Tag Archives: performance artists

“ARTIFICIAL, ESPERANTO ART” AND ITS DISCONTENTS

22 Apr
20150327OUTSIDER-slide-44G0-jumbo

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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SPACE TIME AGENCY

10 Mar
AlistairGentry_ELGlasses

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

Marines_do_pushups

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.

9 MORE FUN FACTS ABOUT MARINA ABRAMOVIĆ THAT WILL SURPRISE YOU

10 Nov
Abramovic

BONUS fun fact: Marina’s head is actually very loosely balanced on her neck and it could fall off at any time!

Here are nine more facts about Madge Ab that will surprise you and fun you, inspired by this listicle of great importance which is definitely not filler hackwork at Artnet News, in which we learn that the “grandmother of performance art”* did performance art at a museum, her mother didn’t like seeing pictures of her daughter’s breasts, and she affects not to like being famous despite gleefully hanging out with the Beyoncé family and Lady Gaga. None of these are particularly surprising or fun facts and nor are the other six “fun”, “surprising” facts surprising or fun, but what can you do? Clickbait headlines gonna bait clicks.

* Not the nice grandmother, the other grandmother that the mother and grandchildren of performance art would really like to get put away in a care home for her own good because she’s always been a bit unhinged with a nasty streak but now she insists on getting her tits out, telling everyone how when she was a girl she used to eat sawdust soup every day and it never did her any harm, making sexual advances to furniture, and ranting that everyone should stop staring at her even though she does everything possible to seek attention.

1. Her body is made of Play Doh and cannot be destroyed!

Repairing herself is a simple matter of squashing the bits back together. Abramović occasionally stains upholstery or sticks to carpets, and may become dry and brittle if left out too long. She should never be consumed even though she smells like cake. Her face, however, is made of papier-mache and needs to be replaced every few days. It has become less realistic over the past few decades, and the artist herself has said “I don’t want realistic face because this word realistic I hate, it spell out ‘real I stick’ and I get the lifelong dislike of real stick from my mother who I think never love me. Ha ha.”

2 If all her ideas were laid out end to end, they would reach almost halfway from the doors of New York’s MoMA on West 53rd Street to the kerb!

3 She is a huge fan of Magic Roundabout, Jamie and the Magic Torch, Chorlton and the Wheelies, and other British children’s television shows from the 1970s!

Abramović says, “I don’t know why nobody has noticed that they are so trippy, it seem people who make shows are on drug. Perhaps because I am artist I notice this thing.”

4 In another unexpected connection to children’s television, Abramović was due to guest star in the third series of Fraggle Rock, but all her scenes ended up on the cutting room floor!

When asked why, the late Jim Henson would always just shake his head sadly but not answer.

Fraggle-Rock

5 When you point at something, Abramović always looks at the end of your finger instead of the item you are indicating!

6 Abramović has all her emails typed out on paper by an assistant, photographed and developed as daguerreotypes by another assistant, transcribed by a third assistant and then finally sent via Hotmail by Abramović clicking with her finger over the assistant’s finger on the mouse!

She says, “I have sacrificed the direct communication by force of my art, some people cannot cope with this I know but is like essential act for serenity of my finger.”

7 Sometimes, when a person complains about Abramović talking with her mouth full, she shows them the semi-masticated, unswallowed food in it and laughs!

8 There is a time travelling cyborg version of Marina Abramović but she and Abramović Prime have been forbidden to ever meet each other by officials from NASA and the CIA!

Abramović’s only public comment on the subject came during her recent Q&A with Justin Bieber at Harvard: “This to me is like fascism. I am serious artist or something and so I think I can decide if spacetime continuum totally collapse or not because of my action! Ha ha.”

Terminator

9 She says “newkiller” instead of “nuclear” and “expresso” instead of “espresso”, and she doesn’t even understand why people keep correcting her!

ARTBOLLOCKS THEATRE: ABRAMOVIĆ STALKER SPECIAL

16 Jun
Abramovic

“Hi, it’s Marina. Did the restraining order come through yet? Because I REALLY need it.”

HE’S NOT A REVIEWER, HE’S A VERY NAUGHTY BOY

Last week super creep (and scary monster) Adrian Searle– AKA The Guardian‘s art critic– burdened us with way too much information about his mental landscape in what was ostensibly a review of Marina Abramović’s summer residency at the Serpentine Gallery in London. He goes directly from thinking about his mother’s breast to Abramović. The face is up here, pal. He reminisces fondly about being manhandled by her on a previous occasion. He threatens to return again and again. He compares it to a prayer meeting, then in the same paragraph fantasises about her being a dominatrix and giving him a knee trembler outside because he’s deliberately been a “naughty boy”. On this evidence I advise you not to invite Adrian into your church, mosque or synagogue. He actually uses the term “Abramović stalkers”. It takes one to know one? Then he has another fantasy about Abramović being the late Pina Bausch, hopefully while she was still alive at least.

In short, just by touching his hand once the artist seems to have dredged up some very mucky psychosexual stuff from the Searle id. As I previously mentioned on Twitter, after reading it I felt dirty and I wanted to wash my eyeballs because it seemed pretty clear the Abramović experience was going into Searle’s wank bank. So I thought it was worthy of an Artbollocks Theatre Abramović Stalker Special, and with all due modesty I think it’s also my most BAFTA-worthy performance yet.

(IT SCROLLS DOWN THE PAGE TO SEE THE VIDEO, OR ELSE IT GETS THE HOSE AGAIN.)

It’s not an impersonation of Searle because that would be boring. It’s my dramatic interpretation of the (sub)text because I’m an artist, darling. Not that there’s much sub here unless it’s in the BDSM sense; all the stuff that should be subtext is basically just text.

Incidentally, why do female artists still have to put up with this shit? I think Abramović is a ridiculous individual and nothing she’s done in the past thirty years has been in any way cogent or necessary. According to more than one informant, her attitude towards junior artists is exploitative and appalling. This particular work of hers sounds like a mediocre first year undergraduate drama intro for the least capable students, and indeed Searle is very close to saying so when he manages to stop drooling for a few seconds. Some people obviously really rate her, but that’s their problem.

Prerogative, I mean. It’s their prerogative.

All that said, for the purposes of what I’m about to write it doesn’t really matter what you think of her or of her work, not least because her work doesn’t matter any more and she’s just spinning her wheels as the world’s top Marina Abramović impersonator; but she’s appearing in public in a professional context and a male critic wouldn’t think it was acceptable or relevant to publicly demean an artist with his pervy fantasies in a national newspaper if the artist was a man.

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