This Exhibition of ‘Performing for the camera’ complements very much the exhibition of Conceptual Art 1964-1979 being shown at TATE BRITAIN. Both of them reflect conceptual art and Post Modernist practices that appeared in Britain, Europe and America from the 1960’s.
The Exhibition combines Photography and performance using digital cameras the use of social media and of course Identity Politics. ” The exhibition brings together photographs made to document performance by artists , actors and dancers with works made by artists who use the camera as a tool to produce their own performative images”. .
It is a very big Exhibition. It is curated by Simon Baker and Fiontan Moran both curators at the TATE.. Split into 14 rooms it covers different aspects of performance using the camera, staging , collaboration photographic images, performing Icons, self portraits and performing in real Life. It also considers documenting the actual performances.
I will start my review with Yves Klein an artist who used Harry Chunk with his ‘Leap into the void 1960’. Other artists used were Aaron Siskind with his ‘Pleasures and terrors of levitation’.
The room devoted to Documenting performance . ” the works in this section show several different types of performance , including those taking place in the studio or art gallery , in the street and images relating to dance”. .
I have discussed previously on my blog performance artists like Carolee Schnemann whose performance pieces could be described as pornographic.
Yves Klein with the help of Harry Chunk called his staged performances for the camera as ‘Realising an ‘antropmetry in his Studio’. Nikki De saint was another artist who courted danger and disaster with her ‘Fire at Will’ Other aspects of Klein’s performances was the judo demonstration in Tokyo Japan in 1953-4.
Eleonar Austin another artist in the Documenting performance section entitled hers as ‘adventures of a nurse ,The angel of mercy.
The most important performance artist of this time was of course Yayoi Kusama who was involved in ‘Happenings’ and the Fluxus movement in New York starting from 1968.
Other artists who used staging and collaborative photography were Kiyoji Otsuji with the gutai photographs. Minomi Hirata used his Hi red centers dropping event as part of the Happenings as they were called which emerged in the 1960’s.
” This section (Staging/collaboration) looks at performances that exist solely to be photographed rather than simply documenting events that would have taken place, the photographer takes on a more collaborative role working directly with the performer”..
Merce Cunningham Dancer and choreographer and John Cage Muscian were very much part of the artistic scene from 1964-74. The Nadar photographs were used as performance pieces dating from 1956-1939. Paul Nadar had a series of photographs which were used in 19th Century Paris from 1820-1910. Other performers during this middle period of the 1960’s was Eikoh Hosue Kamatachi and Yukio Mishma who used dance and other ways to show how performance could be used for the camera.
Carolee Schnemann the well known American performance artist courted controversy with her Eye Body Oculus performances which was ideal for demonstrating the use of the camera as a corollary to performance. Other artists who used performance was Stuart Brisley in his ‘Moment of decision’.
The other rooms in the Exhibition are taken up with Self -portraits , performing for real life and public relations. ” Artists have traditionally used the self-portrait to make statements about themselves. and more broadly about the role of the artist in the world. There has an element of performance in such works as the artist balances the unflinching record of their physical appearance with the more imaginative ways in which they can record their inner self”..
Amongst this category are Andy Warhol , Jeff Koons and Al Weiiwe. Erwin Wuran used his ‘I minute sculptures’. Samuel Fosso with his ‘African Spirits’ shows his African heritage through his self portraits helps to show the exploitation and oppression of African culture .
Performing Icons shows the role of artists like Cindy Shermann who has made this particular aspect of performance art her own with her famous images as different persona in New York. Other artists in this category are Frances Woodward and David Wojnarowicz.
The performing artists who are able to use photographic images in a variety of ways are able to subvert the photographs by adopting various disguises as Sherman does. ” Its ability to accurately record appearances has been gleefully manipulated as sitters present themselves in costume or disguise , sometimes inventing elaborate new identities that exist only in photographs”. . This of course has been used by the proponents of Identity politics to subvert reality . Identity politics has tried to present different aspects of art as either connected to Race or Gender which is a totally subjective reaction to Art. It was Marcel Duchamp who tried to question art as a discipline but his position has been subverted by many middle class Idealist proponents who want to turn what Duchamp set out to do into its opposite. Race and Gender in the end do not challenge the existing system but allow it to continue using new forms of expression. The role of Post Modernism was to attack a Historical analysis of society which Marxists had been doing and reduce everything into separate compartments instead of understanding the Unity of society. In the end it is a reactionary development. I will finish with artists like Frances Woodward and Jemina Stehl. Stehl herself has been attacked by Feminists for portraying women as negative role models.
Stehl is in fact challenging society with her Voyeruism and spectacle which in the end shows Stehl controlling and manipulating the viewer (A Man) in ‘Strip’.
To conclude this is an interesting exhibition which shows the connection between the camera and performance. It brings up to date how performance art has sought to exceed the bounds of expression. Many of these images could be described as pornographic particularly from Stehl and Schnemann ,but it could also be argued that the performance artists are challenging the photographer and are themselves in control. This is another example of the development of Conceptual art and Post Modernism in which I have taken a critical stance . I would recommend the Exhibition but be aware there are a number of adult images which challenge the viewer and ask them what are their reactions to the performances. The question is who is in control. The Exhibition is still on at Tate Modern so I would recommend a visit before it finishes on the 12th June.
- TATE MODERN BOOKLET ‘PERFORMING FOR THE CAMERA’