Performa 07 Live
Here's your chance to read comments, reviews and ideas arising out of this year's Biennial posted by specially commissioned writers, critics and theorists. The Writing Live Fellows have been generously supported by Arts Council England.
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11/02/07 03:49:21 pm
???Preview: Swiss Institute ??“ Contemporary Art??™
A spoken word exhibition and a series of spoken word retrospectives
, curated by Mathieu Copeland at Swiss Institute ??“ Contemporary Art, Nov 1??“Nov 7.
Open from 12pm-12am and with a daily performance at 6pm Copeland??™s dualistic vocal and silent exhibition follows suit from Swiss Institute ??“ Contemporary Art??™s programming for PERFORMA05 24 Hour Incidental
. As with the 24-hour feat, Copeland??™s spoken word exhibition leans towards the most Conceptual end of the spectrum of work presented during PERFORMA07.
Catch the daily performances at 6pm, which kicked off last night with Karl Holmqvists??™s deliciously gawky reading of a new concrete poem from Berlin-based annual publication FACEHUG. Wander in during quieter times for a personal enactment of the fleeting words that comprise the exhibition.
See www.swissinstitute.net for further information.
11/02/07 03:05:39 pm
???Delay in Glass Enacted??™
Tony Conrad Window Enactment, 2007. Courtesy Greene Naftali Gallery, New York.
Tony Conrad Window Enactment
at Greene-Naftali Gallery, Oct 30.
Tony Conrad is perhaps best know for his film The Flicker
and his seminal contributions to early Minimalist music in the 60??™s, and less well know for his work in visual art performance. His recent showings at Greene-Naftali gallery prove the tides are changing for Conrad as his entire career is being taken better into account by art critics, historians and fans alike. Since a seminar I took with Conrad at the University of Buffalo and through my encounters with Tony whilst living in Buffalo I have known him to be a consummate performer, if not principally performative
, since 2001. Conrad??™s singular personality, his mischievous and careful control of performance details, place him as a performer foremost before his formidable achievements as a musician and time-based media artist.
Conrad??™s performance at Greene-Naftali, Window Enactment
, left many in the audience seemingly baffled as to what he was up to. My own reception of the performance is conditioned by the fact that I could not see much of what was being ???enacted??? as it could only be viewed through a relatively small window set in a corner of the spacious and open gallery. As I consider other performances I??™ve witnessed by Conrad, I don??™t doubt it was his point to frustrate an audience??™s view of the performance and thus their overall reception of the work.
The performance began with a projected video image of a house set-construction with a single window set within its edifice. This video played for an unusually long duration (five minutes or so) preempting frustration among many in the audience who sat and stood in anticipation of what would eventually occur. I suspect this video image, clearly a reproduction of a Super 8 film, was shot in the 70??™s as the press release to Window Enactment
places the work??™s composition somewhere between 1970 (with a parenthesized question mark following the date) and 2007. So Window Enactment
is something long in the making??”a delay in (literal) glass??”like many of Conrad??™s projects which he has only recently taken up again after renewed interest in his career.
Following the projection were a series of scenes, tableaus and performance, ???events??™ whose only unifying logic seemed to be a meta-critical view of aesthetic participation, pleasure and spectatorship: what is seen and what can??™t be seen, who sees who (through the window), what is called to attention as exhaustive (and thereby ironic) banality, and what as titillating perversion, exhibition, scopophilia, fetish, ambiguous ambient presence. The fact that the audience should view the performance enacted through a window seems both allegorical and effective, the window establishing a private space for the viewer to peer into
and for the performers to see out of
, watching the audience with binoculars at one point and by various other voyeuristic means at others. Regardless a panoptical ('two-way') gaze was heavily in play throughout the performance foregrounding the window itself in its obtrusive, mediating character.
Much of what I could see from my vantage in the gallery were naked bodies performing simple domestic tasks like setting and clearing a dining table, dressing and undressing, watching television, playing LPs, turning off and on lights, and having basic conversations by cell phone. Discerning some of the cell conversations (for example, ???I can??™t come right now ???cause I can??™t go right now ???cause I am stuck right now. Why don??™t you come over?...??? I was struck by their utter banality; the performers would talk about what they ate for lunch that day and other small talk between heavy breathing and sexual innuendo. Some of the tableaus reminded me of the work of Paul McCarthy and Mike Kelly with whom Conrad has collaborated throughout his career, and notably before Kelly and McCarthy were the art world figures they are today. I was also reminded of the kitsch of Jack Smith for whom Conrad assisted on sound for Smith??™s ???underground??™ classic Flaming Creatures
, as well as George Kuchar and Abigail Child whose films and videos involve melodrama and kitsch similarly.
In Conrad??™s performances an air of mystery and fascination is consistently over-determined by perverse behaviorist experiment. As soon as the audience has sunk with the performers to an extreme level of boredom Conrad will put on a light show with flash or ???clapper??™ lights??”post-psychedelic era eye-candy??” or hold a nude Minimalist chamber concert to recall the audience??™s active interest. Here there is a dialectic between the anesthetizing quotidian as it exhausts the viewer, and the spectacular wondrous as it maintains the viewer??™s curiosity forcing the more patient viewer (more than half the audience cleared out before the performance was finished including many I know to be sympathetic with Conrad??™s work) to continue attending the performance.
Conrad is for me a perverted performance artist who yet raises many exigent and critical questions about the relationship between audience and performer/artist as they embody problems of power, and visual-sonic empowerment especially, in post-Modern Western culture. That I could not see much of what went on finally during the performance (however I did sneak closer and closer to the most advantageous perspective before the window as much of the audience with the choicest seating cleared out) and therefore report ???accurately??™ on what happened seems par for the course with much of Conrad??™s performance work as the work deliberately underscores the relationship between performers, audience and artist-performer-director. As one gathers from much of the sound and visuals of Window Enactment
, Conrad is also a master in control of his craft who knows how to deliver the beautiful, exquisite and frenetic in respite, if not respect, to his audience??™s frustrated attention.
11/02/07 02:32:13 pm
'Opinion: When is it ok to leave a durational performance?'
When is it ok to leave a durational performance? When your legs go numb? When your drink is finished? Or perhaps when you notice the gallery audience has been slowly disappearing behind you?
I stayed for an hour and a half of Tony Conrad??™s Window Enactment
at Greeene Naftali Gallery on 30th October, which means I waited long after all those criteria had been met. Advertised on the PERFORMA programme with just a start time, I spent the last half hour wondering if Tony Conrad??™s piece was close to a resolution, and if I would be a fool to leave now.
In an object-based show, a few minutes looking at each painting or sculpture will let you know if you want to move on, or if it deserves more attention. At the theatre, your time is packaged up neatly into watching and socialising between acts, and a lot of Live Art or performance follows a timed structure. But when a piece is deliberately unclear or open-ended about its time frame, and especially if you are unfamiliar with the artist??™s work, it can be agonising to decide whether to leave and if you should risk missing out later on.
I felt a similar audience-anxiety watching Marie Cool and Fabio Balducci at the National Review of Live Art in Glasgow, UK, in February this year. The awkwardness of coming and going was exacerbated by the fact that the artists were in a special room with a kind of sound-proofing air lock between it and the corridor outside. This meant the performance space was rudely interrupted by any audience member who started shuffling her shoes, grabbing her bag and heading for the door. In February my anxiety was fleeting; I enjoyed the work, and the longer I stayed the more it absorbed me. I left when I felt pleasingly full??“ the feeling you get from that last mouthful of food that sates your hunger.
But the lack of beginning and end was obviously troubling for some people, and it became troubling for me with Window Enactment
. The problem comes down to how much agency and control you, the viewer, feel you need. One of the first reactions to unclear definitions is anger ??“ how dare the artist waste my time? I??™m not here to be manipulated! Except of course that??™s exactly what you want the artist to do ??“ to invade your life, your headspace, your normality, and show you something different or interesting.
In which case ??“ whose responsibility is it to set the boundaries? Should we, as viewers, submit to the mercy of the artist for an undelineated period of time? Should we surrender to an artistic authority beyond our grasp, or should we expect the artists to work for our attention and justify their right to occupy our thoughts? Obviously, it is never that black and white. In reality, there is a delicate contract between artist and viewer that laces them together in a web of possible meanings. And yet that contract often crystallises in the minutes and hours after a performance ??“ it creeps into the corners of your mind while you are doing other things.
Perhaps it is not the time you spend watching a performance, then, but the way that you approach it that matters. And if this is the case, then the artist and audience both share some responsibility in opening up the work. It??™s a complex network of viewing and trust that amounts to a community of participation; but
it does not get me much further to resolving my question ??“ when is it ok to leave a durational performance? Answers on a postcard please.
11/02/07 01:45:49 pm
This is not Dave McKenzie.
This is not Dave McKenzie.
This could be, but is not Dave McKenzie.
One of these looks like Dave McKenzie.
This is Dave McKenzie and he has been found (by Rachel Lois Clapham).
Dave McKenzie I??™ll Be There (2007)
at Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building Plaza, Nov 1.
A petite, self ??“effacing man, Dave McKenzie confesses to not being especially interesting. He is simply waiting, again he confides, not even to be found as the invitation purports, although my finding him has made it better, he tells me.
A generous, invitational gesture, discreet within the spectacular of the Performa Biennial, but found by me. McKenzie sits on one of the many concrete benches routed in the shadow of the forbearing Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building, in the heart of Harlem. The thirty minutes or so I spend sitting with McKenzie are simple and personal and all the confessing, confiding and sharing is sincere.
Stand-alone stalls selling their wares line the predominantly black neighbourhood of 125th Street, historically and currently a site to get on a soap-box and publicly preach polemic. Mckenzie will just be sitting ???waiting to be found and engage in conversations with passersby.??? Many benches and many seated men: looking at each of them I decide the first is not Dave; neither is the second; the third could be so I ask to take his picture but decide that he is not Dave; and then I see him wearing orange cashmere, a smart leather jacket and a quiet poise befitting a man who is waiting to be found. ???Hello, are you Dave???? ???Yes??? He replies.
McKenzie does not perform, it is a genuine introduction and encounter, which because of his decision to be as sincere and ???life-like??™ as possible, is defined largely by my questioning. McKenzie??™s mellow ways in conjunction with the public setting and mild racial confrontation I have encountered on my journey??“??“"White girls can't take pictures of black men on this street"??“??“leave me unafraid of the one-to-one encounter. He talks about him having a screen in front of him, a watchful incidental narrative that unfolds in real-time; he shows me his diary on which is printed ???I??™ll Be There??™ with other times and places that he will be; he fills in my gaps in New York history; he tells me a bit about Studio Museum Harlem, opposite his bench and presenting his performance; he answers my questions.
In comparison to other artists who arrange meetings??“??“for example Jonathan Monk??™s series of invitations to meet at specific times in specific places internationally, both in the past and future??“??“McKenzie??™s meeting seems more of an introverted live self-portrait. He has determined the parameters just as a painter would determine the colour, texture, tone, costume, pose and other painterly concerns. In live dimensions and with the addition of an unpredictable other the portrait lives only ephemerally and the nature is determined by that other. Me. It feels a little self-indulgent on both our parts, but nonetheless the seeming simplicity of the work affords it welcome space for quiet questioning and an interesting chat.
11/02/07 01:36:04 pm
'Desperately Seeking Dave'
me and Dave McKenzie
Dave McKenzie I??™ll Be There (2007) at Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building Plaza, Nov 1. On Thursday 1st November from 3-6pm.
On Thursday 1st November from 3-6pm a black man in a leather jacket sits on a bench in Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building Plaza, Harlem. It doesn??™t sound like anything out of the ordinary. It??™s not. And that??™s the beauty of Dave McKenzie??™s performance. Amid the other highly choreographed or larger staged events of Performa 07; with its celebrities, fashion designers, famous curators and artists- most of whom I don??™t know- it is intriguing and radical to be invited to simply go and ???find??™ someone sitting on a bench at a certain time as a piece of art.
The works??™ radicality comes in part from its unpredictability. ???I??™ll be there (2007)??™ is Dave??™s open invitation to be ???found??™, but it is not listed as happening anywhere but the Performa programme. This makes it a relatively secret rendezvous in which neither you nor the artist know who will turn up to Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building Plaza, or what will happen. It??™s also a public, and hence relatively unsupervised, event. Such instability enacts one of the fundamental underpinnings of performance; that it has the ability to be un-tethered, and perhaps not to be trusted. ???I??™ll be there (2007)??™ also returns at base to one of the paradoxes of live work; it is simultaneously structured and timetabled yet represents a wholly chance encounter in which neither you nor the artist have full control; you can choose not to go, Dave can choose not to be there. There is also the possibility that the normal nature and look of the piece may lead you to not find, not recognise, or worse still misrecognise, Dave. Either way, the performance of ???I??™ll be there (2007)??™ still happens, the work is still completed.
???I??™ll Be There (2007)??™ could be overtly and radically political; deliberately performing a black face (his own) in a historically predominant black part of New York (Harlem) in a plaza named after a black civil rights hero (Adam Clayton Powell Jr) that is now best known as a site for contemporary political protests and street-side vendors selling gospel psalms and black activist memorabilia. It could also be of fundamental importance to ???I??™ll Be There (2007)??™ that nearly all the Performa visitors who actually do find Dave are white. These are undoubtedly important elements to the work but ???I??™ll Be There (2007)??™ feels much less banal or soap-box than that. Instead the work operates on a more open-ended, fragile and quiet level that is clearly indebted to Allan Kaprow??™s politics of the performance of the everyday and the subversive, quiet, often un-witnessed performances of Adrian Piper and does the vital job of refreshing these narratives for the 21st Century.
In the end I did find Dave. He was there, as he said he would be, sitting on a bench in the plaza. We had a pleasant chat together then went our separate ways. In our technologised, wireless everything, age ???I??™ll Be There (2007)??™ indulges us in a desire for a bygone era when spontaneous, low-key yet intimate one to one social encounters were commonplace. It also allows for the fantasy of meeting a dark, handsome stranger at a pre-arranged time and place and so putting your trust, and fate, entirely in a printed paper advert.
Dave McKenzie??™s ???I??™ll Be There (2007) is part of ???All Together Now??™, a series of four performances in PERFORMA 07 that look at the artist??™s past and current performances and interventions. Curated by Romi Crawford. Presented by the Studio Museum in Harlem. Courtesy PERFORMA and Studio Museum.
Dave McKenzie will be performing ???Babel??™ (2000-2006) on the 14th November and Private Dancer (2007) on the 18th November as part of PERFORMA 07. See programme for more details.
11/02/07 01:34:42 pm
Tony Conrad Window Enactment, 2007. Courtesy Greene Naftali Gallery, New York.
Tony Conrad Window Enactment
at Greene Naftali, New York, Oct 30.
Reflecting on his experimental cinematic practices in the ??™60s and ??™70s??“??“which included pickling a roll of film in vinegar and his magisterial Yellow Movies
series of large swaths of white paper painted with black frames that yellowed in time??“??“Tony Conrad recently said, ???I was trying to kill film. I wanted to let it lay over and die.??? This pathological intent was somewhat in evidence at the vaunted composer, filmmaker, and artist??™s performance, on the occasion of Performa 07, at Greene Naftali gallery; the work went on for long enough??“??“nearly 80 minutes??“??“to warrant an endurance-test tag, or at least a nod in the direction of the durational concerns inherent to structuralist filmmaking, of which Conrad is a sweetly inestimable godfather. The work??™s tone, however, was tempered with goodwill, if a bit of gleeful disregard for the aching joints of the audience stretched uncomfortably across the gallery??™s cold concrete floor.
From austere beginnings??“??“a grainy color projection of a window that went on long enough for the crowd to start squirming??“??“soon emerged the revelation of an actual window cut into a temporary wall erected in a corner of the gallery, through which we voyeuristically watched Conrad and a troupe of dancer-performers (including Ei Arakawa) strip, dance, dress, read, whisper on their cell phones, play naked string duets, lounge, have sober flashlight wars, assemble, and dissemble. As Conrad??™s actors cycled through a series of cinematic tropes??“??“boredom, sex, surveillance??“??“the mini-scenes were punctuated with heavy breathing and soaring movie-like sound tracks (Wagner alternated with the Bavarian State Symphony Orchestra??™s 1958 recording Atlantis in Hi-Fi
) that cued emotional heights or resolutions that were nowhere on display in the stilted, inscrutable goings-on. Through it all, Conrad dipped in and out either naked or like a directorial seahorse in a sea-foam green button-down. In fact, getting in and out of their clothes seemed to occupy quite a bit of the troupe??™s time, as it does ours, come to think of it. Light played a central role, changing intensity, color, sometimes indulging in a spirited show of projected ciphers that streamed up the wall then exploded into white dissonance.
As the piece progressed, and the restless crowd thinned, changed position, and started making lightshows of their own with cell phones and digital cameras, the performance began to adhere to some semblance of a shape. The muted rhythms of the actors??“??“there was the naked girl again striking a pose, tearing off clothes that weren??™t really on to remind us of her nakedness, her alter ego in a tank top trying to read a book, Conrad inexorably fussing with a table??“??“became soothing, something close to interesting. The dullness of real-time became flittingly absorbing, oddly elegant. Soon a second window had been assembled behind the one through which we watched, the frames of the film doubled, as it were. Minutes stretched, I shifted position for the millionth
time, and the sound of plastic cups crackled behind me. Conrad finally emerged through a door and he and an assistant unrolled a large stretch of paper, which they hung over the window. A maniacally strong light came on, the audience blinked, and there was one of his Yellow Movies playing statically, majestically before us. Going to the movies, usually a tranquilizer, had never been such a wakeful experience. The lights dimmed, turning to a dull turquoise, and went off.