Body

Since the beginning of this class, the majority of the artists and art pieces that we discussed were of the plastic and visual nature. The conversation with Zhang Huan and Ma Liuming about performance had opened me to an additional aspect in modern art.

I was thinking of the different perspectives performance art delivers, especially the type that Zhang and Ma were doing. The fatal fact, that the art piece has a very short time dimension – almost like a onetime pulse, is very interesting. When I think of Zhang’s performance where he tied himself to the roof of his home, I wonder what were the few people who stood there in the room thought about. This would have probably been the only instance that this performance would take place. This is exciting! though I’m sure they weren’t aware of that since they couldn’t think of anything but the smell of burnt blood and sweat. The “mortality” of a piece like that, gives new meaning to the vibe of performance art. Even if the piece is so powerful that we can be satisfied with only the documentation and pictures of the performance, still it’s only a few percent of the true feeling of being a witness.

When Ma is talking about how in different countries the interaction of audience was also different, I had another thought –

Using body to make art has a very interesting take on an audience. When a painter presents a painting or a sculptor a sculpture, you feel distant. It’s hard for you to see yourself, to imagine yourself doing the brush strokes or the chiseling. I feel that the use of body brings you closer. You can feel the flies on your body, you can imagine the ice against you skin. People were joining Ma because they felt that they have the same instrument as he does. We take our bodies for granted – It’s very natural. But the sudden realization of this object as a physical and spiritual paint-brush, is very intense.

I went to see Carolee Schneemann at PS1. The experience was heavy, and  that’s a good thing. I prefer to have a headache from seeing too many vaginas, then to just get bored. It was a big and intense show and perhaps I didn’t understand it fully, it was a bit too much to take in. The two particular works I liked were the  “Flange 6rpm”, and “up to and including her limits”.

I liked the Flange because the installation was very compelling. The slow rotating and the simple mechanics along with the rough sculpting gave me the feeling of hard labor. I have to say that I didn’t read the description of the exhibit, maybe because I felt I didn’t want to interpret anymore. The contraption reminded me of helicopter controls mechanics. The weird “blob” that controlled and moved the whole arm up and down, looks like the collective-control in a helicopter. The shifting of movement back and forth from linear to circular is beautiful.

This piece relates more to the body-performance art work. I was thinking about body limits and constraints – how sometimes there’s this harness that pulls us back to reality. I love the fact that she decided to do that in a corner – gives a sense of entrapment of the body. Maybe even a reference to a womb.

Also enjoyed this one – felt like the ropes are screaming with agony waiting for someone to stop the spinning.

Overall, this show took me through different vibes and I felt strongly the presence of body art-works and performance.

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