Sunday, March 4, 2012

Risky business: Performance art and danger

“If An Artist Doesn’t Take Risks, Then It’s Not Worth It.”—photographer Robert Frank.

For Greg's class on March 19, we'll be discussing risk-taking in art—particularly in performance art—based on the following video and readings:

= Chris Burden "Shoot" video (above).
= "Chris Burden: The body artist" by Roger Ebert, April 8, 1975.
= Chris Burden: "My God, are they going to leave me here to die?" by Roger Ebert, May 25, 1975.
= "Marina Abramovic" by Sean O'Hagan, Oct. 2, 2010.

In your essay consider: Does art need to be risky to be worth it? What do we mean by risky? A major area of performance art has centered on actions that place the performer in physical danger. What are the benefits of such dangers? What are the risks? Can we mitigate such risks and still get the same charge in the art? Is it necessarily in art for actions to be actual instead of simulated? Must the performer actually be in danger? Must authentic relics be used? How important to such performances are the stories, the legends they foster? Why do we so value risk in art? Do such performances respond to their times? How, for example, might Burden's and Abramovic's performances reference war? Do Chris Burden's intentions become clear in his later works, like "All the Submarines of the United States of America" (1987) or "Metropolis II" (see video below), which recently debuted at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art?

Artists dealing with these themes are featured prominently in the exhibit (which you are not required to see) "100 Years (version #4 Boston, 2012)" at Boston University Art Gallery, 855 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, | January 19-March 25, free, 617.353.3329 or Some performers and performances featured there that you may wish to consider: Yoko Ono “Cut Piece,” 1965; Marina Abramovic, “Rest Energy” (tension between her holding bow and partner holding arrow pointed at her); Paul McCarthy, Ron Athey, Bruce Nauman “163 Untitled,” 1969; Regina Jose Galindo “Libertad Condicional,” 2009 (she was chained to stakes on gravel); Cameron Jamie “The New Life,” 1996, (wrestling Michael Jackson impersonator); Kate Gilmore “Main Squeeze,” 2006 (squeezing through tight fight constructions that she builds); Andrea Fraser untitled 2003 self-prostitution piece; Sigalit Zandau, “Barbed Hula” dance, 2000; Techching Hsieh’s one-year performances 1980s; Vito Acconci “Following Piece,” 1969.

Remember: The week of March 12 to 16 is spring break, so we will not be meeting for discussion on March 12. Our next class is March 19.

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