A HISTORY OF PERFORMANCE ART FROM FUTURISM TO THE PRESENT DAY CONCENTRATING ON THE BODY ITSELF: PART 1.

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This major retrospective of Performance art will consider the role of objects performers and artists. Performance art today has become an art form in its own right and since the fall of Stalinism it has introduced new concepts of Performance. Before I consider Futurism and Dadaism and the beginning of Performance art I would like to make some introductory comments made by Rose Lee Goldberg in her very useful publication on Performance art.

” Performance Art became accepted as a medium of artistic expression in its own right in the 1970’s. at that time conceptual art which insisted on an Art of Ideas over product was in its heyday. performance thus became the most tangible art form of Ideas”. [1].

” Performance has been considered a way of bringing to Life the many formal and conceptual ideas on which the making of Art is based”. [2]

Goldberg continues with her introductory comments on Performance.

” Cubism , Minimalism or conceptual Art seemed to have reached an impasse. artists have turned to performance as a way of breaking down categories”.[3]

” Despite the fact that most of what is written today about the work of the futurists , constructivists , Dadaists and surrealists continues to concentrate on the art object produced by each period these movements found their roots and attempted to resolve problematic issues in Performance”. [4].

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Function Follows Vision, Vision Follows Reality

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As Goldberg recounts many Futurist painters became Performers as well especially in Italy where it emerged the strongest.

” Futurist painters became performers. undaunted Marinetti (Futurist Painter) gathered together painters from in and around Milan to join the cause of Futurism”. [5].

” Performance was the surest way and means of disrupting a complacent Public. it gave artists license to be both creators by developing new form of artists Theatre “.[6].

In the early days of Performance,  performers set out to shock , disturb the spectator who viewed the performance. Later on in the Century Performers would encourage and interact with their public.

” Arrests convictions , a day or two in jail and free Publicity in the next few days following many Evenings Marinetti even wrote a Manifesto on the pleasure of being booed”. [7].

 [8].

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Goldberg traces the development from Futurism to Constructivism which was developed in Russia after the First Workers State was established.

” By the Mid-20’s the Futurists had fully established performance as an Art medium in its own right in Moscow , Petrograd , Paris , Zurich , New York  and London. artists used it as a means to break through the boundaries of the various art Genres”.[9].

” Groups of  writers and artists sprung up throughout the major cultural centres of St Petersburg(Later renamed Leningrad) Moscow , Kiev and Odessa. They began to arrange Exhibitions and public debates confronting audiences with their provocative declarations”. [10].

 [11].

” For Mayakovsky it was my Revolution along with his colleagues .he believed that Propaganda was crucial , Spoken Newspapers , Posters, Theatre and Film”.[12].

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Reflecting the aspirations of the Revolutionary fervour in the New workers state there was a wealth of posters ,books and  Agit prop. Instances of how a Constructor could achieve and help to build the new Socialist Society. You can refer to my early posts on Soviet Constructivism.

” Agit-trains and ships , Posters and agit-street theatre were only some of the outlets available for the Young artists intent on abandoning purely speculative activities for socially utilitarian Art”.[13].

” The storming of the Winter Palace , involved a partial reconstruction of events preceding the October revolution and of the actual storming of the palace against the entrenched Provisional Government”. [14].

Lenin’s role in the Revolution was shown in this recreation of true Agit-prop theatre.

” Hundreds of voices shouted LENIN! LENIN! and while La Marseillaise was repeated the crowds roared the Internationale finally trucks filled with workers sped through the arch into the square”. [15].

Vladimir Mayakovsky committed suicide in 1930 at the height of the Stalinist Counter Revolution and purges. Leon Trotsky  had this to say about Mayakovsky.

” In fact Mayakovsky was first of all a poet , an artist who rejected the old world without breaking it. only after the revolution did he seek to find support for himself in the Revolution,  Yes Mayokovsky was braver and more heroic than any other of the Last generation of Old Russian literature and sought ties with the Revolution, and Yes he achieved those ties much more fully than  any other. But in the battles of the transitional epoch he was a most courageous fighter of the world and became an undoubted precursor of literature of the new society”. [16].

Oskar Schlemmer (Inszenierung) und Erich Consemüller
(Fotografie), Bauhausbühne, Formentanz, erste Szenenfassung, 1927

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Concluding my story of the Constructivists the rise of the creeping bureaucratisation of Soviet Society  was completed by the successful Stalinist Counter revolution with the development of Socialist Realism and Stalinist art or what Trotsky referred to as ‘The adulation of the Leader JV STALIN’.

” It was in 1934 at the writers Congress in Moscow that Zhadanov  (Party Spokesman and Stalinist Hack ) for matters affecting the arts delivered the first definite statement on Socialist Realism , outlining an official and enforceable code for cultural activity”. [17].

That concludes my first part of my Investigation into Performance art including futurism , and Soviet Constructivism the first development of how the art Object could act as part of a Performance. In Part 2 I will consider the contributions of the Bauhaus  Dadaism, and Surrealism.

FOOTNOTES

  1. PERFORMANCE ART FROM FUTURISM TO THE PRESENT :ROSE LEE GOLDBERG.PG.7
  2. DITTO.PG.7
  3. DITTO.PG.7
  4. DITTO.PG.7
  5. DITTO.PG.13
  6. DITTO.PG.14
  7. DITTO.PG.16
  8. DITTO.PG.17
  9. DITTO.PG.29
  10. DITTO.PG.31
  11. DITTO.PG.39
  12. DITTO.PG.41
  13. DITTO.PG.41
  14. DITTO.PG.41
  15. DITTO.PG.41
  16. ART AND REVOLUTION WRITINGS ON LITERATURE , POLITICS AND CULTURE:LEON TROTSKY. ESSAYS IN LITERARY CRITICISM. PG.183,184AND 186.PATHFINDER PRESS.
  17. PERFORMANCE ART FROM FUTURISM TO THE PRESENT: ROSE LEE GOLDBERG.PG.49

 

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