Perform, Repeat, Record: Adya Zecha

In the reading, Marina Abramovic talks about recreating other people’s work versus recreating her own work and explains the difference between redoing an artist’s work and having to conform to the intentions of the previous artist in order to attain what they had planned, whereas with her own work, she has the freedom to be able to change and edit aspects because regardless, it is still her work. She also enjoys reworking her previous performances because she is able to push boundaries and see “how far can I go with re-enactment?” (pg 548)

Having studied Abramovic’s work before, I know that her performance’s typically cause the audience an emotion or create an atmosphere in which the audience are encouraged to feel a certain way. What is interesting to me is the idea that although Abramovic is able to recreate other artist’s work and her own, each performance is different and original because of external factors like environment, space, audience and one could even take in the artist’s emotions into consideration, at the time of the performance and the effect that that could have on the performance. Based on this, I think that her effort to train young artists to perform her pieces is fascinating because those artists would leave their own mark on the ‘original’ performance, even if they do exactly as they were instructed to. Interestingly, one of Marina Abramovic’s best known performance pieces, Rhythm 0, is not following a predetermined performance plan, and instead relies mainly on audience participation so in this case the ‘performer’ becomes a platform in which the audience performs.

The Live Artist as Archaeologist – Amanda Dobbin

After reading both readings by Amelia Jones, I was extremely intrigued by performance art. To start off, performance art is something that I have never heard of before, nor considered to be within the realms of “normal art.” With that said, the idea that making something come alive, reproducing a production and engaging viewers into the actual performance is thrilling and ultimately very interesting.

Marina is an ideal example who uses performance in her work of art. Specifically on page 561, Marina states “When people see performers, they always try to make a hero out of you, always try to glorify you or make you this icon, which actually you can’t live up to. But in my work, I’m just showing everything that is imperfect” (561). This exact quote from Marina stood out to me for a couple of reasons and allowed me to understand her type of performance art in a more clear way. As said, when watching a production, there is a preconceived and expected connotation that there is supposed to display someone being a hero and ending with a happy note. Marina, within her work, attempts to go against these exact norms by using the negatives in her life in order to produce her work and show everyone that everything isn’t perfect. Therefore, this additionally correlates to the idea of performance art in itself. If one can go back and edit their previous performances until they display what they want to display, there is a sense of showing that a production is not perfect. That is where the line of documentation and performance separate. As Marina says on page 564, “Documentation will never replace live performance” (564). Evidently, even though documentation somewhat falls under the category of performance, performance art is a type of production that can take on different environments, different people and be re-created multiple times.

Perform, Repeat, Record – Becky Deihl

Marina Abramović has an interesting relationship with performance art. Not only does she have her own pieces she has created and performed, but she reperforms other artists’ performances. In traditional artforms, it’s commonplace to recreated past works, creating artists copies. I never thought about recreating performance art though. It’s much more temporal and if I wasn’t there for the original, I wouldn’t expect to see it ever performed.

Throughout the reading, Jones and Abramović discuss the recreation process, how it was difficult to get clear instructions and permission. The instructions were important so Abramović could perform these pieces as close to original as possible. It was just as important to get permission to perform the pieces, a thought that never crossed my mind. It goes beyond the artist copy though, since she was working the performances into her own new piece. On page 551, she describes how she was only given permission to perform one part of Gina Pane’s performance, affecting the relationship between the original and the recreation. The idea of permission changes the piece dramatically, because some pieces can be shortened like Pane’s piece, or not approved of whatsoever like Chris Burden’s piece, which in turn effects Abramović’s new recreation piece.

Along with her recreation of the pieces, Abramović takes future recreation of her pieces very seriously. On page 562, she explains how she’s training young performance artists on how to perform her pieces, leaving clear instructions and making sure they perform properly. It’s in reaction to the few instructions she could find with some of the pieces she used for Seven Easy Pieces. It’s a whole new kind of curation in a way, just to make sure the piece lives on properly without traditional documentation.

Perform, Repeat, Record- Elsie Campbell

Chapter 41, The Live Artist as Archaeologist


In this Chapter, Amelia Jones interviews renowned performance artist Marina Abramovic on the topic of re-performing her own work, re-performing other artists work, and having new artists re-perform her work. This interview touches on many points regarding performance art that I had been either curious about or had never even considered.

A minor point that Marina made early in the dialogue was regarding the birth of performance art and interest in the human body. She mentioned that the renewed interest in body art was related to the AIDs epidemic (which we already kind of new from our segment on AIDs) but she followed that by saying that this epidemic spurred a pervasive fear of dying and interest in the exploration of that fear. This does seem like a natural outcome of the AIDs epidemic, but I had not thought of it in quite such stark terms. Performance art is a great way to explore death because it is the most ‘alive’ art one can create. Additionally, it would be quite easy to bring the audience through a begining to end cycle, which is a sure fire way to deal with death.

Beginning on page 548 Marina begins discussion re-performing her own art and what that means to her and moves on to discuss re-performing others work. She talks about how when she is re-performing her own art she has the freedom to rearrange the ‘pieces’ that make up the original. This gives her room to apply new life and personal experiences to the piece without needing to adhere to a strict outline in order to retain the structure of the original. More than that, she says that it is inevitable you “find[ing] yourself unconsciously repeating actions or visual elements you’ve seen from other parts of your life.” (552) When she re-performs other people work, she needs to keep at least some of the original structure to keep it the same piece, and she is not the original creator of the artist so does not have the freedom she discussed when talking about her own work. From this, I had a few interesting thoughts: first, it seems like re-performing one’s own art hold very different implications and come from different places of motivation. When you are re-performing your own art, it’s more like editing and revising with new life and new pieces that make it more contemporarily relevant. Where as when you re-perform someone else’s art and adhere to the original structure, it seems more like you are re creating the original piece and the original message. This difference points to a distinction between the ‘piece’ and the ‘performer’ that leads into the last point I wanted to talk about.

With traditional art (paintings, sculpture, et cetera) you only get the product of the art. With performance art you get both the product and the performer, and the interaction therein brings something specific to the piece. Like i just mentioned, re-performing art exhibits one element of the performer and piece dynamic. On page 550 Marina talks about how when she reenacted seedbed she could not convey the every element of the original piece’s intention because she had not ‘production’ because she was a woman. I thought this comment was very interesting because it touched on how each artist, in some sense, is forced to bring pieces to a performance work, whether it’s their own work or a re-enactment of someone else’s. For example, a black woman reenacting a performance piece by a white man, even if she did it exactly as he instructed, would carry different implications socially and would by necessity add a layer of identity to the piece that had not originally been there (or had originally been different.) This comes back to the idea that performance art isnt just art, but its the piece, the performer, and the symbiotic relationship of identity and intention therein.

Keith Haring and Ancient Egypt Connect At Frieze Masters- Elsie Campbell

An interesting cross-cultural exhibit is currently on display at the Salon 94 and Antiquarium Ltd. booths at Frieze Masters in London. This exhibit showcases the work of modern artist Keith Haring and ancient Egyptian artifacts. Salon 94 and Antiquarium Ltd. are two New York galleries that teamed up in the London location to exhibit this exploration of cultural and temporal juxtaposition titled Egyptomania. The contemporary arts were all influenced by the style, color scheme, vibrancy, and richness of the ancient Egyptian arts. The main modern piece is a large blue and gold ‘pyramid’ with ‘hieroglyphics’ emblazoned upon it; the ‘hieroglyphics’ are cartoon-like dancers spiraling over the bright surface. The piece draws on many traditional elements of Egyptian art for inspiration; colors (bright blue and gold), shape (classic pyramidal form), and composition and subject (renditions of human forms, lacking in perspective and much detail but conveying ideals nonetheless.) As noted in the article, displaying Haring’s work in such a small exhibit with ancient artifacts allows for more detailed investigation into the ways in which his work was influenced by the ancient Egyptians.
I think that it is interesting to see how ancient cultures still influence art today. Especially that of ancient Egyptian cultures. Its incredible how in the 1920s, the British were drawing on the archeological discoveries from pharaoh’s tombs for their fashion and their jewelry, and now contemporary artists are still drawing on the rich gold and jeweled style to influence their 21st century art.
The question that leaps to my brain is how do the Egyptians feel about this exhibit? Do they feel that the reinterpretations of their ancient artifacts are in anyway belittling their culture or spiritual practices? Do they feel that Haring is honoring them or making a mockery of them? Interesting questions to ponder.

Thelma Golden by Amanda Dobbin

After reading about slavery taking the presence of the art world, I became extremely intrigued by its influence on people as a whole. First and foremost, I think it is specifically interesting that slavery was incorporated in art in such a powerful and guiding way. Secondly, the challenges the people encountered in order to produce such a powerful work is astonishing.

In Thelma Golden’s piece about black men represented in art, she points out the fact that African-Americans throughout history and since slavery have been seen as lesser than the average white man.  As Thelma says, “The black male body, fetishized and overdetermined, is the site on which popular culture sometimes expresses itself… It is where the black body is considered as object and subject.” To me, this was extremely interesting due to the fact that I believe that Thelma is pointing out that making the black male body the subject and the object, it becomes an art form in itself. Thus, I relate this back to Greek and Roman times where the perfect male body was often represented in religious connotations. Why was there never a perfect African-American body produced in such a manner? Why has there not been one produced like that today without the immediate distinction of the body being “dark?” With this, it is clear to me that history yet today has far to advance away from typical stereotypes including skin color and race as well as gender.

Kara Walker : Becky Deihl

Kara Walker has always been an artist I come back to. When I start struggling with making art, just looking at her work gets me inspired again. She puts so much energy behind the images she makes, possibly enough to give me a little boost.

Walker is using such an overlooked subject matter with her silhouettes. The simple style she’s using, I feel, gets people to look at her work and see the societal problems most viewers want to ignore. Working on such a big scale helps with this. Her works engulf the viewer, making it impossible for the viewer to look away.  Her current works do this too. We saw a recent show of hers in New York and most of her work is massive, 20-foot-tall drawings with live size figures in some case. Even though they were set in the antebellum South, as mentioned in the reading, they were focused on contemporary issues, a few reminding me of people tearing down the Confederate Memorials. It’s amazing how she can capture so much into these simple drawings.

As mentioned above, I always end up coming back to Walker’s work, which speaks for her work. She’s able to handle hot topics and not scare people off with overly graphic images. I think that’s important for the African-American art movement and history in general, because people are looking and learning.

Thelma Golden’s BLACK: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art— Elsie Campbell

In her writings in BLACK: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art Thelma Golden explores the ways in which the intersectional identities of black men in contemporary American are portrayed and perpetuated. The idea of the “black male,” says Golden, is an concept of conflicting stereotypes that has risen in the twentieth century. It is contradicting because it hold the aspect of black, which for a long time (and arguably still today and moving forwards) contains negative social implications, carries stereotypes of ‘dirtiness’ or ‘lesser-than-ness.’ This view of African-American’s has been present in american society since the earliest years of slavery. Along side this identity that is wrought with oppression and negative social value, the black male also has the ‘male’ identity. The ‘male’ identity is one that has for thousands of years in western culture been one that carries with it power, authority, strength, leadership, and truthfully dwelled at the top of the social, political, and economic strata. Thelma Golden alludes to two ideas that I find very important: first, the growing awareness of intersectionality. Second, not only does the intersection of the two identities (male and black) creates a new identity that is stigmatized in different ways than the two distinct identities, but the qualities of the individual identities perpetuates the stigmatization of the intersectional identity.

In art with a sociopolitical agenda that we have seen thus far, there is often a one track identity being promoted or explicated. For example, the art work that we studied regarding second-wave feminist art (for the most part) was only focused on women’s problems. Not on the problems of black women or lesbian women or disabled women. Though second wave feminist art like that of Hannah Wilke, Judy Chicago, and Miriam Shapiro had a clear, progressive political agenda it did not take into account the differences of overlapping identities. Art during the 70s and 80s that commented on Gay rights movement and AIDs began to see signs of intersectional awareness, for example the overlapping identities of gay and black in reference to the aids crisis (ex Maplethorppe’s work.) However, the art that Golden outlines takes intersectional awareness to a different level. A good example of this is her discuss on Adrian Piper’s work; Piper, a woman, cross dressed as an african american male and recorded her experience, the reactions she received and peoples reception of her. Looking into “extreme otherness” Piper says. This is a clear cut artistic investigation into the two identities of male and black. This intersectional awareness is something that is extremely current in todays discussions of political and personal identity, so I find Thelma Golden’s discussion on this particular degree of emergence important and enlightening.

Before reading Golden’s investigation into black masculinity I never really thought about how the male identity, an identity I always associated with highest privilege, paired with black identity could actually negatively perpetuate the particular stereotypes of black masculinity. By this I mean traits of masculinity such as strength and power, that are seen as positive in white men, paired with the stereotypical traits, that are seen as negative, of black people as unruly, less refined or civilized, animalistic, or dirty actually creates a ‘person’ who can be even more greatly stigmatizes. The idea of someone who is uncivilized (black stereotype) and strong (male stereotype) is more dangerous, threatening, or problematic than one of those qualities individually. The stereotypes of black masculinity follow this quite naturally: sexual, criminal, athletic. Golden mentions the issues that arise when real-life instances instantiate these stereotypes. This issue can be undermined by using art as a method of critiquing this intersectional stereotype. Lorna Simpson’s piece Gestures/Reenactments (1985) has this effect. The subject of the photograph is a black male, dressed simply, with no face showing, arms crossed over his chest. The words “sometimes Sam stands like his mother” is written below the image. In many ways this picks at gender and race. The faceless aspect makes it clear that this piece is made to represent a group more than an individual. The written portion clearly points to gender-role transgression and the race of the subject points to racial-stereotype transgression.

I think that the ideas in this article about intersectionality are important to understand not just art of the late twentieth century, but also important to understand the way our world is structured and the struggles each unique individual faces.

The Long Shadow of Slavery- Adya Zecha

“When stereotypes attempt to take control of their own bodies, they can only do what they are made of and they are made of the pathological attitudes of the South. Therefore, racist stereotypes in my art can only partake of psychotic activities.”- Kara Walker

What interested me most about Heartney’s reading was the concept of the traditional cut outs which almost appear simplistic in form but have so much depth and meaning to them and the way in which Walker uses the cut outs and even the title of her works, to tell a story and add to their depth. In the reading, it explained that Walker’s works usually represent the lives of slaves on large southern plantations, but instead of representing ‘real’ lives, Walker takes her inspiration from films and movies, like, “Gone With the Wind”, which in themselves, create an ‘imaginary’ world.  I also thought that the reasoning behind the ‘very blackness of traditional silhouettes’ and how the black paper erases differences in skin colour was interesting considering the stark differences in the figures, featured in Walker’s work, of those who hold power and of those who do not. Either between slave and slaveowner, man and woman etc which is depicted by clothing, stance etc.

Walker’s works explain narratives through the use of imagery and shed light on society’s view on slavery by playing off of popular movies like, ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’. Within her works, Walker is able to question reality and societal norms while maintaining her renowned ‘style’ of delivering startling and poignant messages of the past and allowing the viewer to question what they know.

Kara Walker, ‘Gone: An Historical Romance of a Civil War as It Occurred between the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart’, 1994.