Booklist: Performance Art
Media and Performance: Along the Border
Johannes H. Birringer
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998
Book Description: In Media and Performance, choreographer Johannes Birringer offers the first comprehensive critical study of the intimate relationship between dance and performance art and the new media technologies in contemporary culture. The book interweaves Birringer's recollections of his own work in the alternative culture along with commentary on contemporary artists, from Nam June Paik to Laurie Anderson and Madonna. At a time when the new arts are being accepted and adopted by mainstream institutions, Birringer reclaims performance as process and movement, as political commitment to social activism and community, as aesthetic intervention into technological and economic structures of domination, and as anarchist disturbance of aesthetic pretensions. The author discusses the performance aspects of such political events as the breaching of the Berlin wall and the destruction of Sarajevo, and examines the use of video and agitprop performance in political activity, including protests by the gay activist group ACT UP and the disquieting performances of the former pornography actress and sex worker Annie Sprinkle. Birringer ends with a discussion of the continuing incursions of business into digital media, including the "imperialism of technological enhancements" as experienced in the culture of constant "upgrades" and the omnipresence of Bill Gates.
Performance on the Edge: Transformations of Culture
Johannes H. Birringer
Athlone Press, 2000
Book Description: Performance on the Edgetakes the reader on a journey across geographical borders and conceptual boundaries in order to map out the new territory of contemporary theatre, dance, media arts and activism. Working across social, cultural and political fault lines, the book explores performance as both process and contact, as the commitment to political activism and the reconstruction of community, as site-specific intervention into the social and technological structures of abandonment, and as the highly charged embodiment of erotic fantasies. The book addresses the politics of community-oriented and reconstructive artmaking in an era marked by the AIDS crisis, cultural and racial polarization, warfare, separatism and xenophobia. Provocatively illustrated with work from North and Central America and Eastern and Western Europe, the book challenges our assumptions about the relations between media and activism, technological imperatives and social processes and bodily identities and virtual communities.
The Citizen Artist: 20 Years of Art in the Public Arena
Linda Frye Burnham and Steven Durland, editors
Critical Press, 1998
Book Description: Art for the public? Art of the public? Art by the public? Single words signify a world of historical and critical issues facing the public artist today. Over the last 20 years, art workers have hotly debated how one broaches the concepts of the “public,” of the “responsibility” of the artist, and of the “purpose” and “meaning” of art---especially when art is moved out of the museum/gallery and into the spaces of daily life. The Citizen Artist, a compendium of articles from the magazine High Performance, brings forth the voices of the artists that form the backbone of these debates.
Key Points from the Introduction: “…more and more socially committed artists were changing the context of their work….this new sensibility didn’t necessarily reject the art world, but rather viewed it as one of many contexts in which art could exist. It followed that the context of art was just as crucial to its success as the form and content. These artists have chosen to invest themselves directly in the public in such a way that they are no longer viewing the public from the outside, but rather are an integral part of that public. In such a context, the art that develops is a direct reflection of the particular culture in which it is created. This creates an entirely different relationship between the artist and the public, because where the artist is invested in the public, the public is invested in art. The art need be no less innovative or experimental when the public views the work as developing from a common experience….Socially committed, community-engaged artists add depth to our culture and re-enchant their chosen publics, coming back to the reason why art was ever important in the first place.”
Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art
Suzanne Lacy, editor
Bay Press, 1995
Book Description: Departing from the traditional definition of public art as sculpture in parks and plazas, new genre public art brings artists into direct engagement with audiences to deal with the compelling issues of our time. This is the first definitive collection of writings on the subject by critics, artists, and curators who are pioneers in the field. Contributors include: Judith F. Baca, Suzi Gablik, Guillermo Gómez-PeÑa, Mary Jane Jacob, Allan Kaprow, Jeff Kelley, Suzanne Lacy, Lucy R. Lippard, Estella Conwill Májozo, Patricia C. Phillips, Arlene Raven, and Susan Leibovitz Steinman.
Key Points from the Introduction: “The tremendous recent interest in engaged, caring public art demands a context in art history and present criticism…The critic evaluates, describing the standards by which the work will be measured and pointing our flaws in thinking. Their scrutiny is vital, as it is too easy to simply applaud the work’s social intentions at the price of its aesthetics or, conversely, to ignore them. The critical task is not an easy one, as we have tended to separate our political and aesthetic language in this country since the ascendancy of formalist criticism in the forties…The discussion of beauty, invention, and the artful manipulation and assembling of media need not be excluded from the consideration of work that represents values and is contextualized within the public…Some critics have suggested that the distance between the artist’s political intentions and real social change is the only criterion. This idea reflects the dualistic conundrum at the heart of critical thinking about this work---is it art or is it social work?… By leaning too far in the direction of evaluating the work’s social claims, critics avoid giving equal consideration to its aesthetic goals. Our current critical language has a difficult time coming to terms with any process art….New genre public art calls for an integrative critical language through which values, ethics, and social responsibility can be discussed in terms of art.”
Conversations on Art and Performance
Bonnie Marranca and Gautam Dasgupta, editors
Johns Hopkins University Press/PAJ Books, 1999
Book Description: In this collection of more than three-dozen conversations on contemporary art and ideas, Marranca and Dasgupta bring together influential performers, video artists, playwrights, filmmakers, composers, and critics to talk about the artistic process, the perception of artworks by audiences, and the complex aesthetic, social, and political interrelationships that artworks reflect in the life of a culture. At the center of inquiry are issues that have preoccupied arts discussion in the last quarter of the century, addressed here by the very artists and thinkers responsible for extending the boundaries of their chosen fields in their search for new artistic and critical languages. Conversations takes up a broad range of key questions. What is the nature of presence? How does one see? Where does meaning reside? Topics include the creative process, the impact of criticism and historical legacies, arts funding and education, the modernism/ postmodernism debates, and the special tensions between private and public spheres and between personal statement and the need for communication. In touchstones that are surprisingly similar, what emerge from these conversations are the high standards and intellectual rigor these artists bring to their work, commitment to artistic ideals, and the demands placed on the artists as well as the public. Contributors include John Cage; Gary Hill; Laurie Anderson; Edward Said; Susan Sontag; Umberto Eco; John Ashbery; Robert Jay Lifton; Philip Glass; Stanley Kauffmann; Edwin Denby; Mac Wellman; Maria Irene Fornes; Trisha Brown; Carolee Schneemann; Robert Wilson; Richard Foreman; Herbert Blau; John Guare; Judith Malina; Elizabeth LeCompte; and Wallace Shawn.
Writing Performance: Poeticizing the Researcher’s Body
Ronald J. Pelias
Southern Illinois University Press, 1999
Book Description: Pelias is concerned with writing about performance, from the everyday performative routines to the texts on stage. He seeks to write performatively, to offer poetic or aesthetic renderings of performance events in order to capture some sense of their nature. In his quest for the spirit of theatrical performances, Pelias asks more of the written word than the word can deliver. To discuss performance without some accounting for its essence as art, he asserts, is at best misleading, at worst, fraud. Pelias divides his efforts to present performance events into three general categories: "Performing Every Day," "On Writing and Performing," and "Being a Witness." "Performing Every Day" focuses on performances ranging from the daily business of enacting roles to the telling of tales that make life meaningful. It incorporates essays about the ongoing process of presenting oneself in everyday life; the gender script that insists that men enact manly performances; the classroom performances of teachers and students; stories of gender, class, and race that mark identity; and a performance installation entitled "A Day¹s Talk."
Future of Ritual: Writings on Culture and Performance
Book Description: How is performance used in politics, medicine, religion, popular entertainment and individual interactions? In The Future of Ritual, Richard Schechner explores the nature of ritualized behavior and its relationship to performance and politics. Schechner studies the interactions, sometimes easy, sometimes tense, among authors, directors, performers, and spectators. A brilliant examination of cultural expression and communal action, The Future of Ritual asks pertinent questions about art, theatre and the changing meaning of "culture" in today's intercultural world.
Excerpted Book Review: “Schechner has given us we need to appreciate the deeper social significance of what is taking place in front of our eyes instead of accepting it for what it seems to be. (Jo Colin Turnbull, The New York Times)