We’re All Performance Artists Now

by Art Fag City on July 16, 2009 · 13 comments Events

art fag city, Antony Gormley, paddy johnson
Antony Gormley, One & Other, 2009

I hate to bring out the old fogey in me, but I’ve always felt conflicted by the concept of life as performance art.  Sure, if that’s what you want to call it, that’s what it is, but the job of explaining why Paris Hilton’s life is not performance art is tedious enough without adding Sacha Baron Cohen and Michael Jackson to the list.

Thanks to Time Magazine art critic Richard Lacayo, I expect I’ll be spending a lot more time discussing such things.  Lacayo employs the broad definition of a performance as “behavior that’s been framed in some way to make us bestow meanings on the behavior” (although he acknowledges it’s one of many) to build his argument that Baron Cohen and Jackson are performance artists. Also blurring the definition of performance of late is Antony Gormley’s piece One and Other, which invites real people to stand on a plinth in Trafalgar Square. The plinth features a different person every hour, and allows them to do anything (legal) they please for their 60 minutes of prominence. Gormley’s piece began on July 6, and after its 100-day duration, it will have featured 2400 participants. According to Lacayo’s reading, these cultural events combine to demonstrate the notion that anything can be art with the right framing.

I’ll admit I find checking in with Gormley’s One and Other rather amusing—as I’m typing, there’s a guy working on his laptop in the square—but I have yet to read an argument that convinces me there’s any significant meaning to this reframing.  As a conceptual exercise, once we establish the already-known fact that anyone can adopt the “experience-as-art” stance forged by Gilbert and George and Chris Burden (amongst others), the point is made.  Personally, I’m looking forward to whatever comes after these endless “the lives of regular people and celebrities are art” performances.  Almost anything else will more meaningful.

  • http://www.unutterable.org Giovanni

    I hope we’ll also get beyond artists doing things such as cooking or setting up shops or offering non-art services and presenting them as art. Oof!

  • http://www.unutterable.org Giovanni

    I hope we’ll also get beyond artists doing things such as cooking or setting up shops or offering non-art services and presenting them as art. Oof!

  • http://www.unutterable.org Giovanni

    I hope we’ll also get beyond artists doing things such as cooking or setting up shops or offering non-art services and presenting them as art. Oof!

  • http://www.aids-3d.com Daniel

    My professor David Robbins advocated a reversal of this process. I.e. instead of bringing urinal into gallery, bring high-level discourse to a reality tv show or ringtone, etc…
    “… inaugurating the painting into public life in a place apart from the usual haunts of art, since a memory of that novel, ‘inappropriate’ context would necessarily be built into the painting’s experience, and thus into the experience of encountering the painting afterwards.”…
    I think this strategy is a lot more useful than eating tom yum ghai and schmoozing in some white cube.

    Maybe the Bravo show is the closest we’ve come to this being successfully implemented. (but probably not.)

  • http://www.aids-3d.com Daniel

    My professor David Robbins advocated a reversal of this process. I.e. instead of bringing urinal into gallery, bring high-level discourse to a reality tv show or ringtone, etc…
    “… inaugurating the painting into public life in a place apart from the usual haunts of art, since a memory of that novel, ‘inappropriate’ context would necessarily be built into the painting’s experience, and thus into the experience of encountering the painting afterwards.”…
    I think this strategy is a lot more useful than eating tom yum ghai and schmoozing in some white cube.

    Maybe the Bravo show is the closest we’ve come to this being successfully implemented. (but probably not.)

  • http://www.aids-3d.com Daniel

    My professor David Robbins advocated a reversal of this process. I.e. instead of bringing urinal into gallery, bring high-level discourse to a reality tv show or ringtone, etc…
    “… inaugurating the painting into public life in a place apart from the usual haunts of art, since a memory of that novel, ‘inappropriate’ context would necessarily be built into the painting’s experience, and thus into the experience of encountering the painting afterwards.”…
    I think this strategy is a lot more useful than eating tom yum ghai and schmoozing in some white cube.

    Maybe the Bravo show is the closest we’ve come to this being successfully implemented. (but probably not.)

  • wwiiggss

    This is what happens when you raise your kids with the notion that art is whatever you say it is. Our great-grandkids, in turn will rebel against this methodical leitmotif as dogs and cats will start living together signaling the end of days.

  • wwiiggss

    This is what happens when you raise your kids with the notion that art is whatever you say it is. Our great-grandkids, in turn will rebel against this methodical leitmotif as dogs and cats will start living together signaling the end of days.

  • wwiiggss

    This is what happens when you raise your kids with the notion that art is whatever you say it is. Our great-grandkids, in turn will rebel against this methodical leitmotif as dogs and cats will start living together signaling the end of days.

  • JesY

    I don’t think that Gormley’s intent is to create performance art. My understanding is that the project is meant to create a snapshot of types of people living in the UK at the moment. I’d argue it’s lovely platform to do so, and from time to time we get lucky with a bit of permormance art.

  • JesY

    I don’t think that Gormley’s intent is to create performance art. My understanding is that the project is meant to create a snapshot of types of people living in the UK at the moment. I’d argue it’s lovely platform to do so, and from time to time we get lucky with a bit of permormance art.

  • Patrick

    I’m inclined to accept a very broad definition of art (and performance art), and then try to decide if it’s good or bad (interesting or boring, useful or useless, tired or energized, brilliant or dumb, surprising or really, really unsurprising, lame or agile, etc.).

  • Patrick

    I’m inclined to accept a very broad definition of art (and performance art), and then try to decide if it’s good or bad (interesting or boring, useful or useless, tired or energized, brilliant or dumb, surprising or really, really unsurprising, lame or agile, etc.).

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