Week 12 Assignment Post

For class on Monday, you will need to have submitted your proposal for your final project; be ready to present your Simultaneous Group Action project; added four links to your del.icio.us site; and read The Institutionalization of an American Avant-Garde: Performance Art as Democratic Culture, 1970-2000 by Britta Wheeler (follow the link to JSTOR) and post two thoughtful comments on the reading to this assignment post. You can respond to any aspect of the article that you wish, but remember that your comments are to be thoughtful and should represent your reading, considering, and understanding of the central issues, even and especially if you take issue with the author.

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32 Comments

Filed under Assignment Post, Readings

32 responses to “Week 12 Assignment Post

  1. molly

    I found it a little funny that we are assigned an article in a performance art class at a university about the institutionalization of performance art! Wheeler’s article was very informative, and not only gave the “history” of performance art but applied it to how performance art has been institutionalized over the years. The way she explains it, performance art sounds like its going down a path parallel to all other genres of art. The anti-establishment, avant-garde trying to find a way in to the established art world.

    The artist-run spaces she talks about remind me of a period of art we talked about in my art history 150 class when Gustave Corbet was anti- neoclassical and decided to open his own “pavillion of realism” full of his art that wasn’t generally accepted as art, as rebellion against the salon. In a way, Performance art could be seen as the new realism. Wheeler even said it is an integration of art and life, just as Corbet wanted to convey through his paintings.

    However, Corbet was a talented technical painter, and I think the woman Wheeler talked about, Finley, who rubbed symbolic food all over herself ranting about oppression and violence, may need a few lessons on techinique and aesthetics. The reason Corbet is still remembered today is his skill with his media along with the concepts behind his work. He appeals to all corners of the art world; the art-for-art’s-sake people and the Duchamp conceptual people.

  2. cleasure

    The transition from Avant-gardism to institutionalization is one that I had not previously considered, and it seems to be an ongoing argument in the art world even if people do not know exactly where the argument began. All of these questions of the singular artist, government funding, and whether artists should form some kind of collective are incredibly relevant even today because many believe that the “institution” stifles creativity. I am not sure which side is more accurate in this argument, but there does not seem to be a lack of creativity, even though according to Wheeler performance art has been institutionalized.

  3. cleasure

    The integration of performance art into a wider cultural demographic seems further from institutionalization than the limited art community participation that it involved prior. Wheeler mentions the “drive to make art democratic,” which she relates to the wider audience that began attending performances and the constraints this put on performance art. She also suggests that the mass audience challenged the integrity of the artists to hold true to their “intellectual and aesthetic motivations” because the majority of the audience could not understand these “motivations.” It would appear to me that if indeed the performance were attracting the masses, it was the artist who adapted their performance first to attract a wider audience because according to Wheeler, the commoner could not understand performance art.

  4. desibrink

    Performance art, like all art, has many different aspects that seem to be a hot topic to argue. Similar to Molly’s experience in her class, a few of these arguments, such as government funding, have been discussed in my AH 386 class. When it comes to performance art it seems even more difficult to argue certain points due to the fact that it has limitations on presentation to the audience.

  5. desibrink

    Something that really caught my interest in the reading was the following quote:

    The idea of HP is exceedingly simple. Performance art is termporal. When the performance is over, the art has disappeared. It exists only in the memories of the artist and the audience. Occasionally there is a “review” by a critic in an art publication. But performmance pieces do not hang in galleries and museums where the public can peruse them, return to them, exame and savor them. There is only one hearsay, rumor and most often opinion and misconception.

    I think an interesting element of performance art is the fact that in order to truly understand it, it’s necessary to see it happen. It’s almost a sort of an esoteric practice in the fact that as a whole, so few usually get to witness a performance. Even if it is later written about or documented with film or photographs, the reality of the situation is that audience is lacking their own experience of the work.

  6. desibrink

    Sorry, I forgot to spell check my last comment.
    Here it is corrected:

    Something that really caught my interest in the reading was the following quote:

    The idea of HP is exceedingly simple. Performance art is temporal. When the performance is over, the art has disappeared. It exists only in the memories of the artist and the audience. Occasionally there is a “review” by a critic in an art publication. But performance pieces do not hang in galleries and museums where the public can peruse them, return to them, exam and savor them. There is only one hearsay, rumor and most often opinion and misconception.

    I think an interesting element of performance art is the fact that in order to truly understand it, it’s necessary to see it happen. It’s almost a sort of an esoteric practice in the fact that as a whole, so few usually get to witness a performance. Even if it is later written about or documented with film or photographs, the reality of the situation is that audience is lacking their own experience of the work.

  7. proverbs3v18

    While the style the article was written in was easily readable, the content was confusing. Was it just me or was there many different ideas/questions/discussion brought up? -All of which didn’t seem to come to a solid conclusion – but isn’t that one of the aims of performance art? to be ambiguous and refuse to be nailed down? Yet it seems as though performance artists are trying to get more people to pay attention to their work – which entails the discussion of marketing/attention garnering tactics – to cater to an audience…
    And even more twisted in the content – it attempts to resist nailing down yet subjects itself to discourse to be made into legitimate art –
    It’s like performance artists are trying to have their cake and eat it too. They want all of those things but without what those entail – or actions/ideas that are conflicting/hypocritical. It’s like some sort of poltergeist out to warn the world or play tricks on it – I can’t tell – or some sort of frankenstein monster that has its own life yet is made of parts of the artists themselves. Am I making any sense?

  8. proverbs3v18

    Topics for discussion brought up in the article:

    1. what is the ultimate aim of performance art? to increase awareness of some kind? political, social agendas?

    2. Definitions of art – who has the right to say what art is? What is art anyway? Why do people have to fight over this? Is it good that we are fighting over this? Perhaps the ambiguity is good because we are fighting over art definitions, constantly redefining and rebuilding – forming new ideas and growing – instead of remaining static and within established boundaries which may limit progress and other creative ideas…

    3. Institutionalization –
    -do we need their support to call something art? What does it take for something to become art? Is is money that talks and buys “art” status? Or is art merely in the mind of the creator, who is the first audience member?
    -if performance art is meant to be ambiguous, why encourage discourse on it when the discourse starts to narrow the plain of potentiality? Performance art seems to me to be more of an experimental playground for people(because participation and creation is not limited to the educated/credentialed) rather than a solid discipline with established codes of aesthetics and famous artists…

    4. Shock value – can performance art exist without shock value? – something to shock the audience into awareness about the social/economic/political situations in which they have so smoothly and unquestioningly integrated with? For art in general – must it have shock value to have great impact/importance?

    5. Our degree is VaPA – visual and PERFORMING ARTS – what does this mean? Is this perhaps why our department does not have a building, because we cannot get funding because of the outrageous/non-traditional aspect of our program that mainstream culture is still unsure of? Performance art resists institutionalization, yet we are studying it – in a confusing manner…are we defeating the aims of performance art by studying it and producing it in a program? by conforming to project promptings and being informed by articles? – creating an elitist performance art discourse/works by being educated on it, thereby being hypocritical to the art form?
    —————-
    Aye, that’s enough from me. I’m sure I could go on for pages.

  9. heidirides

    First off, that Jesse Helms guy ought to be ashamed of himself. Didn’t he ever read that Richard Florida article about the creative economy? Art is good for the economy, even a Republican can see that. I think maybe he should have gone streaking in college instead of polishing his revolver. Sorry to rant, but how can sexually explicit content be worse than gore and violent content? Loser!

  10. heidirides

    Also, I think its too bad the fems from the Women’s building project didn’t document their work. I think this was bad judgement on their part. It’s great to believe that the meaning comes from the work not the documentation of it, but now we have no record of it. Their contribution to the performance art world has fallen wayside into the HIStorical practice of excluding the contributions of women and minorities. This lack of history is what keeps people down. I would enjoy knowing more about what my foremothers accomlished, even theoretically.

  11. heidirides

    This comment is specifically for Proverbs. Look, plain and simple, performance art is about waking up society to cultures and ideals and perspectives that are not reinforced in the mainstream. The idea is not to reinforce maninstream habits and views, but to move beyond them. I thank performance artists for offering a viewpoint contradictory to that portrayed by the mass media and cheesecakes like Helms. What if we didn’t have performance art? I heard on some news broadcast that our generation is more open minded and less prejudiced that previous generations. We are less opposed to a woman president or president of color. This suggests a perspective on the human race that is less biased and more equal than previous generations. Do you think we got this way by practicing the behaviors and teachings from the classical teachers and their exclusive schools of thought/representation? I would beg to differ. Of course we can’t attribute this solely to performance artists, or art generally,but art and life do go hand in hand, wouldn’t you say?

  12. ladywood

    I have to agree with Desirae about the following comment as being interesting:
    “When the performance is over, the art has disappeared. It exists only in the memories of the artist and the audience.”
    Yet, I see the author as contradicting his justification of performance art. When the performance is over, the art is gone, so was it even art to being with? The best pieces of art are those hanging in galleries, and when documenting performance art, we have to take pictures or videos, which are a whole different genre of art! So is performance art actually art if it only remains in the memories of the onlookers? It is like a play performance one would see on stage, so I suppose it falls under the realm of art.

  13. kait

    Performance art needed institutionalizing, I think, in order for it to be recognized by the art world. What is ironic about performance artists wanting to be institutionalized is that it is usually the opposition the institutionalization that is the subject of their performances. The article raises a lot of these questions as to the importance of institutionalization in performance art but it doesn’t seem to answer them.

  14. kait

    Institutionalization will spread the awareness of performance art, but I believe it will also demise what performance art is all about. From this class I have come to understand that performance art is about starting a movement, raising awareness, and creating change in any genre of art. Performance art is about educating the audience through documentation or performance, therefore institutionalizing performance art will only further this educational goal and create necessary boundaries and structure.

  15. Isaiah McDowning

    In response to Jenna’s question of “When the performance is over, the art is gone, so was it even art to being with?” This is the same to me as asking if nobody is there to hear a tree fall in the forest does it make any noise? The answer is probably yes but there isn’t any concrete evidence. The definition of art is the real question. Performance art in my eyes can be seen on a wide spectrum from lets say left to right, where left represents actual performances by artists such as Joseph Beuys and then all the way to the right where everyday occurrences are considered a performance…i.e. brushing your teeth while somebody watches you.

  16. cmndrkeen

    The artist run spaces I read about, such as the warehouse opened up for artist to live and cultivate their craft, were wonderful ideas in my opinion. A lot of performance art was purposefully trying to get away from “traditional” forms of art, and getting away from “traditional” venues and ways of publicizing performance art goes hand in hand.

  17. cmndrkeen

    I think that I like the idea of the High Performance (HP) magazine. They took on the responsibility of documenting performance art pieces. Documentation sometimes seems to me to take away from the actual performance. The performance is about being live, being there. The performance is not about documentation. However, not documenting a performance leaves only memory, and that means the performance and its meaning will disappear over time. HP wrote about performances for historical purposes.

  18. trinityblk

    Wheeler’s article makes me think back to my reading of de Certeau earlier this semester. In order to engage and change the “system” we must first be in the “system”. The idea of institutionalization is all fine and dandy, but if we didn’t have institutionalization then what would we fight against? From Wheeler’s reading I get a strong sense of anti-institutionalization, however we must know our oppressor before we can escape it. The issues concerning documentation, funding and “social-status” must be experienced before we can know how to break the rules or create new paths. I agree that it is a little odd to be reading about institutionalization of performance art in a college intuitional setting, but what a better place to do so? We can learn from Wheeler, others and our own performance art experiences to help us with the evolution of performance art.

  19. trinityblk

    I admit that artist’s manefestos, and writing such as this article, confuse me. What exactly in the reason behind them? Do we honestly need to document/explain every single piece of “art” so that an unknown audience can review it? So what if the earlier feminists didn’t document their work. Does that mean that other feminist artists can’t create because they may be repeating an idea? If as a student performer I do not document anything in my college art career how could that possibly negatively affect others? Libraries are filled with books, art galleries full of art and my home computer filled with my personal photos to scrapbook. What do these collections matter? To put it this way; if a performance artists screams in the woods; will anyone know the performance took places? Does it matter? What if the only thing that mattered was the performance itself? Then who cares if 15 years later no one could find it in a Google search? What I read in Wheeler’s piece is an underlying need for historical acknowledgement of performance art. Instead I feel that it is the relationship between the artist and the work that is more important.

  20. heidirides

    No, if a performance artist screams in the woods and he or she didn’t document it, never tells anyone he or she did it, and no one but the trees heard it, than it is not performance art. It is a person screaming in the woods. Perhaps it is therapeutic for the individual, or perhaps the person was merely bit by a snake. Either way it holds no significance beyond that of the screamer.

  21. heidirides

    Also, why would the history of performance art be less important or significant that the histories of other genres and other subjects. Is history itself irrelevent? Should we know what previous generations accomplished or screwed up? History is a part of who we are. Knowing one’s history is not just about preventing a repeat, but learning, growing and contributing to the body of human knowlege and the dialogue of life.

  22. thehankfuldread

    i find it very amusing that this is the basis of theory that avant-garde was started with…” bohemian avant-garde artists denied the importance of institutions
    for art, claiming instead an alliance with an idealized working class against the
    status quo of bourgeois society.” go to any opening, music performance, or performance art show, and who is there? art professors, music professors, and the ‘arts’ community. upper class. aint nooobody else. not that i don’t love the avant-garde. very few middle class or lower class folk attend avante-garde performances. at least, this has been my experience.

  23. thehankfuldread

    this, i can dig… “Therefore, the task of the
    avant-garde is to invite individuals to consider their own role in the production of
    culture and to suggest how the world could be remade.”

    and heidi, try this on for size… “This ephemerality appealed especially to feminist
    performance artists, who were more interested in creating an authentic experience
    than producing a commodifiable record of the event.”

    i think that this is a pretty good way to look at art. sure, history is important, but that doesnt mean that every single performance, art piece, or musical composition needs to be thoroughly documented. in fact, i think that would be, in fact, harmful. who’s to say you shouldn’t do something you think is art for the sake of doing it? how can you say that is not contributing to anything. if i play a song in the forest, and there is nobody there to here it, is it not music? or did i just get bit by a snake?

  24. thehankfuldread

    plus, i think that leaving art to rumor and memory can some times make it more interesting, and more influential than it would have been if documented ‘properly.’

  25. heidirides

    Leaving art to rumor and memory is not such a bad thing, I agree. When I speak of documentation, I do not mean something visual or commodifiable (see earlier comment). But SOMETHING must live on, more than simply, “I was by myself in the woods yesterday.” Also, hankful, if you play a song, fart, or whatever you do in the woods, is not to say you are not making music or performing any number of actions. However I am reluctant to define your actions as “Performance Art.”

  26. thehankfuldread

    well maybe the whole point of doing my performance piece of farting in the woods by myself was to have other people tell me that it was not in fact art, therefor commenting on the complete and utter close-mindedness of society, including those in the ever-progressive art world, and their inability to deal with the fact that i can do whatever the hell i want to and call it art, and you can’t do anything about it. hmf. how’s that for dialoge, hiiiideee.

  27. kkomaenge

    I believed the performance art is a document of something of artists’ artwork or artsits are doing something in front of audiences. The article says “Performance art as a field of art, a movement made up of a loose collection visual artists, dancer, and theater practitioners” I wonder if people collected visual artists work; then is that performance art or visual art? Also, why they did not call dancer as performance artists, if dancers are also performance art. I do not understand the difference between dancers and performance artists.

  28. kkomaenge

    The article also says, “Performance art is an interdisciplinary form of cultural production that serves as an indicator of cultural and social mores in late-twentieth-century U.S. culture.” Most countries have performance artists, and I feel they are performing different ways of their own, not for cultural ways. Before I took this class I thought performance art is a person doing something out side of street and doing in front of audience. Also, performance art does have random audiences. However, I think learned that performance artists are doing as cultural and something meaningful. Performance artists give us something message from social.

  29. heidirides

    Gotcha! You told someone that you farted in the woods and why! You had a formal issue you were addressing(the definition of art) and explored it. That makes it a Performance Art piece. Get it? As for close minded; as the article said, the institutionalization of performance art is only natural because eventually it must have some sort of boundaries. Hence, nearly any action may be considered a performance, but every performance is not Performance Art.

  30. elpetty84

    This was one of my favorite articles to read because it gave a brief history of the birth of performance art, the many definitions, as well as the year that avant guard came into life. It also talked about the different forms of art, such as conceptual art. It was easy to follow and easy to access.

  31. elpetty84

    I liked what was said by kkomaenge about performance art; like how it has many definitions, that it is not something being performed on the street, and that their audiences are not random. I learned that not only from this article, but from the class as well, that performance can be just about anything, and that in order for a performer to know if they are doing a good job, they need some sort of an audience to give them feedback on their performance. After this class i see myself not just as a theater major, but one of many performance artists that inhabit this world.

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