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.
OR: PEOPLE WHO THROW STONES SHOULDN’T LIVE IN GOVERNMENT HOUSES
The Louvre is shortly to open a new facility in Abu Dhabi, designed by Jean Nouvel and looking like some kind of Logan’s Run shit that nobody who knew anything about art would ever want to show art in, as is usual for 21st century art silos. Talk about sterile. An outpost of the Guggenheim is also in progress, which will probably be equally austere, inhumane, architect-cool and ghastly. Having realised that they probably need some art or something– even if most of the walls are wonky or fifty meters from floor level– the gold-plated Arabic Louvre flagship store just announced the loan of 300 art works from French institutions. So let’s explore beautiful Abu Dhabi as it uses up the Earth’s precious resources to water lawns in the desert, let’s check out some of the art works being pimped out by the French to the jolly Emirs, and on the way we can have a wee think about what made the land of liberté, égalité, fraternité lose their damn minds and decide to have a gigantic art baby with the United Arab Emirates.
Leonardo da Vinci, ‘La Belle Ferronière’, 1495–99.
La Belle Ferronière will need to cover up that whorish hair and stop making insolent eye contact if she doesn’t want a taste of the whip.
I mean, does her husband, father or brother even know she’s out? According to Human Rights Watch and probably anybody else with eyes, ears and a rudimentary sense of right and wrong, the way Sharia is applied in the UAE systematically discriminates against women. Rape victims can face prison sentences of a year or more. Yes, you read that right. Victims of rape are prosecuted. Being raped is an “extramarital relation”, which is illegal. Women can’t marry without permission from a male guardian. It is illegal for a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim man; this is considered “fornication” and therefore worthy of corporal punishment. Kissing in public is also against the law, and can lead to deportation if you’re lucky enough to be a foreigner. Worse if you’re not. In the UAE, flogging (between 80 and 200 lashes) and stoning to death are legal punishments for offences including adultery, premarital sex and prostitution. Not just in theory, either; these barbaric punishments are regularly carried out. The UAE refuses to ratify the UN Convention on the elimination of torture.
Bonus fun fact: Apostasy (renouncing or denying religion, i.e. Islam) carries the death penalty too! Renouncing other religions is probably fine because only one religion is allowed anyway. Don’t worry, though; even if you’re a devout follower of Islam there are still many great opportunities for you to be abused, executed or unjustifiably detained in the UAE!
Yves Klein issues a receipt for the Immaterial to Dino Buzzati, and releasing Zones of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility into the Seine. Paris, 1962.
Yves Klein (1928-1962, previously) offered a limited “edition” of ten “Zones of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility” to collectors in exchange for specified weights of gold. A receipt was issued for every one, stating the weight of gold handed over. The receipt was burned and then half the gold was irretrievably thrown away so there could be no question of the buyer owning any physical object or residue, apart from their memory of the action. Note that although he doesn’t spell it out, the assumption must be that Klein shrewdly kept the other half of the gold. Even a mystical conceptual artist has to eat. Observe also the bow tie that seems to have been de rigeur for Continental artists circa 1960. All images here are from the Yves Klein Archives. Continue reading
Yves Klein, IKB171
Most people never get to see art galleries when they’re between shows and completely empty of art. Personally, I often find that I like the now orthodox and universal white cube gallery setup much more when it’s vacant than I do when it’s full. I’m remembered in a few places for having them paint the walls because I hate white ones so much when I’m showing my work. I’m guessing that Yves Klein (1928-1962) was also struck by the alienating, Zen effect of the empty white gallery and its effect on our state of mind as we look at art; hence Le Vide (The Void) of 1958 at Galerie Iris Clert, Paris.
This completely whitewashed, bare space was meticulously hyped by Klein and the resulting so-called “scandal” of an artist exhibiting an empty gallery attracted over two thousand people to the opening. Note the empty vitrine in one of the pictures. Here’s where I sigh and ruefully shake my head at the fact that over half a century on from Klein, there are still some otherwise intelligent people (including artists) who don’t understand conceptual art, performance and artistic interventions, and still think it’s scandalous and enraging if an artist doesn’t produce a saleable physical object.
On the subject of white sterility, though, The Void in these photographs actually looks quite grimy and textured in that particularly Parisian way, doesn’t it? It’s not a smooth, clinical space, that’s for certain.
These images are from the interesting and comprehensive Yves Klein Archives.