Week of 10/31 – Info & Assignment

**Note – Tuesday – 11/7 – Guest Artist Visit – Presentation, & Critique .

*Students will bring in one piece of current work for critique and discussion with our guest artist.

Week of 10/31 – Info & Assignment –

This week in class we began a discussion about responding to various works of contemporary art that fall outside of the traditional. We talked about how we can suspend our first judgements of what we may interpret as “the unconventional” or “strange” and look deeper into the works with out jumping to first impressions and opinions? Easier said than done..

*Students should view, screen & engage in the content below by selecting a piece (or two) of work to react and respond to in the comments section below.

In your response, you may choose to react from the perspective of the artist. What do you think the artist is communicating and what do they want the viewer to most understand? you are also welcome to discover a work that is not included below and share the URL along with your response.

We touched on a few specific examples including:

  1. Joseph Beuys’s action / performance of 1965 – “How to explain pictures to a dead hare” (below) Rich in symbolism and metaphors, what do you see or not see in this piece? (further research may be needed and is welcome to form your response).


2. Rhizome’s NET ART Anthology. A two year online exhibition that portrays the history of Internet Art. – https://anthology.rhizome.org/

There are several pieces in this building series, you may need to get very specific about what piece or pieces you wish to respond to. (Use the titles in the website’s link to help your classmates identify them)


3. Marina Ambramovic, Various works.

Several examples of her performances can be found here: – http://www.ubu.com/film/abramovic.html


26 thoughts on “Week of 10/31 – Info & Assignment

  1. I have been aware of performance art over the years, having a performance artist as a colleague, way back in the 1980s. It was she who told me about the Fluxus group and how Yoko One was a pivotal member. As I instructed A.P Art History to HS students, and covered the ‘60’s through the 80’s, it seemed to me that I had to at least touch upon this facet of Fine Arts, intellectually and emotionally challenging to understand, but obviously serious in its intent.

    #1. YOKO ONO: CUT PIECE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYJ3dPwa2tI
    It took years for me to appreciate this artwork, at first simply dismissing it due to Yoko’s obvious weird-ness, and my lack of respect for her due to her connection to the Beatles’ breakup. But its seriousness eventually revealed itself to me, once I realized that it is a recognized feminist statement on how women have been used and abused, especially by men, over the centuries.

    The figure kneeling is in a passive pose with large scissors lying on the floor, in front of her legs pointing towards her body. She waits silently, as members of the audience slowly come up and cut off, little by little, pieces of her clothing until she is totally nude and vulnerable (not shown in this you tube clip). Yoko never flinches or moves, but uses her inactivity to highlight female submissiveness in a male dominated world. The clips of clothing represent parts of a woman’s being: her intelligence, her sensitivity, and her equality to men. To understand this artwork, I utilize a statement that I always say in reference to Modern Art — it often gives more questions than answers, something that is disquieting, but perfect as a reflection of our world.

    2. Marina Ambramovic: RELATIONSHIP PIECE/PROJECT (male and female nudes at the entrance to a gallery).
    I actually saw this “piece” when it was re-done at MOMA a few years ago.
    I was not aware of Abramovic at the time, but realized that she was the woman sitting at a table staring at a volunteer participant (for hours) in the center of the gallery. I surmised that the entranceway of two nude figures was part of her “art,” visually, emotionally and physically challenging those that had the security in themselves to brush across a nude body as they entered.

    With each piece I have viewed over the years, I always assumed that the artist was touching upon concepts and symbolism that may have escaped me, but were worthy enough to be analyzed. Often it seemed that the artist was actually forcing the viewer to self-reflect on their personal reaction to the performance as part of the artwork.

    With RELATIONS PIECE, I realized that Abramovic was utilizing these nude figures like Caryatid entrance statues from ancient Greece. But here she makes it more personal to the viewer than ever before. For centuries, people have been content to look at the classical nude from afar, appreciating its beauty as simply a sculpture emulating reality. Abramovic goes one step further by actually using living, breathing beings that literally confront the museum entrant with their physical presence. While at MOMA, I was with other teachers who would not enter the room, fearing the encroachment of their personal space with a human body that they might brush against while passing. This speaks volumes about the participant and their comfortability with their own body and the bodies of others. I realized that this was an important part of Abromovic’s art, one that challenges people’s perceptions not only of Art but also of themselves.

    These nude performers simply reflect of our own insecurities. They were never intended to be provocative or sexual in any way. I can personally relate to this, having to defend the use of the classical nude in my own artwork. Literally in my home, I have had to put away certain framed pieces before my in-laws visited because they are too repressed to perceive the beauty of the composition or the level of skill required to create a successful figure drawing. This is a tactile-visual ability that I have been trying to perfect for my entire life, but seemingly less appreciated now as a valid example of Fine Art than during these politically correct times that we live in.

    Leonard Antinori
    November 3, 2017.

    1. Excellent work Len, Really beautifully said! Full of insightfulness! Thank you for sharing the “Cut”piece by Yoko Ono, such a great example of a piece that also took me years to understand and appreciate.

  2. In Marina Abramovic and Ulay’s documentary, The Lovers (The Great Wall: Lovers at the Brink), the couple decides to epically end their long-term relationship by walking the Great Wall of China at opposite ends to meet in the middle for a final goodbye. The film toggles between the two documenting personal thoughts and exposing their struggles, fears, observations and enlightenments. In its entirety the film is a slow build up to the final moment, the termination of a partnership.
    The documentary begins with an elderly Chinese couple walking a donkey through the desert in China. The couple arrives at a small village and begins to set up a projector fueled by a generator. The people of the village sit together on chairs in the sand. The light from the projector hits the woman’s face and the story begins. The Chinese woman narrates for it is her story she begins to share. This is a film within a film. Placing Marina and Ulay’s terminating relationship within a film story dramatizes their narrative.
    I believe Ulay and Abramovic want the viewers to feel the magnitude of their ending personal and artistic relationship, something so many of us can relate to. The monumental setting, the long dreadful trek towards each other and the isolation all provide an overwhelming feeling. Their tireless 90-day performance is not just a symbol of their ending relationship but also a reflection on the new path they will now take separately from one another.
    The story ends with the Chinese woman asking, “Did they ever really find each other? Did they succeed or fail? I will never know.” I feel these uncertainties are questions Marina and Ulay must have asked themselves. We as viewers are left asking ourselves to reflect on these questions and surmise an answer. But are these question ours to discover?

    1. It seems that Abramovic and Ulay journey represents the multiplicity of life decisions that we all have to make each day. To enter or end a relationship, to make a career choice, to figure out what to do with our art; crossroads that can either paralyze or invigorate our actions. Although I do know know what Ulay is doing now, it is obvious that Marina has thrived since leaving the partnership, a positive example of facing an uncertainty and achieving successful results.
      Meghan, thanks for posting this!

    2. Meghan, you bring up so many interesting points. I agree that this film shows an intense and dramatic build up to their final moments together and as they say goodbye literally moving on from one another as they walk. I think the whole short film is filled with symbolism and you can relate most of their journey to different points in their relationship and again agreeing with you, many points in a relationship that we can connect and relate too. As sad as this film was, it is one of the more enjoyable performance pieces I’ve seen.. then when she did the physical presence at MOMA and he came and sat and she cried.. WOW .. it’s brought almost a sequel to that film. I guess I might just be a sucker for romance performances but you just feel that immediate connection again of what they had.

      1. Ryan, I rewatched Abromovic’s performance at MoMa right after I finished the Great Wall film and I totally cried! Such raw emotion from these two distant yet forever connected lovers.

      2. So well said, Distant yet forever connected! Their relationship and display between those two action is the perfect metaphor! (I cried too, like 4 times!).

  3. 1. I was intrigued by this when I first saw the photo. The name alone made me feel some reservations. However once I started to really look into and research the meanings behind what Joseph Beuys meant to convey I was very impressed. Performance art is something I never really paid attention to up until the last two years because of school. I had never been interested because I never really understood it and didn’t want to understand it. Now that I am in school and I am learning about it I am so amazed. Beuys wore a gold and honey “mask” to symbolize so much. I love the idea about how in German mythology honey is linked to rebirth. The hare is also meant to symbolize reincarnation.
    I really enjoy this quote from the artist, “Honey on my head of course has to do with thought. While humans do not have the ability to produce honey, they do have the ability to think, to produce ideas.”

    2. Neen.
    I had originally clicked on this because the name was interesting to me. I really enjoyed reading what Neen was about. Neen was a collective of artists that came together for this. What i found really interesting was that the artist that started it was already an established artist and recognized by many institutions. Usually it’s the other way around, the artist must come forth with this kind of project and then gain recognition.

    3. Marina Abromovic is an artist that my daughter really loves.
    What fascinates me about Marina is how she really pushes not only herself but the viewer. One piece that has captured me is Rhythm 5. When she was doing the performance no one had realized that she had passed out. What made me so intrigued was that she was so upset that she passed out because that meant she no longer contributed to the piece rather than being concerned about her safety.

    1. This statement has stayed with me for so long : “Honey on my head of course has to do with thought. While humans do not have the ability to produce honey, they do have the ability to think, to produce ideas.” Cant tell you how much this motivates my work!

      NEEN! The reinvention of the established artist! Perhaps we all MUST do this :))

  4. Art/Life: One Year Performance (a.k.a. Rope Piece) (4 July 1983 – 3 July 1984)
    Artist: Linda Montano and Tehching Hsieh

    I remember taking Contemporary Art History courses in my undergrad at a couple of different schools but to be honest, every time we got to the Performance Art it was a gray area of information and I don’t really remember that much about it. It is an art form that I haven’t had much patience with in the past so maybe my mind just wasn’t open to it at the time.. I’m working on it.

    I remember learning about this artist, Tehching Hsieh, a performance artist in NYC. The first piece I learned about was the Time Clock Piece where he would punch a time card every hour, every day for a whole year. Now at a first look, I would think okay, an action everybody does who works an hourly job, something recognizable I guess. His performance showed the consistency of routine but in time we still change. He shaved his hair to document the passage of time as it grew more and more as the year went on.

    I decided to look further into his work and found, Art is Life, Life is Art. Linda Montano and Teching Hseih collaborated on a performance where they were tied to the same eight foot rope for a year straight. Now this piece I automatically began picking up on symbolism and meaning. This piece represents the struggle of physical and social connection. Two people who are each alone yet are together at the same time, all the time. These two never touched in the year they were tied together. The performance showed their growth in control on hormones and priorities and it allowed them to be able to focused on their own things better creating deeper independence and individualism. This was a performance going against the commonalities of a society where we heavily rely on relationships finding a love connection and accepting that everything in life alone or not can be beautiful and through life they can always find the art in it.




    1. Excellent resources!! Thanks so much for sharing this! And, oh man, I know that piece – Linda Montano and Teching Hseih –
      the collaboration on the performance where they were tied to the same 8 foot rope for a year straight!! Can you imagine doing this?

      1. Honestly no, I think that would push me too much through boundaries that I don’t mind crossing. I can see why they did it and how it helped push them through their uncomfortable zones but I feel very satisfied not pushing those boundaries haha.

  5. Sharon Papp on Joseph Beuys: “I Like America and America Likes Me”
    This is this first time I have been exposed to the work of Joseph Beuys. I was really moved by his interactive social sculptures because they encourage humanity to engage with the artist and with each other. This reflects on Duchamp’s claim that everyone is an artist. I have to agree. We all create thoughts, ideas, experiences everyday. Therefore we have that in common as human beings so we are generating art collectively subconsciously and in a limitless way.
    In this piece, Joseph Beuys merges healing and bonding through experience with interpersonal relationships and tolerance. Relationships need to be initiated, nurtured and trusted to grow and strengthen the interactive connection. He uses the backdrop of his life to create a jumping off point for mutual understanding and common ground in a global audience. Sharing his life lessons, his art resonates with cultural connectivity and diverse compatibility.
    Throwing away his preconceived notions, Beuys seals himself off from stereotypical America, cloaking himself in the reflective rescued warmth of felt. This symbolizes open mindedness, like a rebirth from the womb of innocence and freshness. Arriving at first he art gallery in an ambulance simulates the urgency of repair to disconnected humanity. While cohabitation with proves hard because of unfamiliarity, natural instinct and aggression, Beuys patiently applies compassion and adaptability gently to build an interconnectivity; a kinship; proof of what can happen against all odds by taking a risk to reach out, initiate contact, and work at understanding the stranger in a strange land.

    1. So well said and insightful! I love this – “Beuys patiently applies compassion and adaptability gently to build an interconnectivity; a kinship; proof of what can happen against all odds by taking a risk to reach out, initiate contact, and work at understanding the stranger in a strange land.”

    2. “Joseph Beuys merges healing and bonding through experience with interpersonal relationships and tolerance.” Such a great energy and heightened awareness and consideration of the viewer’s emotional potential to receive his works.

  6. I saw a lot of where my heart is in this work. The coyote is the untamed heart of America…it’s freedom.. the unknown mystery of what lies ahead. I noticed a meeting of sentiments between some of my current collection of artwork and Beuys “Coyote”. It was surprising to find this link because I have never really given performance art a chance. In fact I have somewhat dismissed it in a way, assuring myself of its insignificance to fine art. Wow, that truth was ugly…lol. My perspective has now changed.

    1. Like so so many others, I too dismissed performance art for many years, sadly, I had to face that aspect of myself, but it was an intervention, it made me look deeper, and I had to relearn how to listen. It was very necessary.

  7. (I didn’t see that Sharon had already picked this performance before I wrote about but here’s my take on it.)

    I was intrigued by Joseph Beuys’ “How to explain Pictures to a Dead Hare” so I researched his other “Actions” as he called them. In 1974, on his trip to America he performed “I Like America and America Likes Me”. He is recorded leaving JFK Airport with his hands over his eyes. He is then wrapped in a large felt cloth and laid onto a gurney and put into an ambulance. He is driven to Rene Block Gallery where he spends the next 3 days alone with a wild coyote. The felt blanket and cane are his protection against the unpredictable behavior of the dog. In the video, the coyote is shown ripping and tugging at the ends of Beuys’ blanket with its teeth. It is curious, circling Beuys in this mysterious shroud. On the third day, the coyote is approachable and friendly. It has grown tolerant of his companion and accepts his presence. Beuys is shown looking out the window with the coyote by his side. At the end of the three days, Beuys’ is taken to the airport in the same way he arrived.

    Looking further into Beuys’ background, felt is often used in his work. When his plane was shot down during World War II, he was helped by a native tribe. He said they were like shepards surrounded by animals. They healed him with primitive medication by covering him in animal fat and tallow to keep him warm and wrapped him in a felt blanket. In the recording, he too represents the Shepard with his staff and the dramatically heavy drapery recalls classical painting. The blanket represents his own survival and how defenseless he was and is with the coyote. Through his healing process he came to the conclusion that art has the ability to cure instability and sickness in cultures and change perceptions. He represents the shaman, the German saint who was a primitive healer. Shamans are depicted in German folklore with an animal endowed with a mythical spirit as their companion. He references Native American legends where all the things that make up the natural world have spirits too.

    The coyote represents these spirits but also the Western world and in particular the violent nature of America. This was shot in the 70s but the theme is still relevant today. He goes on to say every man and every woman is an artist. They are a social sculpture that can impact the world around them. These social sculptures can aide the evolution of society and change how we interpret the world around us.

  8. 1.Joseph Beuys’s performance art “How to Explain a Painting of a Dead Rabbit” is a puzzling and obscure piece. To be honest, we can‘t directly understand what he wants to express directly from the work, and we should pay more attention to his behavior. Because of this work, I went to see a lot of his other work, and understood his own creative state and personality. He proposed that “everyone is an artist” means that everyone has the inevitability of liberating individual creativity. Everyone All should understand himself as he is right on his disposal. We do not need a kind of ideology. We should have the ability to think independently. Transforming potential creativity into a work of art can be used to conceptualize, aesthetic and ratify all the art media through the action of making all living objects available as an art medium. This is very interesting.

    2.I chose World of the Awe, I agree with the title, I think the artist is a very nostalgic person, and love digital technology, so the two combined. World of awe is a series where Kanarek’s use of words is crucial to her art. Excessive poetic language (each ending with “Always your sunset / sunrise is yours”), his desire is to make the letters so memorable, weird and “real”, a series of reactive emoticons that can be used, through the now ubiquitous coded emotional transmitter. In fact, I can say that her work is very good-looking. In particular,”Love Letter Demolition Performance, 2010” and “heart in heart” is very good looking from the relationship between color and objects.

    3.I think Marina Ambramovic is a weeping performance artist, and her crazy and free-for-all thoughts reflect the contemporary social phenomenon. Her work may make people feel weird, screaming, breathing, nudging, etc. “Imponderabilia”, Abramović and Ouray both stand naked at the entrance to a gallery in Bologna, Italy, where viewers can only Enter the museum through the small space between them. The only decision you can make is whether the audience wants to be able to face the nude or the naked Abramovich. In life, human beings are not only affected by various disasters that come from nature, but also humankind themselves. Just as the interrelationship between them, they will create estrangement due to the intervention of others, making them unable to contact and communication for a single time.

    1. Great work on this! I love this insight – ” In life, human beings are not only affected by various disasters that come from nature, but also humankind themselves. Just as the interrelationship between them, they will create estrangement due to the intervention of others, making them unable to contact and communication for a single time.” Powerful!

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