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“ARTIFICIAL, ESPERANTO ART” AND ITS DISCONTENTS

22 Apr
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Costumes by Vahad Poladian. Photo by Hiroko Masuike, The New York Times

Some gems from Raw Creation: Outsider Art and Beyond by John Maizels. Regular readers of this blog will know that I like a bit of O/outsider attitude.

“What country doesn’t have its small sector of cultural art, its brigade of career intellectuals? It’s obligatory. From one capital to another they perfectly ape one another, practising an artificial, esperanto art, which is indefatigably recopied everywhere. But can we really call this art? Does it have anything to do with art?” Jean Dubuffet in L’Art brut préferé aux arts culturels, 1946.

This was in 1946 and it’s still just as true seventy years later. Very, very depressing. This tale of masterful gallery fucking-uppery is much more comforting:

“Scottie Wilson (1888-1972)… had been a junk dealer, making a living by salvaging what he could from the bits and pieces that fell into his hands. To this end he collected the old nibs from gold fountain pens. One day he found in his possession a particuarly fine pen, large and free-flowing, so good to handle that he was somehow led to use it playfully to draw outlines and forms…

Signed simply ‘Scottie’, the drawings became a source of livelihood for Wilson, who held his own exhibitions in music halls and pier booths around Britain. He was even taken up by a London gallery, Gimpel Fils, who were forced to rescind their agreement when he set up his own stall outside the gallery, selling his work for a fraction of the price of those exhibited within.”

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OCCASIONALLY THE VOICES ARE RIGHT

16 Apr

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A wee update on this story about a woman who attacked a fellow visitor to Art Basel Miami Beach last December, while onlookers interpreted the whole thing as some kind of performance art. The attacker, Siyuan Zhao, has unsurprisingly been found to be suffering from a serious mental illness. Eventually coming back to a somewhat even keel through therapy and medication after randomly stabbing a stranger, trying to kill a therapy bird (whatever that is) and hearing voices that said “she needed to protect the event from the Middle Eastern terror group ISIS”, Zhao has agreed to “deport herself” back to China where her family will take care of her.

“She was very psychotic,” Dr. Ilan Melnick testified. He also said: “She felt ISIS was going to be at Art Basel to destroy the art.”

Dr. Melnick possibly slightly stating the obvious there, especially in conjunction with his second statement. Is it very wrong of me to wish that ISIS would attend Art Banal Miami Vice and destroy the art? I mean, why can’t they make themselves useful instead of murdering people and wallowing in all their adolescent, medieval emo shit about caliphates, jihad and whatnot?

ISIS are probably unnecessary, though, if anybody wants art destroyed. With all due respect to Ms. Zhao’s considerable though misguided enthusiasm for defending the exhibitions, the artists and galleries at Art Basel are doing quite a good job of destroying art already…

Art Basel knife wielder pleads guilty, must return to China

SPACE TIME AGENCY

10 Mar
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I’M FROM THE FUTURE, PROBABLY

(NB: Reposted from my main site, because I know there are lots of artists and arts people reading this blog who don’t follow that one or click through to it from here. YOU SHOULD.)

Dear friends, colleagues, and strangers,

Live art is mostly shit, isn’t it? Not that I am or should be the final arbiter of such things, but the point is there are arbiters of these things and there’s literally nothing I want to see right now or in the near future that those arbiters approve of. I know I’m not the only one. For the past two or three years I’ve been trying to get some new live projects launched but despite lots of meetings and being on various shortlists, very little has come of it. I know many other artists for whom this is true as well. So a while ago I just thought “Fine then, fuck it. I’ll do it myself.”

YES I’M BITTER, but out of that bitterness has come a beautifully sweet idea. I’m determined to find new ways of sharing live art that matter to normal people, outside of theatres, arts centres and galleries. Time to re-route around the blockages. Time for artists to support each other and seek their validation and their connections with people without the stuck-in-their-ways places and the no-sayers who work at them getting between us and the audience.

I don’t know what this thing will be, but it won’t exactly be an organisation or a commissioner. It definitely won’t be an attempt at a permanent space or venue; there are far too many of those being dragged along as dead weight in the arts funding net already. It might be a business of some sort, or a cooperative. It will certainly be shaped by the outsiders I want to find and help and show. You. I want you to tell me about your live art and why it isn’t getting the money and eyeballs it deserves. There’s a contact form you can use at the bottom of this page.

What will happen if I sign up?

This isn’t even a project yet, it’s a large but vague cloud of ideas for a project. For the time being you won’t be asked to do anything except be your very special self and not let the bastards grind you down before I can get it together. I will collate the names and contact details of all the people who get in touch with me over the next few months. I’ll keep you in the loop about any significant developments or opportunities that arise from my research and development process. The people who make themselves known to me and the things they want to do will obviously play a large part in how whatever-this-thing-is develops. There’s no money, performance opportunities or jobs going at the moment so don’t ask, but see What will happen later? below.

One favour you can do me, though, is to please share, forward and retweet links to this page as widely and as often as you can… within reason. You’re a live artist. You should be good at choosing your place and your moment.

What will happen later?

From the autumn of 2016 I will start working towards finding money, space and time for a first event or intervention or festival or mortal rupture to the British live art scene’s comfy conformity. Neither the project as a whole nor any individual event will ever go ahead unless it’s financially sustainable, a good and positive experience for everyone involved, and everybody is being paid fairly. As they should be for all performers and artists, the twin mantras for STA are:

  1. Professionally made, professionally paid. (Nod to Equity.)
  2. No day rate? No me, mate.

NB There may be more mantras later.

Who is it for? Two nos, many yeses.

Your work has to require your bodily presence in an actual place in real time; could be minutes, months, anything. You need to be permanently based in the UK because that’s where I am and I can’t take on the whole world.

YET.

NO

CatSharkRoomba

Not to downplay, dis or dismiss their craft but I’m not looking for musicians, DJs, VJs or technologists unless there’s a unique, unavoidable and holistic liveness to what they do beyond playing or mixing a track, running code or telling a machine to do its thing. There are numerous places, venues and festivals for these artists and forms already. But if your digital or technological work truly interacts with and acts upon people or places in real time and you need to be present to make it happen, get in touch. Performance lectures are my thing and I’d love to see more of them, but I’m not looking for playwrights, playwright-performers, standups, cabaret acts or conventional linear dramas that could be, would be or should be staged in a theatre.

NO

I’m not really interested in artists working through their body issues, or in basic drag acts with pretensions because

a) I’m just so incredibly bored by them all

but mainly because

b) I think this kind of live art is supported very well– if not excessively so in some cases– by the existing venues, opportunities and organisations. Both of these subgenres are MASSIVE clichés of live and performance art, i.e. once they were fresh and interesting but now nobody really even thinks them through. And I don’t believe anybody is clamouring for more of this stuff, except apparently the people who commission it all the time.

Maude

As with my previous no, there will be exceptions. If (for example) your gender-based performance transcends camp and all the isms, if your body-conscious or body horror show is genuinely like nothing else you or I have ever seen, I’d like to know about you.

YES

People from groups under represented in live arts, and all of the arts– those with disabilities or mental health problems (being an arsehole doesn’t count, there’s loads of them working in the arts already), the self-taught or retrained, people from working class or low income backgrounds, artists interested in all the subjects this planet has to offer and not just in themselves and their own angst, too young [sic], too old [sic], unfashionable, rural or suburban– are not only very, very welcome but exactly who I’m looking for. People to whom none of these things apply may also make themselves known, of course. We’re making a new thing that includes, not just yet another bloody thing that excludes. Apart from cutters and shitters. They’re not in our gang. Nobody wants to hang out with them.

Live artists who’ve lapsed or dropped out because you were demoralised or had other priorities or the money just wasn’t there should also join the list. Let’s try to get it right for you (and all of us) this time.

Work that’s funny or serious or frightening or comforting or sublimely stupid or too clever for most people or almost Lovecraftianly indescribable and no venue or commissioner will touch it? You’re the one for me, arty.

Please contact me if you’re at all interested in any of this, and share widely. That is all for now, carry on.

CHARLIE HEBDON’T

10 Feb

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Occasionally it seems there might be some kind of counter-performance art organisation, one that actively does everything it can to bring performance art into disrepute. A bit like SPECTRE from the James Bond books and films. As suggested by their acronym Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion, SPECTRE mainly just wants to instigate conflict and benefit from the chaos that ensues. I propose that there is a secret organisation called SPESPA (Special Executive for Shit Performance Art) and it exists solely to make the general public think all performance artists are twats.

This week’s covert SPESPA operative bent upon ruining live art’s reputation is Chinese performance artist (and “former television presenter”, which gives you some idea of his likely intellect) Ou Zihang, who has been doing push-ups in the nude at the sites of recent terrorist attacks in Paris. No surprise that he’s a fellow traveller of overrated hack fraud attention whore Ai Weiwei, who recently incurred the displeasure and disgust even of the normally unbothered and amoral art mainstream art press by playing at being a drowned toddler on a beach on Lesbos. Ou’s one and only artistic gambit involves getting undressed and doing push-ups in front of things. That’s all he’s got.

Ou obliquely but amusingly let slip the real reason he does naked push-ups, and it ain’t art or “drawing attention to scandals.” When he started doing naked push-ups near the offices of Charlie Hebdo and outside the Bataclan, he was dreadfully disappointed not to be arrested:

“Normally, there are police officers, security guards, cameras in front of a sensitive place. Especially in a country that is currently in a state of emergency. But, in the end, there was no control or restraint. This puzzled me.” (French source.)

In other words, without causing a scene and being the centre of attention he is nothing. His only validation is in being told he’s annoying, following the Dorian Gray school of thought that “there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” I imagine Ou only gets arrested in China because they think he’s being a tool, not because his adolescent level of critique and infantile means of resistance are any threat to the state. Plus, if he’d done any basic research he’d know that far from being shocked by nudity the French bloody love it.

Just sod off, you fucking imbecile.

REAL ART WORLD MORE SATIRICAL THAN SATIRE AGAIN

5 Dec

RiffWestsideStory

This is what you get when rolling around on the floor, self-harming and generally making a tit of yourself become normalised as art practices: a woman (really, but non-fatally) stabbed by another woman in the neck and arms with a craft knife during an altercation at Art Basel Miami Beach and taken out on a stretcher while police cordoned off the crime scene was described by onlookers as “a performance art presentation.” Two of these patrons were “sipping champagne” and gawking at the bloody floor from behind police tape even as they expressed their horror that it was a real stabbing. Still think covering yourself in body fluids, paint, food (etc.) is cutting edge or exploring new territory? The public are now so blasé about this “transgressive” type of art that they assume crimes, violent incidents and bloody accidents are art interventions, so the answer is a resounding NO.

Obviously I hope the unfortunate victim gets well soon, but this whole scenario is like a scene from a John Waters film. An artist opined that he thought it was more likely that “a piece of art fell on her” because nobody gets stabbed at Art Basel– putting me in mind of the woman in Airplane! who idly muses that “Jim never vomits at home…” as the aircraft is crashing. Not to mention the Road Runner cartoon imagery of a patron at an art fair being splattered underneath a heavy sculpture, as if that’s a likely event. The fact that the stabbing was done with an X-Acto knife vaguely suggests that the assailant was either an artist or worked for an art gallery, for a little Valerie Solanas spice. And of course the incident takes place in the comprehensively daft and beyond satire 1-percenter bubble of Art Banal Miami Vice itself, where the important art works on show include a female mannequin set up to crush walnuts between its thighs and a man punching canvases with boxing gloves full of paint.

[Sigh]

LeonardoDavinsky

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