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This is a selection of seminal performances from 1960s onwards that have been preserved on film or tape. All involve the body and a conceptual framework that hinges on an uncontrollable factor. Robert Rauschenberg’s famous intention “to act in the gap between” art and life is a good starting point to understand these performances. Uncertainties between direct experience and directed action, reality and construction of reality are tested on the body.
Presented chronologically, it is a twisted path taken through the historical development of performance art to provide a background to much of the work by contemporary artists in this season devoted to A Lower World. The earliest examples in this show from Yves Klein and Yoko Ono are based in quasi spiritual or philosophical notions. Klein and Ono replaced the nihilism and anarchy of Dadaist cabaret with a quasi spirituality or philosophy. Their intention was to create a transformative process for themselves and the audience. Steeped in Wilhelm Reich and Artaud, Carolee Schneemann worked into their emotional pressure points to shatter sexual and political blockages. Likewise, Chris Burden’s live performances often visited profound emotions upon the gallery-goers. The Vienna Aktionists and Paul McCarthy plunged into the audience into the abject in order to blow their minds and alter their politics. All created works that defied the status quo.
Anthropometrics of the Blue Period and Five Paintings: Two Performances, Yves Klein 1960, 7 min. 16mm France
Cut Piece (Yoko Ono, Carnegie Hall), David and Albert Maysles, 1965, 9 min. 16mm USA
Meat Joy, Carolee Schneemann, 1964, 6 min. 16 mm film on video USA/France/UK
Onetwothree Actions: Otto Muehl, Günter Brus, Peter Weibel, Valie Export, Ernst Schmidt, 1965-8, 10 min. 16mm Austria
Documentation of Selected Works, Chris Burden, 1971-4, 35 min. video USA
Family Tyranny/Cultural Soup, Paul McCarthy with Mike Kelley, 1987, 15 min. video USA