Cheng 2001: 151)
I like this mindstate, this affinity for mutation.
For lack of an existing vocabulary pertinent for my purpose, I have coined the term "homi-xenology" to analyze osseus labyrint's alien body art. My neologism accounts for the transitory fusion of two mutually alien forms: the body of the human performer ("homi," an inflected prefix derived from the Latin "homo") that absorbs the postures, gaits, proportions, behaviors, and imagined psychic states of other spaces ("xenology," from the Latin "xeno" and "logy.") In essence, homi-xenology is a free-ranging creative method that draws inspiration from the biological, scientific, and fantastic worlds in order to extend the performing body's capacity as an instrument for corporeal ornamentation; it molds the human physique to create instant flesh sculptures that embellish the space. (Cheng 2001: 154)
I do love it when jargon in coined (as opposed to cases in which jargon is merely used).
Indeed, I observed some shortcomings in Mac Beth, especially in the areas of vocal delivery, characterization, and the semiotic precision concerning the pairing of verbal and physical languages. (Cheng 2001: 160)
I find it interesting that this author conceptualizes "semiotic precision" in the relationship of verbal and "physical" (nonverbal).

Graver, David 1995. Violent Theatricality: Displayed Enactments of Aggression and Pain. Theatre Journal 47(1): 43-64.
Among the performing arts, which include dance, music, acting, stand-up comedy, magic tricks, and gymnastic exhibitions, performance art may highlight more than most the raw immediacy of performative activity, but it has no monopoly on this immediacy. I think we should resist the temptation to label an activity performance art simply because the immediate presence of the artist is more palpable than any exchange of signs or appeals to representational conventions. When John Cage sits in silence before his piano keyboard on the stage of a concert hall for a predetermined lenght of time, he is performing a rather unusual type of music. The point is lost if we focus solely on the fact that he is performing. (Graver 1995: 44)
define:palpable - "Able to be touched or felt." The distinction between performing arts and performance art is neat.
The realms of presentation and representation themselves create an analogous dichotomy between the visible and invisible in that the spectators actually see only the bodies presented on stage but usually construct within their minds' eyes the represented world by virtue of the invisible conventions of representation that link particular physical images and gestures with particular implicit significances. (Graver 1995: 46)
I think this dichotomy of presentation and representation should be reviewed in light of Goffman's methodological dramaturgy: e.g. where is the aspect of representation in the presentation of the self?
Despite the power of words to rename anguish and brutality, however, if bodies are burning in a sufficiently intimate or unregulated theatrical situation, the victim's withering flesh will make its own arguments. Although violence can disguise itself as meaning and join the semiotic transactions on the stage, its presence generally threatens both to escape the meaning assigned to it and to disrupt the delicate balance theatricality establishes between the ontological priorities of display and enactment. (Graver 1995: 48)
It is quite interesting how different authors (here a literary scholar) understand and use the word "semiotic": always conjoined with something else, in this case, "transactions". And again, the semiotic aspect here has to do with the relationship of words and brutality or between violence and it's meaning.
For Artaud display and enactment continue to have meaning; bodies continue to be transformed into signs. Artaud does not wish to cut off discourse so much as expand and redirect it. By writing in space with the bodies of the actors or, more generally, with the materiality of spectacle and performance, Artaud wishes to make metaphysical stateements that lie beyond the capability of purely linguistic communication. (Graver 1995: 48)
This is a very powerful metaphor: (theatricality is) writing in space with the bodies of the actors. By way of analogy, our everyday life is writing in time and space with our bodily behaviour.
In place of being bothered by the pain, of allowing it to engulf and obliterate every other aspect of the world, Fakir transforms it into a tool for various somatic and psychological experiments. Pain is, for him, a way of altering his consciousness and his dientity. It is also a way of concentrating energy within the body, savoring the narcotic release of endorphins, or initiating an out-of-body experience. Pain becomes for Fakir an interiority deeper than the self. (Graver 1995: 52)
A contrasting view of pain to that of Elaine Scarry.
By distancing themselves from the discourse of Western theatrical performance, Fakir and SRL magnify the material impact of their theatrical performances. The audience must face their spectacles without being able to transform them into manageable meanings. The spectator's eye has little hope of being the eye of knowledge that controls through understanding what it takes in, yet it also cannot ignore what it sees. The standard rewards of aesthetic spectatorship are violated. (Graver 1995: 63-64)
This could just as easily apply to the performances in the last article (Them). In short, performance art creates spectacles that do not give ready-made significance to the spectators.

Bishop, Claire 2004. Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics. October 110: 51-79.
The curators promoting this "laboratory" paradigm - including Maria Lind, hans Ulrich Obrist, Barbara von der Linden, Hou Hanru, and Nicolar Bourriaud - have to a large extent been encouraged to adpot this curatorial modus operandi as a direct rection to the type of art produced in the 1990s: work that is open-ended, interactive, and resistent to closure, often appearing to be "work-in-progress" rather than a complete object. Such work seems to derive from a creative misreading of poststructuralist theory: rather than the interpretations of a work of art being open to continual reassessment, the work of art itself is argued to be in perpetual flux. (Bishop 2004: 52)
This reminds me yet again of Mathiesen's "The Unfinished" (now applied to art), and the central notion of "mutation" in one of the previous articles.
For instance, Bourriaud argues that art of the 1990s takes as its theoretical horizon "the realm of human interactions and its social context, rather than the assertion of an independent and private symbolic space" (RA, p. 14). In other words, relational art works seem to establish intersubjective encounters (be these literal or potential) in which meaning is elaborated collectively (RA, p. 18) rather than the priatized space of individual consumption. The implication is that this work inverses the goals of Greenbergian modernism. Rather than a discrete, portable, autonomous work of art that transcends its context, relational art is entirely beholden to the contingencies of its environment and audience. Moreover, this audience is envisaged as a community: rather than a one-to-one relationship between work of art and viewer, relational art sets up situations in which viewers are not just addressed as a collective, social entity, but are actually given the wherewithal to create a community, however temporary or utopian this may be. (Bishop 2004: 53-54)
define:wherewithal - "The money or other means needed for a particular purpose." The tendency of relational art seems to me to be possible to sum up in a word: contextualizing. The work of art is contingent upon the social situation, the cultural context, the chronotopic characteristics of the individuals participating in it etc.
It is important to emphasize, however, that Bourriaud does not regard relational aesthetics to be simply a theory of interactive art. He considers it to be a means of locating contemporary practice within the culture at large: relational art is seen as a direct response to the shift from a goods to a service-based economy. It is also seen as a response to the virtual relationships of the Internet and globalization, which on the one hand have prompted a desire for more physical and face-to-face interaction between people, while on the other have inspired artists to adopt a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach and model their own "possible universes" (RA, p. 13). This emphasis on immediacy is faimiliar to us from the 1960s, recalling the premium placed by performance art on the authenticity of our first-hand encounter with the artist's body. (Bishop 2004: 54)
This makes a whole lot of sense: in the internet-times (IT) where the traditional aesthetic experience is so available (only a few clicks away), people desire the artistic experience of before-internet-times (BIT) in a fashion that would excite their sense of what is possible IRL.
...Tiravanija built a wooden reconstruction of his New York apartment, which was made open to the public twenty-four hours a day. People could use the kitchen to make food, wash themselves in his bathroom, sleep in the bedroom, or hang our and chat in the living room. The catalog accompanying the Kunstverein project quotes a selection of newspaper articles and reviewers, all of which reiterate the curator's assertion that "this unique combination of art and life offered an impressive experience of togetherness to everybody." (Bishop 2004: 57)
Yup, new possibilitites.
The theoretical underpinnings of this desire to activate the viewer are easy to reel off: Walter Benjamin's "Author as Producer" (1934), Roland Barthes's "Death of the Author" and "birth of the reader" (1968) and - most important in this context - Umberto Eco's The Open Work (1962). (Bishop 2004: 62)
Somehow I notice a semiotic tendency in these theoretical underpinnings.
Sierra's return to the Venice Biennale in 2003 comprised a major performance/installation for the Spanish pavilion. Wall Enclosing a Space involved sealing off the pavilion's interior with concrete blocks from floor to ceiling. On entering the building, viewers were confronted by a hastily constructed yet impregnable wall that rendered the galleries inaccessible. Visitors carrying a Spanish passport were invited to enter the space via the back of the building, where two immigration officers were inspecting passports. All non-Spanish nationals, however, were denied entry to the pavilion, whose interior contained nothing but gray paint peeling from the wall, left over from the previous year's exhibition. The work was "relational" in Bourriaud's sense, but it problematized any idea of these relations being fluid and unconstrained by exposing how all our interactions are, like public space, riven with social and legal exclusions. (Bishop 2004: 73-74)
I've read the Spanish Pavilion being mentioned, now I undestand why - it's kinda outlandish. The remark about social and legal exclusions in the public space and indeed all our social interactions, seems a valid one.

Week 6

Dickie, George 1975. What Is Anti-Art? The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 33(4): 419-421.
Recently I have tried to begin thinking about art in a different way. Instead of focusing attention on particular works of art with an eye to seeking a generalization by way of abstracting the observable characeristic or characteristics they have in common, I have attempted to focus on the social framework in which particular works are embedded and arrive at an instutitonal conception of art. (Dickie 1975: 419)
I think this "institutional approach" has become a part and parcel of today's art theory. In 1975 it might have been new, but now it is a historical approach.
..."anti-art" is sometimes used to refer, not to objects, but to the actions of "artists." Harold Rosenberg cites the case of the New York artist Vito Acconti who "periodically notifies the art-world, by mail, that on certain dates he will mount a stool in his studie x number of times and that this 'work' may be viewed at the designated hours." This artist also produced such other "works" as counting his pulse beats and moving the contents of his apartment to an art gallery. (Dickie 1975: 420)
Thus, Dickie understands performance art to be anti-art.
There are then at least four different kinds of anti-art: 1) art in which chance plas a part, 2) art which has strikingly unusual content, 3) "ready-mades," and 3) actions by "artists" which do not result in any object-product. (Dickie 1975: 420)
An elaboration of what he means by "anti-art".
Let us now consider the anti-art of Acconci and friends. These "artists" go Duchamp one better: they perform an action and make a declaration but do not "produce" (that is, end up with) an object which in any way resembles traditional paintings or sculptures. The only thing left to do (and there is a high probablity that it has already been done) is for an "artist," call him "Zero," to make a declaration and not do anything. [...] The possibility I suggested of Zero's declaring and doing nothing amounts to a mere exercising of the machinery of the artworld. [...] Acconci's and Zero's "art" is real anti-art: art because they use the artworld, anti because they do nothing with it. Aconci and Zero are "artistic bureaucrats" in one sense of the abused term "bureaucrat," that is, they occpy a niche in an institutional structure but do nothing which is really productive. If all artists "produced" only anti-art, that is, were anti-artists, then Hegel's prophecy would be fulfilled - art would be dead. (Dickie 1975: 421)
Finally a person who is against performance art, but only because at the time perhaps there wasn't a good conception of performance art yet. Later performance artists took pride in not producing any objects, aside perhaps from documentation, which - really - isn't anything like traditional painting or sculpture. Essentially, Dickie saw art without objects - so-called "immaterial art" - as anti-art that would kill art. He did not forsee that this form of art could be much more productive than traditional art, exiciting enough to survive the coming of the information age which makes traditional painting and sculpture out to be a relic of bygone ages as it is.

Scalafani, Richard J. 1975. What Kind of Nonsense Is This? The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 33(4): 455-458.
Although diverse and self-consciously chaotic, "works" of conceptual art can be grouped very roughly in three categories. I will catalogue various pieces within each of these categories in some detail, for the weight of my argument against the alleged seriousness of the movement will rst at least in part on the poverty of individual accomplishments. The predominant category in terms of sheer numbers consists of works and activities which are radical to the extreme. Chris Burden, under the sponsorship of the Los Angeles County Museum the Rico Mizuno Gallery of Los Angeles, and dealer Ronald Feldman of New York, has had himself shot in the arm with a .22 rifle, crucified to the top of a Volkswagon with real nails driven through his palms, nearly electrocuted on a garage floor, and has filmed himself crawling bare-chested over fifty feet of broken glass in a parking lot. Piero Magnoni sent cans of his own excrement to his Milan gallery labeled "Mierda d'Artista." Vito Acconci, commissioned by galleries and private collectors, has done a work consisting of biting himself over his whole body. In another work, he has masturbated under a ramp while gallery visitors walked over it, and in yet another, he has exhibited his penis dressed in doll's clothing. Collectors have paid as much as $2,000 for photographic documentations of these events. Robert Barry closed an Amsterdam gallery for two weeks claiming that to be his entire show. Ray Johnson sends letters and postcards to people. Mel Bochner measures the growth of plants, the size of museums and galleries, and other things. The list of these works goes on and on. (Sclafani 1975: 455)
The tone of this author indicates that he is not amused. I find these diverse and self-consciously chaotic acts very interesting. Even more so that not all of these are mentioned by various later reviewers - the information is always partial. For example, the Volkswagon-crucification but was said to be a farse by Abramovic (many performances were staged - documented, but not done). The "mierda d'Artista" I find interesting as a local artist Jaan Tooming has done something similar and lately became a news issue as one of his jars of excrement was stolen from the gallery and presumably smashed to the ground near it. Vito Acconci's penis-puppetry is news to me, although I know about his Seedbed that he was at the same time talking about what he'd like to do with the people in the gallery (or something to that effect). And lastly, Robert Barry's act is very much like the "Zero" described by Dickie in the same issue of this journal.
In "Stating and Nominating" (CH-101, 5, 1971), Ian Burn and Mel Ramsden discuss "propositional modalities," "semiotic ground rules," syntax, and other matters pertaining to the nature of art as they see it. (Sclafani 1975: 455)
An unexpected place to meet semiotics.
I begin with a familiar point which may at first appear merely sociological but actually has deeper philosophical import. When Duchamp presented his urinal, he was already an established artist. Thus, the significance of Duchamp's act cannot be divorced from its particular historical context, including his previous work as an artist. And the success of his statement cannot be divorced from the measure of uptake he was able to secure from the artistic community of his day simply because he was Duchamp. (Sclafani 1975: 456)
A valid point. In many a case in my readings on performance art I have speculated about this - how the reception of some act as a work of art depends upon the social context, perhaps even to the level of what the artist is associated with.

Acconci, Vito 1991. Some Notes on Illegality in Art. Art Journal 50(3): 69-74.
What allower me to shruf off (or not even think about) questions of illegality was the general atmosphere of the time in which I made these works. This was the end of the 1960s, the beginning of the 1970s: it was the time of demonstrations against the Vietnam War (which appeared to validate the effectiveness of individual and community action against what was called - or called itself - the establishment....) (Acconci 1991: 70)
The social context - of course - plays a major role in the definition of art and it's execution. Amongst other major social upheavals Acconci's seemingly illegal acts (sponsoring prostitution, staging attempted murder, masturbating in the public) went largely unnoticed (for the establishment).
On the other hand, the artist of this time, coming out of an immediate tradition of art-in-itself, and finding himself/herself out in the street, could function on the street only as an outsider, an alien. What the artist did, now that he/she was outside of his/her accustomed art world, was necessarily awkward and incorrect; unwittingly, because he/she didn't know the code of the everyday world, the artist might do something "illegal". (Acconci 1991: 71)
I'm afraid this analogy could apply to semioticians: accustomed to the liberties of the academic world, the semiotician will be awkward and incorrect in the everyday world.

Judson, William D. 1995. Bill Viola: Allegories in Subjective Perception. Art Journal 54(4): 30-35.
The implication that the camera image is a document, a direct impression of reality, is balanced by Viola's decision about framing (iconic symmetry or obsessive hand-held pursuit), about movement and stasis, about generated and reflected light that give his videotape a transcendent quality. More intensely present in viewing than ordinary physical reality, these images take on the force of archetypes. Teach precisely distilled image of the people, the animals, the landscapes, and the natural phenomena in Viola's tapes is not so much visual description as it is revelation. (Judson 1995: 30)
What the f* are you on about? I'm seriously beginning to despise writers who use philosophical terms in such a contorted manner. It's a way to say a lot without actually saying anything important. I think the saying "if you scream you have nothing to say" could be appropriated here as "if you can't put it in simple words then it's not worth putting in words at all." [I am of course speaking of discourse on art, not scientific or philosophical discourse]
Viola's work incorporates both the conceptual metaphors of his chosen medium and the perceptions of the many cultures - ancient and modern, Eastern and Western - in which he has immersed himself. Nevertheless, in his pursuit of enlightenment through attention to transcendent experience, Viola is heir to a Romantic tradition of which Brakhage is a recent part. (Judson 1995: 31)
I think I'm done with this article.

Week 7

Wilson, Martha 1997. Performance Art: (Some) Theory and (Selected) Practice at the End of This Century. Art Journal 56(4): 2-3.
Contemporary performance art still exhbits the traces of this art-historical moment in the following ways: Performance art is composed of (often confrontational) ideas; it takes place in "real" time; and the body is its irreducible medium, the locus where text and image intersect. (Wilson 1997: 2)
I like this wording. In slightly different vocabulary, the body is the nexus of semiotic practices.
Because it is embedded in the body, performance art takes time itself to be its primary subject. Tehcing Hsieh's yearlong works - during which he, for example, lived in a cage, lived outside, punched a time clock every hours, was tied to another person; and did "no art" - place the body's expenditure of time at the center of the idea. (Wilson 1997: 2)
Not the first time when time is viewed as the central aspect of performance art.

Ward, Frazer 1997. Some Relations between Conceptual and Performance Art. Art Journal 56(4): 36-40.
For the purposes of further argument, conceptual art might be considered as work that emphasized the underlying conditions of aesthetic experience: Language was seen as foremost among these conditions. material form and sensory perception were made secondary to analyses of their discursive and institutional frames. Performance art, on the other hand, seems relatively straightforward to define, "as a form of art that happens at a particular time in a particular place where the artist engages in some sort of activity, usually before an audience. The main difference between performance art and other modes of visual art practice, such as painting, photography, and sculpture, is that it is a temporal event or action. (Ward 1997: 36)
I do like various definitions of the same phenomenon. In this one, once again, time is the prime characteristic.
Where Conceptual art detailed relations between aesthetic production and its institutional conditions, performances by artists including Acconci and Chris Burden examined the effects of these relations on subjectivity. The introduction of their own bodies as terms in this set of relations has been seen to have had a critical effect by pointing to the contingent, social construction of subjectivity. Or else its effects has been seen in the visceral transgression of social and aesthetic norms. (Ward 1997: 36)
I wonder if this has something to do with late Foucault.
...there is the problem of how to account for any relations between Conceptual and performance art. This difficulty is compounded because performance art was not a "movement," in the way that Minimalism or Conceptualism were, whatever attempts have been made to situate it as one. Rather, performance has surfaced and disappeared throughout the twentieth century as a kind of undercurrent, periodically bubbling up within - or in some relation to - various avant-garde movements: the Soviet avant-gardes, Futurism, Dada, the Bauhaus, neo-Dada, Fluxus, Pop, Minimalism, perhaps even Abstract Expressionism... (Ward 1997: 38)
This makes a lot of sense. The last article traced performance in the Futurists.
In conjunction with this, if these works express the desire for an emphatic kind of embodiment that could not ground the subject of Conceptual reason, their mediation and perhaps undecidable status as performances at once confounds that desire. If conceptual art is only abstractly communicative, these works are altogether ambivalent about the possibility of communicative action, in a way that points up come of Conceptualism's pretensions. (Ward 1997: 40)
It has not crossed my mind before, but from a semiotic viewpoint performance art as communicative action is one of the most pertinent approaches.

Wagner, Anne M. 2000. Performance, Video, and the Rhetoric of Presence. October 91: 59-80.
"The arts require witnesses." This dictum may seem self-evident, yet its obviousness nonetheless requires some explanation. For I am gambling that this statement does seem obvious to present-day readers - so apparent, so uncontroversial that its long-distant origins in the writing of an eighteenth-century Frenchman, Jean-François Marmontel, appear beside the point. (Wagner 2000: 61)
Is this why Acconci mailed the artworld about his Step Piece?
An artist leaves her studio. She is Laurie Anderson. In the course of a day in June 1973, she takes photographs of the ten men who accost her in the street with what she terms "unsolicited comments of the 'hey, baby' type." She asks permission first. Her accosters are mostly pleased and flattered to comply. She answers their pleasure with banter, smiles, and laughter; does her compliance facilitate the ease, close-up portraits she is able to secure? later in her studio, she responds to her accosters differently, as if now to undermine their ease; like an investigative reporter preparing an evidential dossier, and mindful of the law, she imposes anonymity on her informants: a wedge of white neatly cuts off their eyes. In this case the gesture seems less protective than offensive; in the name of privacy she inflicts blindness, even a kind of objecthood, on subjects who had started out by treating her that way. (Wagner 2000: 63)
Oh Laurie, you little she-devil.
What is remarkable about performance art around 1970 is precisely how preoccupied it was by questions of this type. How might the artist intersect with a public? Which public where? one it chose, or encountered, or conjured into being through its own gantasy? Would the public itself find the artist, perhaps? How? Once located, what would art's audience then be made to witness? Or, rather, should we say endure? (Wagner 2000: 67)
Heh, "since one cannot expect an answer, the point is to analyse these questions" (Foucault 2009: 24)

Dworkin, Craig Douglas 2001. Fugitive Signs. October 95: 90-113.
I am he(re)
that drops letters.
The sentence also carries an uncanny prolepsis, since it was written by a poet [Acconci] who would soon change media and "drop ... letters" in a turn to other, nonlexical, markings. In Catherine Quéloz's words (with an appropriately vital and manual verb): Acconci "takes hold of [s'empare] the body of language, of its materiality." His poetry attempts "to give words body and weight"; and "body," or "corps," as I will argue, is all to the point in Acconci's early work. (Dworkin 2001: 90-92)
define:prolepsis - "The anticipation and answering of possible objections in rhetorical speech." The anticipation consists of the poet Acconci turning into the performance artist Acconci.
At the beginning of her monograph, for example, Kate Linker makes a move so seemingly de rigueur that one might almost fail to notice it. She writes: "In 1969 Acconci, who had been a poet, made his first visual pieces." Compare Linker's assertion with the opening sentence of a much earlier essay by François Pluchart, who writes of Acconci as "a poet who, beginning in 1969, progressively abandoned the space of the page for a place in which the body was assigned the task of going beyond the poetic function." (Dworkin 2001: 99)
Different authors remark on Acconci's shift from poetry to performance.
Rather than "going beyond the poetic function," Acconci's body art, I want to argue, is actually an explicit continuation of his poetry. (Dworkin 2001: 99)
You could also look at it like that, but it would also mean an obligatory discernment of the poetic function in performance art.
A number of Acconci's pieces dating from the early 1970s overly thematize printing and explore a very literal writing from the body. In Run-Off, the naked Acconci jogs in place until he works up a heavy sweat and then rubs his lathered body against a wall prepared with blue tempera. Significantly, he transfer that paint to himself with the explicit intention of converting his body into a writing instrument, which can then mark other surfaces. (Dworkin 2001: 100)
define:lathered - "Cause (soap) to form a frothy white mass of bubbles when mixed with water." define:tempera - "A method of painting with pigments dispersed in an emulsion miscible with water, typically egg yolk." Curious art-speak. Also, a curious relationship between body and text.
In the parsed sentence of Acconci's performances, "the body," in his own words, "could be [both] the subject of an action" as well as "the receiver, the object." In this sense, Acconci's employment of the body in his exploration of "reflexive information" is identical to the use of language in his early poetry. The self-referential play in Acconci's body art suggests that he was continuing not only the physical mode of his poetry (writing and printing), but also its strategies and concerns. Another of those shared concerns is an emphatic antimimeticism. (Dworkin 2001: 102)
I feel like I am reduced to recording in this blog whatever people in other disparate fields have remarked about the body and sometimes even body language. I really should start reading about exlicit nonverbal communication again soon.
Acconci's investigative project was undertaken in a climate of radical semiotic interrogation. Without explicit connection or commentary, artists and poets were creating works that proposed the same theoretical conclusions being simultaneously advanced by poststructuralist theorists. (Dworkin 2001: 103)
I think I should give a name to this tendency to use the word "semiotic" so widely. I remember first reading "Space and place as substrates of culture" and remarking how many such phrases one can come up with: semiotic routine, semiotic value, semiotic unit, semiotic phenomena, etc. And I also remember being quite confused as to what these pairs denote. Not it is clear with familiar authors, but still semains mysterious when meeting such phrases as "semiotic interrogation" or "semiotic transactions". Thus, I shall from now on call this kind of ling semiotic adjectivism, or "using the adjective 'semiotic' too profusely and/or idiosyncratically".
As Acconci realized in his "performances as channel," "generating expression .... need not be an official end of an action but only a side-effect" of presenting marks in a field of difference. Those marks are what Acconci, discovering that "information need not be the primary end of action but only a side effect," called "fugitive signs." The body itself, as Acconci makes clear, is a spontaneous generator of precisely such signs. "If I do not perform," Acconci writes about a work that explicitly investigates the channels of communication, "the material [i.e., written messages] builds up ... while I am at rest," and elsewhere, with an almost hallucinatory paranoia, he imagines an artist whose body's very existence continually produces a string of pure singifiers... (Dworkin 2001: 109)
This is what happens when art critics start talking semiotics. In the remark that the body's very existance continually produces signs is dangerously close to the "semiotic existentialism" in line with "living is a semiotic ordeal". And now I am practicing semiotic adjectivism. Dang.
...culture, after Nietzsche and Foucault, might be roughly defined as what happens to bodies in order to make them behave within medial systems: what holds people to their orles in the social production of signs, whatever, in short, makes people mark "properly." (Dworkin 2001: 110)
And now the author is coming dangerously close to what I am working on.


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