Thursday, May 8, 2014

Inter-Active Art: Food and Other Materials

Marina Abramovic (b. Belgrad, 1946) sits cross and stares or contemplates another person, her co-performer

Huffpost Arts and Culture

"And who cares about genre any more, anyway?"
- Adrian Searle, July 3, 2012, The Guardian

The history of performance art stretches much further than one might think. Scholars, such as Miriam Griffin, fellow of Somerville College, Oxford, point to performative actions in ancient Greece, such as Diogenes repeatedly acting as a dog ("cynic") in his performances.
In the 16th century, poets throughout the Iberian Peninsula and in the newly discovered colonies in the Americas found live art a new way of presenting their work. In a cross between visual arts, music and literature, they would draw each paragraph of their poems, hang them in lines in public spaces (such as market fairs, public squares and churches' front yards) and sing their poetry to an audience of passers-by.

There were also the romantics who, in the 19th century, invaded cemeteries to desecrate corpses and recite their poetry to dead bodies. 

or The Theater of  the Oppressed devised by  

 The Beetles cover for Abby Road
 Or as simple as cooking with someone and sharing the recipe.

One point of performative art is to change or challenge genre definition (Is it Impressionist?  Is it Dadaism? Is it Cubism?) Why challenge? The act removes the issue of who "owns" it and who profits from the act.  We call this the democratic inclusiveness that marks communication in the 21st century.

But the act also acts as a sounding board so that an art form may progress, as in Oedipus Rex vs the chorus 

A pile of foil-wrapped candies in a museum room corner. Viewers are invited to take a piece and/or add one to the pile. Interactive 

     The performative quality of food and food-related behavior, other than its formal act of conspicuous consumption, turns our attention to common, everyday foods and food habits, as well as to sensory experiences, the"affective presence" 

(This  term I borrow from Robert Plant Armstrong. "The Performative Aspect of Food" is addressed in "Playing to the Senses: Food as a Performance Medium"
Performance Research 4, 1 (1999): 1-30),Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett
Points of Contact: Performance, Food and Cookery, a conference organized by the Centre for Performance Research in Cardiff, January 1994) 

In addition, the "sharing"impulse of our time draws us to the possibility of art as 
as a medium or experience which the viewer may join. Folk culture scholars have long noted such interactions as simple as a "sing-along" or a "patty-cake" performance, call-and-response singing at a Baptist church or even a parade. 

If one ventures further, we find artists' inclusive dance, as with AUGUSTO BOAL and his Theater of the Oppressed, revealing social crises or  enduring physical pain or isolation, often as a political statement.

Below: Excerpted and paraphrased remarks by Mari Carmen Ramirez, curator of Latin American art, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, concerning Jesus Rafael Soto and other creators of Interactive Art:

Interactive art requires the viewer to complete the piece...contemporary artists have  have made it a point to erase the division between art and life and to make their work a participatory experience... These works are leading museums
to make commitments that would have been unheard of a few decades ago."
[[From "A Romp in Gossamer, 8 Tons Worth," by Hilarie M. Sheets, THE ARTS, New York Times May 8, 2014].

The quote is useful for understanding an approach to art that is older than we can imagine and presents a clear view of this newer wave of expression. It is, of course, tied to and reflects a social and cultural era marked by sharing, interactive communication, and democratic ideals.

Ms. Ramirez' remarks are directed to the works of Jesus Rafael Soto (b.Venezuela, 1923 - ) who "has created penetrables, interactive sculptures which consist of square arrays of thin, dangling tubes through which observers can walk. It has been said of Soto's art that it is inseparable from the viewer; it can only stand completed in the illusion perceived by the mind as a result of observing the piece." [Quoted from Wikipedia]

 "Houston Penetrable " is a vast floating sea of plastic strands suspended from the ceiling that is completed only by the viewer's participation.

Below:Alan Kaprow, Jam (Women Lick Jam off Car, a Happening), 19
 Below:  Yolcan, Tripe Suit
                                                                                                                    Zhang Huan, Meat Suit ,

Up to and Including Her Limits

Carolee Schneemann
(American, born 1939)

Schneemann, 1973-76. Crayon on paper,          

Above: Berny Gracia, right, and Naomi Santana share a swing during a preview of Ann Hamilton's multimedia art installation "the event of a thread," on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012 at the Park Avenue Armory in New York. 

This participatory installation, featuring 42 swings suspended from the Armory's elliptical ceiling and tethered to a massive white cloth, is Hamilton's first large scale project in the city in more than ten years and opens Dec. 5 for a month. "It feels great, like I am flying somewhere lost in the sky in the middle of Manhattan," said Gracia. (AP | Bebeto Matthews)

Ai wei wei

Ai wei wei, Bejing, describes his persentation of hand-painted porcelin sunflower seeds as "participatory art" because so many Chinese crafts personss employed to make them.

 China’s leading conceptual artist, Ai is known for his social or performance-based interventions as well as object-based artworks.


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