thanks to the very interesting postings, or historical reminders, for a 'media history' - and the comments just made by Johannes Goebel,
e.g his reference to >>"traditional media art" (video/sculpture) for the art museum and "interactive art" and "stuff" for the media museum>>,
along with earlier comments by Simon, Sarah, Jose-Carlos and Jon, make me want to comment on a current scenario that
I observe in Houston, Texas - at the CAM (Conrtemporary Art Museum).
The CAM currently faetures two exhibits, RADICAL PRESENCE: BLACK PERFORMANCE IN CONTEMPORARY ART, shown in the beautiful large
upstairs trapezoidal space, and UNFINISHED COUNTRY: NEW VIDEO FROM CHINA, in the downstairs smaller Perspectives Gallery.
The new work from young Chinese media artists is densely installed, and perhaps the most video (and animation) heavy show I've seen in a while,
i counted 26 image channels, these include a nine monitor video sculpture by Jin Shan, numerous wall mounted LED screens, one laptop screen,
and several dark cubicals with larger video and digital animation projections, including some very fine work by Sun Xun, Huang Ran and Lu Yang.
I stayed for about 7 hours, which is probably not the amount of time most visitors can spend, but the total amount of viewing time of these
traditional & digital media works is probably closer to 20 hours. The exhibition is accompanied by a run of 13 films (broken up into two
separate programs) at the nearby Asia Society Texas Center, offered at evening screening times.
This scheduling of screen programs besides the exhibition is a common feature, is it not, and has been practiced for many years in major museums?
How do these screening runs tie up with the recording of exhibitions?
Now to the upstairs "Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art" Exhibit, an installation of video works, photography, installations, performances,
concerts, objects, scores, and traces and remainders of performances both in the now and the past. A much more challenging, uneven and complicated scenario
now opens up, not alone in how (and when) to view this and take it in and remember (no catalogue available here) or preserve or make sense of.
I am precisely interested in the question of the "repository", and the "curating" of live & media art (...in the so-called information age).......
Here is how the CAM contextualizes the exhibit:
Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art:: the first comprehensive survey of performance art by black visual artists.
While black performance has been largely contextualized as an extension of theater, visual artists have integrated performance into their work for over five decades, generating a repository of performance work that has gone largely unrecognized until now. Radical Presence provides a critical framework to discuss the history of black performance traditions within the visual arts beginning with the ¡°happenings¡± of the early 1960s, throughout the 1980s, and into the present practices of contemporary artists.Radical Presence will feature video and photo documentation of performances, performance scores and installations, audience interactive works, as well as art works created as a result of performance actions.
In addition, the exhibition will feature a live performance series scheduled throughout the run of the exhibition, including performances during the opening weekend of the exhibitionby Terry Adkins, Maren Hassinger, Senga Nengudi, Pope.L, and Tameka Norris.
The exhibition will feature work by three generations of artists including Derrick Adams, Terry Adkins, Papo Colo, Jamal Cyrus, Jean-Ulrick D¨¦sert, Theaster Gates, Zachary Fabri, Sherman Fleming, Coco Fusco, Girl [Chitra Ganesh + Simone Leigh], David Hammons, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Lyle Ashton Harris, Maren Hassinger, Wayne Hodge, Satch Hoyt, Ulysses S. Jenkins, Shaun El C. Leonardo, Kalup Linzy, Dave McKenzie, Jayson Musson aka Hennessy Youngman, Senga Nengudi, Tameka Norris, Lorraine O¡¯Grady, Clifford Owens, Benjamin Patterson, Adam Pendleton, Adrian Piper, Pope.L, Rammellzee, Sur Rodney (Sur), Jacolby Satterwhite, Dread Scott, Xaviera Simmons, Danny Tisdale, and Carrie Mae Weems.
The history of performance art as a manifestation of radical shifts in social thought and artistic practice is well documented in publications like Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object 1949-1979 by Paul Schimmel, Greenwich Village 1963: Avant-Garde Performance and the Effervescent Body by Sally Banes, as well as Performance: Live Art Since 1960 (1998) by RoseLee Goldberg and her seminal book from 1979, Performance: Live Art 1909 to the Present. Performance art practices in Latin America were also eloquently documented in the 2008 exhibition Arte ¡Ù Vida: Actions by Artists of the Americas, 1960-2000 at El Museo del Barrio, New York. Ironically, given the rich history of performance and its prevalence in black artistic practices since the 1960s, this tradition has largely gone unexamined save for a handful of publications including the exhibition catalogue Art as a Verb (1988) by Leslie King Hammond and Lowery Stokes Sims.
I went to one of the performances, last Saturday, scheduled in the long run of "PERFORMANCE SERIES AND PUBLIC PROGRAMS SCHEDULE" (http://www.camh.org/exhibitions/radical-presence-black-performance-contemporary-art),
and witnessed Benjamin Patterson, the well known Fluxus artist (was he not the only black artist amongst the Fluxus movement?) that accompanies the exhibition of the repository.
It was announced he would perform a new work, "A Penny for Your Thoughts,", which he did, but he also, unnannounced, had rehearsed and then restaged, with young local performers,
an older "score" from 1962, titled "Pond." This was very enjoyable and a lovely sound/words performance (vocals) by the local performers in conjunction with small sound toys (frogs) that were
released onto a checker-board diagram painted on the floor. Patterson was conducting, and having fun, and the audience seemed to enjoy (more so than the feeble "A penny for your thoughts").
What I am wondering is how such performance work, along with the films, documentaries, videos, and photographs and the left-overs are curated to be preserved or re-sited/re-performed or remembered and documented/installed on or off line?
(William Pope L. performed a new piece, "Costume Made of Nothing" on opening night in November apparently, a hole in the wall is all that is left; in one corner of the exhibit, there is also a large installation piece by William Pope L,
titled "Eating the Wall Street Journal," and it looks as it it was a performance installation. When i inquired, it turned out yes it was a Pope L. performance but one that was not performed by him but by another performer.....
a lovely twist that of course, historically, falls into place with the kind of instruction works that G. Brecht or Yoko Ono would conceive. (I tried to discuss Ono's "Cut Piece" before in these pages, and you may have heard that Ono is still
performing it on occasion, even now; not sure whether she had allowed it to be performed by others (Marina Abramovic and her foray into what she calls "easy pieces" come to mind, yes?).
so what do we think about these kinds of easy pieces of traditional performance and media art curatorially?
PS. I called the CAM and they tell me a catalogue of the exhibition will be forthcoming after all the live events have passed.
PS 2: Notably, the museum incorporates happening, dance, fluxus and performance into "black visual art" thus writing a new history, yes? And i cannot be sure how artists like Coco Fusco, whom I remember well from her performance work (The Couple in the Cage, etc) , will think about the new categorization of her work as visual art; since she has a film background, she may not mind? And perhaps these differences won't matter in the long run?
But what is the specific long run here?