Live Art and Site Specific

Live Art and Site Specific

In the first semester, we looked at live art practices that explored the idea of ‘anti-art' and ‘non-sense', ‘text', ‘time/installation' and ‘autobiography'. How have these themes been explored by site-specific live artists?

Before I started this module I had a very naive view of what live art was, I instantly thought of the street artists in convent garden , Fluxus' and Happenings, which we had lightly touched up upon in the devising module in the first year. this was the reason why I picked Live Art and Site Specific as my focus module for the second year, because I found it very interesting and really enjoyed the fluxus aspect of live art as it appealed to my sense of of humour. The only research I did before I started this module was to type in the internet search engine google.com ‘Live art definition' and the result I found that helped me the most was from the Live Art Development Agency website.

Live Art is a research engine, driven by artists who are working across forms, contexts and spaces to open up new artistic models, new languages for the representation of ideas and new strategies for intervening in the public sphere........ Live Art asks us what it means to be here, now. (http://www.thisisliveart.co.uk/about_us/what_is_live_art.html)

This website was very interesting and I thought I understood what live art was but I wasn't until the lectures started I realized to understand live art and its many practices. you have to stand up and try it out for yourself, through physical exploration a deeper understanding follows. So in this essay i will be demonstrating my knowledge and understanding of live art practices and the themes the artists have used.

The first taste of the different practices of live art started with Dada, Dada was a movement that began in Zurich, Switzerland during the First World War and was at its height from 1916 to 1922. This movement mainly involved visual arts, poetry, art manifestos, art theory and graphic design, and focused its anti-war politics through a negative response of the existing values in art by using anti-art cultural works. The main principle of Dada was to make a mockery of the modern world of what the followers of Dada thought of as insignificant, Dada was also anti-bourgeois and anarchistic. Dada's performances included public gatherings, demonstrations, and publications of art/manifesto journals; passionate coverage of art, politics was often displayed in many different media outlets.

Before Dada's performances started at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich , night theatre in Munich in 1915 was very popular and was the art's centre before WW1, where cabaret star Emmy Hennings and her future husband Hugo Ball lived. With Munich's famous bars and cafes which was the hot spot for bohemian artists to meet. In these cafes half finished manifestos and magazines were discussed and on small stages dancers , singers and poets did performances based on everyday life, in these place such strange characters as the writer was in nhis element Frank Wedekind and thrived.

Wedekind often found himself performing cabaret to pay for his plays ‘He would even urinate and masturbate on stage and according to Hugo Ball, induce convulsions'(Goldberg:50:2001).

In my opinion this shows that even before the Cabaret Voltaire was formed Wedekind could have been the inspiration for the Dada movement. Hugo Ball and his wife Emmy Hennings arrived in Zurich in 1915 they were unemployed and wanted by the police. He then joined the a touring troupe called the Flamingo, at this time Ball was writing his book Critique of the German Mentality in the attempt to understand the Germany had left. But these writings conflicted with the performances with the flamingo company, so Ball and his wife Hennings decided to start their own company the Cabaret Voltaire using the cafe owned by Jan Ephraim. Their artwork and the art work of friends decorated the club and made a press release for it s opening.

‘The idea of the cabaret will be that guest artists will come and give musical performances and readings at the daily meetings. The young artists of Zürich, whatever their orientation, are invited to come along with suggestion and contributions of all kinds.'(Goldberg:56:2001)

The cabaret opened on 5th February 1916 with the likes of Wedekind, Aristide Bruant and Balls friend from Munich Richard Huelsenbeck who Ball described his work as ‘he pleads for a stronger rhythm (negro rhythm)', Ball noted ‘he would prefer to drum literature into the ground.'(Goldberg:56:2001. The cabaret would put on daily performances which was a major success but it exhausted Ball, Hennings continued to devise works daily getting rave reviews as she was the only member of Dada that was a professional in the cabaret scene in Munich. Balls work included inventing sound poems ‘the balancing of the vowels is gauged and distributed only to the value of the initial line'. (Goldberg:60:2001) he performed one of his poems wearing a a bizarre costume.

When the performance was over, Ball wrote in his diary, "covered in sweat, I was carried from the stage like a magic bishop." This event turned out to be a defining moment in Dada; and although Dada art took many forms, the photo of Ball in his "magic bishop" suit has become a visual representation of the entire movement.

( http://bellemeadebooks.blogspot.com/2008/08/strange-intersections-poetry-of-dada.html)

In the lesson we were discussing Dada and i had to make a dada inspired performance, I cut out words from popular celebrity magazines; I picked these words at random and put them in an envelope. During the performance I picked these words at random from the sealed envelope and stuck them to a plain piece of paper. I repeated this three times and then read them out one after the other exploring the tone and volume of my voice in a Hugo Ball style which he did with his sound poems, trying to explore the sound of the vowels. even though i was using actual words unlike Balls poems but the fact the words were not in a proper order i found this very difficult and strange.

Dada for me was very confusing in the fact that Dada is against everything including its self, and was a hard concept for me to understand. Even though I don't completely understand all of what it stood for, I do see that Dada was the foundation of many art forms surrealism, pop art, Fluxus and punk rock.

‘Dada is the groundwork to abstract art and sound poetry, a starting point for performance art, a prelude to postmodernism, an influence on pop art, a celebration of anti-art to be later embraced for anarchy-political uses in the 1960s and the movement that lay the foundation for Surrealism.'

(Lowenthal& Picabia,2007:4)

Fulxus is similar to Dada; its function is anti - art and resists categorisation as modern art. Fluxus artists are minimal performers and their performances identify links between art and the everyday.

1. Fluxus is an attitude.

2. Fluxus is intermedia.

3. Fluxus works are simple.

4. Fluxus is fun.

‘(Fluxus is) a way of doing things, very in formal, sort of like a joke group. You know if you ask people like George Brecht ‘Are you Fluxus?' then he will laugh at you. It's (sic) more like Zen than Dada in that sense - G. Maciuanas in Fluxus: The History of an Attitude, p 226, Smith.O 1998

The reference that Maciuanas makes to Zen is important because it links his thinking to the ideas of the composer, John Cage, who was heavily influenced by Zen Buddhism and who was a major influence on Maciuanas and his peers. Owen Smith, the author of the book in which the above Maciuanas quote appears, felt that Fluxus was best thought of an attitude towards life and art and towards their integration.'

(Revich.A,2007:2)

Time - Duration

In this class we discussed time and duration and how a performance should be measured. Time is measured in clock time which is socially agreed -

Seconds

Months

Minutes

Years

Hours

Decade

Days

Centuries

Weeks

Eons

Performances in conventional theatre usually last about two hours and the same with films, but performances don't have to have an ‘end' time. The practitioner Tehching Hsieh did a one year long performances and the audience came and went his longest performance was thirteen years.

‘Statement

I, Tehchinging Hsieh, have a 13 year plan.

I will make ART during this time.

I will not show it PUBLICLY.

This plan will begin on my 36th birthday December 31st 1986

Continue until my 49th birthday December 31st 1999.'

(http://www.one-year-performance.com/)

Another practitioner John Cage composed a musical piece called As SLow aS Possible and is the one of the longest-lasting musical performances ever undertaken. It was originally written in 1987 for theorganthe performance can last as long as 20 - 70 minutes. The piece on the organ is adapted from the work As SLow aS Possible in 1985. The current performance of the piece is at St. Burchardi church inHalberstadt,Germany. It began in 2001 and is to have a duration of 639 years, finishing in 2640. I went on the web site http://www.john-cage.halberstadt.de/new/index.php?seite=cdundtoene&l=e

And listened to As Slow aS Possible in 70 minutes and tried to hear out for the chord changes. But if I'm honest I struggled to listen for five minutes as the pitch was so sharp it gave me a head ache. But that's neither here or there if I liked it, its idea of a performance possibly lasting from one year to 639 years. So with this information I could create a performance that lasted twenty - four hours and that the audience can come and watch as little or as much they wanted.

We also had the task to perform Samuel Beckett's Quadrat. This is a performance performed by four people, the space is a box and each corner is labelled A, B, C and D each performer stands at each corner and is given a course to follow -

Course 1

AC

CB

BA

AD

DB

BC

CD

DA

Course 2

BA

AD

DB

BC

CD

DA

AC

CB

Course 3

CD

DA

AC

CB

BA

AD

DB

BC

Course 4

DB

BC

CD

DA

AC

CB

BA

AD

I was given course 2; once we got the hang of it we tried different speeds. This exercise is about time and duration and showed how by changing the speed the time and duration of the performance and that when creating a performance speed, time and the duration are just as important.

Adding text to our performance wasn't my first thought. After doing and exercise using lists, writing conflicting letters and writing gave me the idea that I could formulate a questionnaire about water and use the answers as part of my documentation.

* How do you feel when you get wet?

* Describe the feeling of entering a hot bath.

* Do you worry about global warming?

* How much water is in your body?

* What is the percentage of the earth's water?

This idea was discarded due to the fact we were performing outside. Do to document the performance we decided to use photography and video. Having to document the process and not just the performance has made me think of using the documentation as part of the performance. Which is what I'm putting into practice in my next piece in visual arts, I'm documenting the process of making my art work that will be pre - made before the performance so the audience can see the process as well as the live event. Which adds to the performance and in my opinion is more creative than keeping a video diary.

Research

de Micheli, Mario(2006). Las vanguardias artísticas del siglo XX. Alianza Forma.

Bib

Revich.A(2007) Fluxus Vision - Lulu.com, USAhttp://2.bp.blogspot.com/_xzNt5IyYxF8/SJ-G0QhTN8I/AAAAAAAAAbY/BEl7UfpVibQ/s400/HUGO.jpg 19/05/2010 1:19

Lowenthal.M & Picabia.F(2007) I am a beautiful monster: poetry, prose, and provocation - Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, Londonhttp://www.thisisliveart.co.uk/about_us/what_is_live_art.html 18/05/2010 - 21:43

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