No Innocent Bystanders

My recent compulsion to get into performance art requires urgent research and self education. I have absolutely no background in this area but I feel strongly that this is a direction which lends itself to what I want to say. As a late returner to art it is extremely difficult to be taken seriously and to obtain access to resources and appropriate or established exhibition venues. Performance offers the opportunity to bypass these issues and still be “seen”. It allows for greater flexibility, the use of informal or unusual media and methodologies. The constraints and potential limitations of the art establishment which seem predominantly exclusionary and self serving are rendered irrelevant.

Learning about performance has been stimulating to say the very least. The typical gallery environment serves to separate the artist from the viewer in terms of immediacy. Interaction is delayed or can be entirely avoided. The viewer response is relayed often unreliably by the gallerist. Sales mean the work is “liked” but “why” is not clear. There are “good” buyers and ” bad” ones.

The challenge of performance is the direct interaction with and the role played by the audience who becomes an integral part of the work.

Current reading material includes “No Innocent Bystanders. Performance Art and Audience” by Frazer Ward. Ward looks at performance art by Acconci, Burden, Abromovic and Tsieh with particular focus on the audience interaction.
I was fascinated by a reference to a performance titled “Thomas’ Lips” by Marina A. In which she cuts a star n her belly with a razor-blade. A young woman became so stressed that she stood up and, visibly upset, called out “You can stop. You don’t have to do this”. This was immediately followed by a male voice that assertively called out “Yes she does.”.

In “Rhythm 0”, she placed 72 objects on a table in a room with instructions to the audience to use them on her as they desired; a 6 hour performance at the end of which, according to Abromovic, she walked towards the audience and they fled!!

Thus I begin to realize that the audience is not necessarily remote and separate but can be very much a part of a performance and possibly change the intended meaning of the work by their intended or unintended participation. An exciting and challenging prospect for a would be performance artist!

Would love your thoughts on this subject.


Back To The Future

Back To The Future

Amusingly the title of the exhibition is appropriate as the title of this blog. The exhibition ended in November. I did feel that the review was particularly interesting as a contemporary perspective on history of art.

I have to admit to only having skimmed through it, but in doing so picked up on this paragraph which I found particularly interesting –

“But what is also certain is that many of the works on display in ‘Back to The Future’ were simply (and here Cilliers-Barnard is a case in point) a perpetuation of the Romantic myth of the artist-as-genius. That is to say the idea that an artists (sic) is a ‘seer’ of an esoteric and numinous world that the rest of humanity are incapable of accessing other than through the works of great genius – an idea that has, thankfully, been put on the funeral pyre of much other Romantic nonsenses.”

I still live in the era of the Romantic myth apparently.

And so I for one will go back and read Michael Blackman’s review properly and begin to tickle the tip of the iceberg of current views on art history.

Inspiring Print Catalogue

Inspiring Print Catalogue

This link will take you to a beautifully presented online catalogue of the works chosen for the 2013 International Printmaking Exhibition at Kazanlak in Bulgaria.  Well worth looking at if printmaking is your thing.  It has excellent photographs of all the works properly described in terms of the method of printmaking employed by the artist.  Also information about the jury etc.  The deadline for submissions for the next exhibition is around April 2014 so plenty of time to work on something to submit.  There is a cost though, which I haven’t checked.  It can be quite expensive (some bienalles cost as much as R1000 and you may not even be accepted which is a bit off putting).

Do look at the book full-screen to really see the prints properly. 

I have the entry conditions etc so if you’re interested in submitting work email me and I’ll forward them to you.

Art History Online

My knowledge of the history of art is dismal. We did do it for three years during my Graphic Design Diploma course in the seventies but it was unbelievably superficial and I always feel really ignorant when the subject comes up. So I am very interested in this free online course and thought some of you might be too. This is the introduction:

“The Art History discipline is designed to develop visual arts literacy, as well as critical and interpretive thinking skills. As an Art History Major, you will receive a solid grounding in the history of western art as well as the art of certain non-western cultures. The major consists of twelve courses: four mandatory “core program” courses and eight electives.

The core program will introduce the principal terminology, methods, and questions that comprise the study of art history and will prepare you to discuss and understand the major issues of art history and the central debates of art historical criticism. Your first course, ARTH101: Art Appreciation and Techniques, will present you with an overview of the language, themes, and techniques most frequently used in art and its study as well as the tools you need to approach visual art from an art historical perspective. You will then take ARTH110 followed by ARTH111, which survey the history of Western art from prehistoric times to the present.”

I have a feeling that you can access all the material without registering which excites me. Is this a sign of lack of commitment? Anyway….if you’re interested it could be worth taking a look here.

Financing the arts.

Interesting article in the New York Times today on how artists are to make a living, with some proposals on how to solve the problem:

I also enjoyed Tim Worstall’s response in Forbes, just because he is so contrary (and perhaps more realistic).

Would love to know what you all think!




Henry Darger.

I came upon Henry Darger via  Grayson Perry, who mentioned him in his final Reith lecture.   Darger was an “outsider artist” – a janitor who lived in a one-roomed apartment in Chicago, and who wrote (amongst other things) a 15,000 page novel, rather marvelously called The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What Is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion. To illustrate the story he created hundreds of illustrations composed of collage, tracings, and painting.realmsunreal


More of images of Darger’s art can be found here.

A documentary on his life. (Quite long – 80 mins, and I found the little girl narrator’s  voice a little irritating after a while, but it is worth a watch).

About the novel.

Other “outsider artists”  that interest  me are Agnes Richter (of the embroidered jacket) and Judith Scott (fibre objects)