FROM DUST TO DUST: CLOSING THOUGHTS ON THE CONTEMPORARY PERFORMANCE ART EXHIBITION, REMAINS BY IAN DELEÓN
FROM DUST TO DUST: CLOSING THOUGHTS ON THE CONTEMPORARY PERFORMANCE ART EXHIBITION, REMAINS
FERGUS McCAFFREY GALLERY, NYC
By Ian Deleón
THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG-TROUBLED ARTIST
Going back as far as the Renaissance, when artists sought to differentiate themselves from the trade of craftspeople, an idea has persisted that the true artist is an outsider to the world––isolated and divinely inspired. Early on, artists were thought to be unified under the astrological influence of the planet Saturn, which explained their supposed melancholia and detachment. In their study Born Under Saturn: The Character and Conduct of Artists, Margot and Rudolf Wittkower dissect these persisting assertions and stretch an eclipsing hand of doubt over them while reaffirming their deep, symbolic significance, “Alienation, in effect, was a rung by which artists sought to climb the social ladder.”
And just how far up that social ladder have artists been able to climb?
REMAINS PROVES PERFORMANCE ART STILL HAS A PULSE
Fergus McCaffrey, NYC, July 2017
By Ian Deleón
To use the word remains is to invoke in someone associations with death, decay, and possibly even dismemberment. Generally speaking it refers to the parts left behind, once some significant change in status has taken place. That change is usually framed in terms of a negative, destructive event but of course destruction can be a kind of creation as well. The word’s linguistic ties to remaining mean that it can also convey that which lives on, or that which stays put.
In relation to the art of live performance, talking in terms of remains certainly articulates some of the finer points about post-action detritus and extended duration times, but it’s also important to address the aspect of performance art’s own supposed untimely demise. The notion that one art form or another has died at some point is pervasive in contemporary art historical discourse. Painting has died so many times it has spawned zombie movements. But that kind of makes sense, painting was old. But performance art is fairly new...at least, by some accounts.
When we talk about performance in this article we may concede to the influence of its antecedents: of the theater, of dance, of magic, of cinema, of protest. But performance art cannot be all of those things if we are going to have a productive conversation about it. It has to be its own thing, while often appearing in the guise of those other art forms. Performance wasn’t a flash in the pan either, with its death knell rung by an explosion of consumer culture, information, communication or globalization in the early 90s...NO. Performance Art is NOT dead and this exhibition is the proof––the exhumation, the surprise discovery that the remains are intact...and ALIVE.
Murakami Saburo, Passing Through, 1956. Performance views, 2nd Gutai Art Exhibition, Ohara Kaikan, Tokyo, ca. October 11–17, 1956. Photo: Otsuji Seiko Collection, Musashino Art University Museum & Library, Tokyo. © Otsuji Seiko and Murakami Makiko. Courtesy Musashino Art University Museum & Library. Photo: Otsuji Kiyoji.
Summer Performance Art Show at Fergus McCaffrey
By Ian Deleón
“Ruins unexpectedly welcome us with warmth and friendliness; they speak to us through their beautiful cracks and rubble”.1
For six weeks this summer, Fergus McCaffrey gallery in Chelsea, NYC will present a unique program of more than twenty-five live performances by internationally acclaimed and emerging artists Máiréad Delaney, Hee Ran Lee, Daniel Neumann, Clifford Owens, Nigel Rolfe, and Liping Ting.
Performing our Reality / Dreaming our Escape - Notes from Satellite 2.0
Alexandra Hammond for Performance is Alive
It’s just before the opening of Satellite 2.0 and the Parisian hotel in Miami Beach is as ready as it will ever be. Each room has been cleared of furnishings and occupied by a gallery, curatorial project, artist collective or publication. Many have been transformed beyond recognition while others, including our booth for Performance is Alive, revel in the dingy tones of cream and pale-peach paint, making use of the vaguely sordid yet standardized markers of the hotel’s architecture of transience: dated carpeting, wall-mounted televisions and lamps.
We have covered the linty carpet with an uncanny layer of adhesive plastic rug-guard topped with beige drop cloths. Artist, Curator and Performance is Alive founder Quinn Dukes has been performing and managing performance events for years and knows that “performers get messy”. She is keen to support the artists and tend to the realization of their works as much as possible under the constraints of a nonexistent budget and the hotel setting. The only rule: no fire.
After a day and a half of nearly round-the-clock preparation (more for many of the elaborate booths) the Satellite Art fair feels like a possible setting for a Borges story: a world within the world, with its own sense of time and cultural mores.
The lobby is now equipped with a giant cereal bowl, titled F+++ Off, fashioned from a modified Doughboy pool and filled with enlarged Captain Crunch pieces sculpted out of foam. A bubble-bath fountain shaped like a giant milk carton pours down from above. Its creators, Jen Catron and Paul Outlaw don bathing suits and float in doughnut-styled inner tubes from time the fair opens until it closes each day. They take their job seriously, just like the exotic car rental agency that normally shares the lobby of the Parisian and continues its usual business throughout the fair, tending to and lending out a small stable of Lamborghinis and Rolls Royces that are parked out front.
Curator Jesse Firestone (creator of the Soothing Center and an organizer of the fair along with Founder Brian Whiteley) stops into our booth for Performance is Alive. Jessie, Quinn and I joke that if we had to stay at the Parisian forever, we would survive and make our own world. Like the Eagles’ Hotel California, but with more exuberance and less downfall.
The fantasy of the self-sustaining art-pod was particularly poignant in the days immediately following the presidential election. The final dissolution of the myth of American exceptionalism calls for action, and the temporary world-building represented by repurposing a hotel for a few days of art viewing (even as it participates in the commercial crush of Miami art week), can be seen as a utopic gesture, perhaps even an act of love towards a world that has revealed itself as a more troubled place than we had imagined.
Nestled on the second of three floors of this most wacky and artist-powered of the Miami art fairs, Performance is Alive’s room 15 was poised to be occupied by the first of its politically-charged performances. Artists addressed the interconnected subjects of landscape and environmental destruction, race, gender, consumer capitalism, labor, violence and eroticism. In short, the range of issues that arise when the medium is the ever-political, ever-present body.
PULSAR is the performance programming brainchild of Ian DeLeón and Tif Robinette (Agrofemme). Monthly PULSAR events run out of a black box space adjacent to the Catland Bookstore on Flushing Avenue in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
The spirit and bounty of performance art in Brooklyn is explosive right now. I have been invited to more events in the past month than all of 2010 combined. It’s staggering, wonderful and allows for experimentation. Performance artists present their work on rooftops, restaurants, lofts, galleries… you name it. These events are often followed by late night parties, occasional fires and electoral candidate bash sessions. What does not seem to be following the same path of enthusiasm however is the shared dialogue, critique and conversation about the performances. All too often, an artist performs, a 5-10 minute break happens and then we (the audience) are thrust into the narratives of a new artist. This practice is not at all uncommon. Live music venues stack the bill, as do comedy shows… but I wonder, how does the abundance of viewership without analysis or conversation alter the effectiveness or memory/remembrance of the work? If the performance reaches me on an emotional and/or visceral level- I am more likely to recall it - but this is merely a function of our neurological mapping. (Richard Sieb, “The Emergence of Emotions,” Activitas Nervosa Superior, 2013)
Initiated in February 2016, PULSAR was birthed out of an interest to integrate live artists - linking practitioners of sound, dance, experimental theatre, choreography, performance and beyond. Curators DeLeón and Robinette seek to initiate conversations about the performances presented at PULSAR and the place of performance within our current socio-political environment. In collaboration with INCIDENT Magazine’s David LaGaccia, DeLeón and Robinette began publishing a podcast to share (and archive) discussions related to PULSAR performance programming.
On the evening of May 20th, my first PULSAR experience began from across the street of the venue. I watched as a woman dressed in a Victorian white costume presented an offering to passersby. As I drew closer, performance artist Charmaine Wheatley asked me, "Do you want to take a bite." I looked down at the object presented on a silver platter and was informed that it was a dark chocolate mold of her ass.