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Essential Books: 7 Timely Histories of Performance Art – ARTnews

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Performative is one of those art-world terms that, like curated, have migrated into general usage, promiscuously diluting its meaning in the process. As a descriptor, it has infiltrated practically every facet of contemporary society—certainly politics and business, as well as the broader vectors of culture. But in a way, this makes perfect sense: Performance art, once a radical genre that broke down the experiential barrier between art and real life, has arguably become a model for a world governed by Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and WhatsApp—fostering, in the bargain, its own rise as a global phenomenon. All of this, of course, was scarcely imaginable to the original practitioners of the form, who viewed it as an avenue of aesthetic liberation. The story of the genre as it has developed to the present day makes for fascinating reading. Find out more in our list of the best books on performance art. (Prices and availability current at time of publication.)

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1. RoseLee Goldberg, Performance Art: From Futurism to the Present
Until RoseLee Goldberg published this seminal history on the subject in 1979, performance art usually had been associated with 1960s and ’70s Conceptualism and the radical effort to “dematerialize” the art object—freeing, as it were, the genie that was the idea behind the artwork from the bottle that was the work itself. In performance art, that meant undertaking an action instead of creating a concrete thing. Setting the record straight, Goldberg’s book tracks back to performance art’s 20th-century roots in Dadaism, Italian Futurism, the early Russian avant-garde, and the Stage Workshop of the legendary Bauhaus. The 1979 edition covered the key figures of the movement up to that point: Laurie Anderson, Robert Wilson, Marina Abramovi?, Gilbert & George, Piero Manzoni, and John Cage. A 2011 update added the performance art revival (best represented, perhaps, by the work of Matthew Barney) that followed the collapse of the ’80s art boom.
Purchase: Performance Art: From Futurism to the Present  $22.95 (new) on Amazon

2. Catherine Wood, Performance in Contemporary Art
Much like RoseLee Goldberg, Catherine Wood has been instrumental to the institutionalization of performance art through her position as the senior curator of international art (performance) at the Tate Modern in London, overseeing, for example, the museum’s annual BMW Tate Live series (the corporate prefix for which is highly indicative of performance art’s transformation into a mainstream divertissement). Wood’s book presents her contention that rather than operating as a distinct medium, performance is an attitude that informs all approaches to contemporary art, whether expressed through individual or collective actions or through the making of objects. After stating her case with examples from the present (including artistic endeavors from Latin America, Asia, and Africa), she turns to the past to find art-historical antecedents in the work of the Viennese Actionists (whose taboo-breaking sojourns into abjection involved the use of animal carcasses, blood, bodily fluids, and self-harm), Chris Burden, Yoko Ono, and the Japanese Gutai group.
Purchase: Performance in Contemporary Art  $200.00 (used) on Ebay

3. Michael Kirby, Happenings
Originally published in 1965, Happenings delves into the history of a collaborative movement that flourished only briefly, from 1959 to 1962, but served as an important precursor of performance art. Its members included Jim Dine, Red Grooms, Allan Kaprow, Claes Oldenburg, and Robert Whitman, all of whom were visual artists (Dine, Grooms, and Oldenburg, for example, would become associated with Pop art). It was Kaprow who played the key role in promoting the form. Although sometimes linked to avant-garde theater, Happenings were nonverbal, and closer to visual collage than theater in the way they featured compartmentalized actions, each with its own mise-en-scène, that were played out in found spaces. They were performative manifestations, essentially, of André Breton’s description of Surrealist aesthetics as “a chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table.” Using photographs and artist interviews, author Michael Kirby documents 13 Happenings that epitomized the genre.
Purchase: Happenings  from $6.26 (used) on AbeBooks

4. C. Carr, On Edge: Performance at the End of the Twentieth Century
By the late 1970s and early ’80s, a new generation of artists raised entirely on TV and other mass media took over New York’s downtown art world. Some of them revived painting (and with it an art market boom), but others continued to do performance art, albeit far differently from what had been done in the past. Performers with theater and dance backgrounds entered the field, and borrowings from pop culture transformed the genre. Nonprofit alternative spaces institutionalized the practice, which also expanded into venues like clubs, especially in New York’s East Village. Cynthia Carr, a critic for the Village Voice who wrote under the byline C. Carr, covered the scene at the time, and this compilation of her reviews presents a first-draft-of-history perspective on a dynamic era, which also marked the beginnings of New York’s decline as the undisputed art capital of the world.
Purchase: On Edge  $32.95 (new) on Amazon

5. Peggy Phelan, Live Art in LA: Performance in Southern California, 1970–1983
This volume on “live art”—a designation meant to reframe performance art and the more static practice of body art as a shared discipline—is both a chronicle of the subject as it developed in the City of Angels and a meditation on the inherent difficulties of writing the history of an intentionally evanescent medium. Particularly tricky in this regard are reenactments of seminal performances as if they were stage productions, obscuring a crucial distinction between performance art and theater. Yet live art, as the author defines it, was documented for posterity through photographs and videos—material drawn upon here to tell the story of Los Angeles’s role in shaping the form, and that of the key figures who made it happen. Among the latter are Chris Burden, Judy Chicago, the founders of the Feminist Art Program at Cal Arts, and collectives like the Chicano group Asco and the Black arts movement (which counted David Hammons among its members).
Purchase: Live Art in LA  $19.95 (new) on Amazon

6. Dominic Johnson, The Art of Living: An Oral History of Performance Art
In his book, Johnson, a senior lecturer in the Department of Drama at Queen Mary University of London, interviews 12 performance artists who share a predilection for challenging the boundary between art and life—mostly by transforming themselves into a kind of vessel for their work. Their tactics vary and include hours-long, or even days-long, tests of endurance; permanent body modifications through plastic surgery; and the assumption of a persona both on and off stage. The subjects make up a list of key figures from the last 40 years—including the Kipper Kids, Breyer P-Orridge, Ann Magnuson, and Joey Arias—with each interview prefaced by a look at the artist’s work.
Purchase: The Art of Living  $35.95 (new) on Amazon

7. RoseLee Goldberg, Performance Now: Live Art for the Twenty-First Century
Although Goldberg updated her previous book to extend performance art history into the beginning of the 21st century, this volume takes a separate look at the genre during the following 18 years, when the form spread globally and crept into popular culture. These developments were helped along by Goldberg herself in 2004, when she founded Performa, the first international biennale devoted exclusively to performance art. Performance Now’s chapter headings—such as “World Citizenship: Performance as a Global Language,” “Radical Action: On Performance and Politics,” and “Dance After Choreography”—reflect the different permutations taken by performance art in both form and content, which Goldberg illustrates through the work of Tania Bruguera, Guy Ben-Ner, and Hasan and Husain Essop, among others.
Purchase: Performance Now  $34.54 (new) on Amazon

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Public art, vibrant cities subject of Thursday Windsor art gallery panel – Windsor Star

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How does public art express the spirit of Windsor — and how does it help create a more interesting, vibrant city?

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The Art Gallery of Windsor invites the community to think about these questions, and others, during a panel discussion Thursday on the role of art in public spaces.

“Public art impacts everyone. I don’t think there is any such thing as starting the conversation too early in the process,” said Valerie Dawn, one of Thursday’s panelists for Drawing the Line: Creative Spaces and Places, hosted by the Art Gallery of Windsor.

“Prompting a conversation where we can be really open-ended and talk about impact on a broad scale, we’re coming into those conversations (about public art) with a lot more perspective.”

Dawn, principal architect for Glos Arch + Eng, will be joined by Shane Potvin, chair of the Ford City BIA, and Heather Grondin, vice-president of corporate affairs and external relations for the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, in a panel discussion moderated by Windsor Star managing editor Craig Pearson.

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Valerie Dawn, principal architect for Glos Arch + Eng, and a panelist at this Thursday’s discussion on public art, is pictured in front of the public art in Maiden Lane, on Monday, Nov. 29, 2021.
Valerie Dawn, principal architect for Glos Arch + Eng, and a panelist at this Thursday’s discussion on public art, is pictured in front of the public art in Maiden Lane, on Monday, Nov. 29, 2021. Photo by Dax Melmer /Windsor Star

The discussion will explore what public art brings to communities, where it should go and how the community can engage with public art.

“It expresses a sense that we care,” Dawn said. “Art gives us perspective and pause and a sense of connection. It’s important to any community. What kinds of art do we want and need, and what kind of art resonates with our community — that’s something I imagine we’ll dig into quite a bit more on Thursday.”

  1. Jennifer Matotek, executive director of the Art Gallery of Windsor, stands by a weatherproof life-sized reproduction of a painting from the AGW collection, mounted in downtown Windsor. Photographed Nov. 11, 2021.

    Look Again! AGW brings art to the streets of downtown Windsor

  2. The City of Windsor unveiled the

    Windsor chair sculpture unveiled at Jackson Park

  3. People check out a display at the Art in the Park at the Willistead Manor in Windsor on Saturday, June 1, 2019.

    Art in the Park scheduled to return in 2022

Thursday’s discussion will be the second in a series of monthly community conversations hosted by the Art Gallery of Windsor meant to help facilitate meaningful dialogue between members of the community on a variety of topics.

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“I hope having the conversation offers a lot of new perspectives by bringing different people from different sides of the conversation together,” Dawn said. “These are the conversations that tend to get people excited, and getting people excited is one really wonderful way to make things happen.”

Valerie Dawn, principal architect for Glos Arch + Eng, and a panelist at this Thursday’s discussion on public art, is pictured in front of the public art in Maiden Lane, on Monday, Nov. 29, 2021.
Valerie Dawn, principal architect for Glos Arch + Eng, and a panelist at this Thursday’s discussion on public art, is pictured in front of the public art in Maiden Lane, on Monday, Nov. 29, 2021. Photo by Dax Melmer /Windsor Star

Drawing the Line: Creative Spaces and Places , will happen via Zoom on Thursday, Dec. 2 from 7 to 8:15 p.m. Find the link to register at agw.ca . Attendees are encouraged to ask curious, engaging and respectful questions and can read the gallery’s code of conduct, found online, for more information.

ksaylors@postmedia.com

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Suzanne Lacy: What Kind of City? review – art that breaks down borders – The Guardian

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Suzanne Lacy: What Kind of City? review – art that breaks down borders  The Guardian



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Looking at Surrealist Art in Our Own Surreal Age – The New York Times

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When viewed as a vehicle for various forms of liberation, the movement remains highly resonant even a century after its heyday.

“SURREALISM” IS ONE of those buzzwords, like “curate” or “groundbreaking,” that has been rendered effectively meaningless through overuse. In his 1924 “Manifesto of Surrealism,” the writer André Breton defined the term most succinctly as an attempt to resolve “these two states, dream and reality, which are seemingly so contradictory,” though its true origins came earlier, with the rise of Dada, an artistic movement that emerged in Zurich in 1916, and which favored the absurd over the logical. It was the exact middle of World War I, and there was a sense among Dada’s proponents that linear thinking hadn’t gotten society anywhere good.

There has been much talk of late about our own surreal age. Certainly, there are parallels between the 1920s and now: The United States has just extricated itself, messily, from a war; nationalist fervor is part of the political mainstream; basic rights are being revoked; and some version of a pandemic that has killed millions lingers from one month to the next. And if Surrealism is, at its core, a kind of glitch in the status quo, a moment in which reality itself becomes vaguely unrecognizable, then yes, time is seeming pretty melty, and the days rather dreamlike.

It can’t, therefore, be a coincidence that nearly every major museum in New York City currently has an exhibition that, at least to some extent, embraces a melty or dreamlike aesthetic. “Living Abstraction,” a retrospective of the Swiss artist Sophie Taeuber-Arp, a key Dadaist, at the Museum of Modern Art (on view through March 12, 2022), emphasizes her influence across disciplines: She produced drawings, paintings, sculptures, textiles, marionettes, whimsical costumes (including asymmetrical patchwork pants that wouldn’t look out of place at Bode), beaded bags and necklaces, stained-glass windows, furniture and more. The night of the 1917 opening of Zurich’s Galerie Dada, the movement’s de facto headquarters, she danced to the writer Hugo Ball’s sound poems — absurdist compositions focusing on phonetic speech. (Ball later described her performance as having been “full of spikes and fish bones.”)

Stiftung Arp e.V., Berlin. Photo: Alex Delfanne

Art historians would take issue with the pigeonholing of Taeuber-Arp as a Surrealist. Whereas Dada endeavored to explore nonrational thought, Surrealism was interested in the subliminal, in the strangeness beneath the surface of the everyday (one of the most famous examples of a Surrealist artwork remains René Magritte’s 1929 “The Treachery of Images,” a painting of a pipe captioned with the phrase “Ceci n’est pas une pipe”). Also, Taeuber-Arp’s career preceded and outlived Zurich Dada, which fizzled out in the early 1920s, as those who’d sought refuge in the city during World War I went their separate ways, but she was an artist who looked inward as a means of arriving somewhere unfamiliar: “Only when we go into ourselves and attempt to be entirely true to ourselves will we succeed in making things of value, living things, and in this way help to develop a new style that is fitting for us,” she wrote in 1922.

AT THE METROPOLITAN Museum of Art, “Surrealism Beyond Borders” (through Jan. 30, 2022) aims to expand viewers’ understanding of the movement, which, though it was born in Paris, became a global phenomenon — with practitioners in Egypt, Japan, Mexico, the Philippines and elsewhere — one that aligned itself with new interpretations of and ideas about freedom that were concurrently being conceived around the world. The Cairo, Ill.-born artist, Beat poet and musician Ted Joans, despite being a generation younger than his friend Breton, found in Surrealism a framework for Black liberation. He discovered the aesthetic as a child, eventually buying a French dictionary to translate jettisoned issues of Surrealist journals like Minotaure that his aunt, who worked as a housekeeper, had gotten from her employers. Decades later, in 1963, one of the politically and psychologically charged collages from Joans’s “Alphabet Surreal” series — this one showing a Black man and a white woman sitting side by side, a salamander-like creature hovering above them, and various iterations of the letter “X,” the work’s title and a reference to Malcolm X — appeared in another major Surrealist journal, La Brèche. Even many of the works displayed at the Whitney Museum of American Art as one half of “Mind/Mirror,” a retrospective dedicated to Jasper Johns (through Feb. 13, 2022; also at the Philadelphia Museum of Art) have strong Surrealist leanings. In “The Bath” (1988), a Picasso painting within the painting (presumably hanging above Johns’s tub, which is also shown in the frame) is juxtaposed with a rendering of wood planks at the work’s left border. This can be seen as a reference, notes Whitney chief curator Scott Rothkopf, to Magritte’s frequent incorporation of wood grain into his own paintings.

Tate Gallery © 2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

So what is Surrealism’s legacy a century after its founding? Classic Surrealist works — such as “Téléphone-Homard” (1938), the Salvador Dalí sculpture that famously features a rendering of a bright orange lobster stretched across the handset of a rotary phone, or Dorothea Tanning’s 1943 painting “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Night Music),” in which a young girl in a hotel corridor stares down a massive sunflower — may feel a bit old-fashioned, but the idea that the means of rebelling against the present are already within us, if only we can learn to pay attention, is, in 2021, highly resonant. When understood in this way, as referring to a form of protest and escape, “surreal” becomes so much more — and so much more interesting — than shorthand for “strange,” as it is commonly used today. As Stephanie D’Alessandro, a curator of the Met show, says, in an art context, anyway: “It’s about something that sparks us … that wakes us up from the haze of our daily habits.” It offers, she adds, whether for reasons political, social, sexual or artistic, “an opportunity to imagine something beyond the circumstances that someone has” and, as an idea, “it is there as an option, always.”

“What branches grow / out of this stony rubbish? Son of man, / You cannot say, or guess,” T.S. Eliot writes in “The Waste Land,” his 1922 masterpiece, another Surrealist touchstone. But what we can do is seek alternate, better ways of seeing, thinking and living. Perhaps this is partly what Taeuber-Arp meant when she wrote of her belief that “the wish to produce beautiful things — when that wish is true and profound — falls together with [one’s] striving for perfection.” She made work up until her death in 1943, during another world war, and her nimble, irrepressible creativity is a reminder that art making, especially in times of strife, is an inherently optimistic act. This optimism might be the most overlooked aspect of Surrealism, given its often calamitous origins, but why invest in new realities if not to move forward? Art is something you do, says Anne Umland, a co-curator of “Living Abstraction,” thinking: “ ‘I believe there will be a future. And even if there isn’t, I’ve made something today.’”

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