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Panther City Arts

Internal Dialogue (a journal exercise)

Tom emailed us an exercise for our journal. Basically, in different settings, record our internal dialogue. 

I’m not sure I fully picked up on the concept. There’s a lot of noise in my head. What do I write down? Again, in talking about context, mediated spaces, un-arting art, etc., but consciously thinking about this as an assignment, it was hard to not think about stuff for the class. But, I didn’t want to write that stuff, so I tried to filter that out and write about things happening around me. 

The cigar shop…

Men with their laptops open conducting business. This is a right winger, business man haven during the day. Sometimes they watch Fox News on the TV. Today, it’s off. Thankfully. If not Fox News, they like to watch golf. It’s annoying. At least Jason sometimes turns on jazz. A man talks about selling software for the oil and gas industry. I despise him just by that. Oil and gas, wearing department store suit, working at his Dell laptop, excited to be a salesman. I could never live like that. Why is it detestable to me? Is it so wrong to just make a living? Am I just assuming based on his politics? Am I assuming his politics? Does it make an ass out of him and me? The cigar shop is communal space. I’m friends with people here I otherwise would never know or associate with outside of here. Is that comforting or concerning?

A coffee shop in Plano…

Plano is pretentious. This coffee shop is surprising. It’s not sleek and rich like the rest of Plano. It’s in the square, and older part of the city. And while some nouveau riche has infiltrated, the square still has a cooler feel than the rest of the city. This place seems unpretentious. Is it just the setting? It feels almost like Fort Worth. I have a performance tonight. I’m making final edits. I feel good about the piece but I worry that Fred won’t like it. He’s been very critical of me this semester. And it’s over a project that he once claimed to love. He used to use a lot of hyperbolic language when discussion it. Once, when I performed a big section of it, he remarked that it could make me famous. It’s the kind of thing I could make a name and a living on. Now, he’s very critical. Is he being hard on me because he’s trying to get me to do even better? Is it because he thinks I’m good and can make it? Or have I regressed? Every grad student gets impostor syndrome sometimes. I seem to get it more now than I did in the past. Maybe I should be writing about the things around me rather than this. It’s generally quiet. They seem to be having issues with the music system. I imagine it’s someone’s iPod plugged into a sound system. Probably one of the young, cute employee’s. Everyone is good looking here. I’m an outlier. Money and beauty seem to go hand in hand. It’s almost time to go. I’m nervous, yet confident. We’ll see. 

 

Again, I’m not sure if I did it right. My mind is constantly on my work. If anything, it made me pay attention to the world around me more. Despite considering myself a people watcher, I do often get tunnel vision as I bury myself in work. Even at the cigar shop, which I frequent regularly, I often have my computer open or notepad out, writing, working, whatever. I’m tuned out. This did help me consider my space more carefully. Maybe that was the point?

 

The performance (cyber)space (reflections on part 2 of etude #3)…

Now, here’s some notes…

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Notes from journal…

Luckily, a woman from class, who has her own private studio at the Art Barn with a couch and coffee table setup, allowed me to use it for my installation.

I had the phone on a side table, but ti didn’t play a part in the installation, really.

The laptop was on the coffee table and had a Facebook page that I’d created for the space (Installation Room) open. I also brought my portable Bose speaker, but the lack of an outlet made it practically useless. 

I had a volunteer sit at the couch. From my iPad, I Facebook messaged him from my iPad under the character name I’d created for the installation (Annie Anderson). We had a brief conversation as I explained the piece. 

It went over okay. As usually happens with my work, my fellow students seemed more enthused than my instructor. I swear I’m destined to be a popular artist that the academy looks at with a quiet disdain as a pseudo-intellectual. Anyway…

Class discussion, however, was again very constructive. And the concept changed even further.

Now, the installation is completely online and completely run through social media. 

Here’s my concept:

There is a website that serves as the “box office” of sorts for the performance. Given that it’s moved online, the performance can now accommodate more than one person at once. What happens is the audience member buys a ticket for the performance. Then, they’re given a list of the characters and all their social media profiles. From there, they can go friend/follow/etc. the characters. Once the performance starts, which will play out over the course of something like a couple of weeks or a month, it takes place on the audience members social media feeds. There is a general narrative between the characters in the performance, but again, the audience can interact with these characters and effect the course of events. 

This still plays with the same themes I’ve previously written about. What has changed is the space. 

I’ve written about the question of what comes next for art after people like Kaprow essentially blew the box up. And this seems to be an interesting answer. The internet as a performance space. 

I’m sure I’m not the first person to think of it or even do it, but my interest is certainly piqued. 

Hopefully a performance like this can help the audience look at their carefully curated online social lives in a way that examines context and how exactly we craft and define the roles we play online versus who we are in the real world. 

The scripting process will be kind of crazy. I’ll have to develop full social media pages for my characters, going into great detail crafting them and who they are. Second, I’ll have to script a general storyline, even if specific lines aren’t written down. I think of it like a commedia del’arte situation. I’ll have a carefully constructed schedule in which different characters will post different things. From there, they’ll react to the comments from audience members and other characters. And these situations will have to be fluid based on where the audience, the spect-actors, take it. I imagine a gargantuan, annotated, and organized scripting system that has dossiers for each character, a collection of situations, and a schedule of postings. It’s a huge project, but one people seem excited about it. And it’s something that genuinely interests me.

The idea of taking performance/art to the online space is intriguing, despite my relative lack of social media experience. I’ll have to do a lot of work and studying. Especially when it comes to making a website to serve as a mission control for all of this. I’ve never seen anything like it. 

Exciting…

The Spect-actor (reflections on part 1 of etude #3)…

Class was great!

Through discussion, Tom and the class helped me develop the installation and get it to a potentially cool place. 

The set is still a living room. There is one audience member at a time. They enter the room. There is a TV, an iPod dock loaded with music, a computer on the coffee table, and a smart phone on the table next to the couch. The audience member has a minute to get themselves situated, perhaps put on some music or a movie, and then the text alert goes off. From there, the audience member takes part in a performance via text message and social media. They talk to a character. There is a general storyline for the character, but the audience member has the ability to effect the direction and outcome of the interaction. They become a true spect-actor, in that thy take a role in co-creating the performance. This does a couple of cool things.

First, it challenges the notion of context. Both context in interpersonal communication that is mediated by a digital barrier, and context in the definition and creation of art. 

In time specific sessions, the audience member can experience and take part in a performance that hopefully elicits genuine reactions, unconsciously generated, leading to an authentic interaction. It’s a happening of sorts, though more curated than Kaprow would like. 

Tom liked the concept so much he suggested it could be a creative dissertation project, and I agree. This is an example of how great the class is, especially in the way Tom structured it. He’s brought us along, putting the pieces out there and letting us slowly put them together, which is starting to reveal a real idea of what our individual drives and interests in art are, which in turn can inform the kind of projects we take one. 

I really like it. This was a great week. Unfortunately, it’s not the kind of thing that’s easy to document, I feel. I can write about it, but there are no fun pictures to take or screenshots to post because these are all concepts right now.

Next week, we put it together into an actual physical presentation. I’ve gotta figure out how to turn a space in the UTD Art Barn into a living room environment.

My specific assignment is to create a Facebook profile for one of my characters (we decided it’d be cool to have multiple characters) and present that in a setting that can somewhat recreate the idea. We’ll see how it goes…

Context (Etude #3)

I’m posting a scan of the actual assignment, as I made notes on it…

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So, we have to decide on a story that’s not our own, and then make decisions/observations about its visuals, sound, space, and perspective/concept.

This is definitely a site specific project, especially considering our reading of Kaprow.

I read a conversation in a comment thread online about a couple who, in the course of a normal conversation via text messaging, got into an argument because of something being taken out of context. 

This story interested me for a few reasons. First, I’ve been there before. Despite my generally jovial nature in person, I’ve had people read me in text/email over the years in a much different tone than I intended. The reason for this is a loss of context. Especially in text, it’s difficult to put any intonation into the words. Outside of emoticons, tone and intent can be difficult to decipher in a textual context.

Also, it made me thing of the social scripts I’ve already written about. Our reading of a situation (like in art) is informed by our own subjectivity. Despite the intent of what we’re perceiving, the way we read it can be completely different. 

So, this notion interested me. 

My concept is an installation in which the audience is placed in the role of the person having the text conversation. The setting is a living room. The living room os full of stuff, the decorations of an identity. They sit at a couch with a smart phone on a pedestal in front of them, a laptop on the table in front of them and a television playing a movie or speaker playing music. All of these electronic devices will be active. On the phone, the conversation plays out. On the computer is social media feeds. The TV or music provides a cultural noise that can, perhaps, influence the mindset of the audience. From here, the audience watches the conversation play out on the small screen.

This is like a happening, though I’m not sure how much further the audience could participate. Maybe be able to respond to the texts from someone else so they could experience the loss of context? How they respond to the texts reveals something about the piece and about themselves. 

This is a two part assignment, so this is my concept. I’ll present it in class and then perhaps develop it further…

Performance Installation: Week 4

Our reading for the week was the book Essay on the Blurring of Art and Life, a book of Allan Kaprow’s writings about his work edited by Jeff Kelley.

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My original reflection on the reading…

I’ve had experience studying Kaprow before, in Performance Art and Performance Theory classes during my masters.

Kaprow’s signature contribution to art is the Happening. 

Happenings are tough to define, partly because Kaprow’s own definition shifted over time. Basically, they’re a art performance or installation that happens outside the bounds of the traditional art sphere (i.e. galleries, theaters, etc.) 

That’s really broad. Winnowing down, Kaprow was concerned with the question, “What is art?” His solution partly involved taking the elements of what makes art, consciously, art, and instead using everyday locations, objects, and actions to challenge the perception of art itself. Starting with more scripted events, Kaprow eventually got to a point where events only happened once, they weren’t promoted, and there was a chance the people participating in them weren’t even aware of their intentions, meanings, etc. To Kaprow, art was the actual creation and execution of art. Not necessarily the creations themselves or the spaces they’re contained in. 

I’ve been a part of happenings before, typically of the more scripted variety where the audience was aware of their participation. 

And what this reading does for me is raise the topic of the conscious versus the subconscious. 

Once we’re conscious of something, we automatically assign culturally curated symbolism, meaning, and definition to it. As such, people in a gallery will behave the way people in a gallery are “supposed” to behave, and they’ll automatically register the gallery’s contents as “art”, because that’s what’s in a gallery. 

By leaving the safe confines of the curated, controlled space, Kaprow was able to get a more honest, perhaps visceral reaction from his audience, which in a way, is art. 

I remember taking a class on Dada and Surrealist art at the Nasher Sculpture Center. One time in class, I made the, tired, statement that art is subjective. My professor, a curator at the center, corrected me. She said, our reaction to art is subjective. 

Such a small change in the statement makes a big difference. It acknowledges that something is art if we call it art, taking the power away from the art academy and placing it squarely on the spectator. And there’s something to that. Think of things we interact with everyday. A chair, a table, a toilet (Hello, Duchamp!). All of these things had to be designed. They are, in their own way, art. But, because they exist in our everyday lives, and perhaps because they serve very practical purposes, we don’t immediately identify them as being artistic. The Dadas and Surrealists plead their own part in challenging these notions. Duchamp’s readymades specifically did this. Especially his work Fountain, a urinal turned on its back and signed, as a work of art would be. 

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Collage and some of the Dada sculpture would also fall into this category.

But, Kaprow took that a step further. After all, a lot of these Dada and Surrealist works were still displayed in galleries and exhibitions where they were defined as art. Kaprow took his art outside of the gallery, noting in the book that in order to get to the heart of what is art, you had to un-art the art, or basically strip it of the signifiers that identified it as art. So, take it out of the gallery, don’t sign it, don’t advertise it as art. Just let it happen, as it were. 

This, in turn, will elicit a spontaneous, unconscious reaction from the audience, which can then reveal the true definition and nature of art. 

I totally dig what Kaprow is saying, to an extent. We live in a socially constructed world and follow script throughout our everyday lives. So, when someone walks into a theater or a gallery, they’re playing the role of audience member, art patron, etc. Due to these roles that we take on, we behave in certain ways, and look at the contents in a certain way. We perceive the art as art simply because we’re in a place that houses art. Not necessarily because it actually is art. Confused yet?

I like the idea of getting your audience into an unconscious space. Getting them to react spontaneously and authentically to art really is, perhaps, one of the most interesting aspects of art.

However, what the Dadas and Surrealists played a big role in starting, and what Kaprow furthered, is this postmodern notion of deconstruction. And while there is a way in which deconstruction can be a very good thing, what happens at the end when we’ve torn the entire academy down?

By deconstructing the notion of “What is art?”, we tear it down to its parts to such an extent that we invite a total relativistic outlook on the form as a whole that in the search for meaning can dilute it to the point that it has no meaning.

As Hakim Bey suggested in TAZ: Go into the lobby of a Citibank, drop your pants, take a shit on the floor, and walk out.

Sure, you can identify that as an artistic expression. Especially in today’s world where there is such distrust of the large banks. But, if no one else knows about it, is it art? Is it enough that the 20 people in the bank perceived the action and questioned in their own heads what it meant?

I agree that we should find ways to break down the social scripts that can, arguably, sometimes limit art. But, how far can we break them down before there is no script left? Are we truly living in an age that’s so subjective that it’s enough if just one person unconsciously perceives it as art? 

And think of it on a practical level. It’s fine when you’re the one leading the charge on these movements, but what happens to artists who come after? I feel it’s safe to say that the world needs art and artists. But, we let those who came before us tear down the academy to a point that we’ve entered into a time of cynicism where everything is considered trite or derivative. Everything is been there, done that. 

Kaprow was great, but he got to work in a time when the art world was still somewhat strong, so his abstraction meant something. But, his development of the Happening, in a way, can play as him pulling the pin on a grenade on his way out the door and making it more difficult for everyone who comes after him. The grand narrative (or meta narrative) of art has been broken down to a point that to participate in the traditional art world these days is considered tired. As Tom Riccio said to me during a meeting, “Theater is dead.” (For this example, consider that theater can mean art in general). Now, Tom didn’t mean that theater itself is dead. That’s obviously not true. Broadway posted record ticket sales last year. What he meant is the “box” is dead. The traditional theater, with its proscenium seating and coherent, self-contained narratives, is dead. To participate in this old form is to be living in the past, to an extent. 

I, in all my amateurism, disagree. I think it’s still possible to work within the box (whether that be a theater, a gallery, or whatever else) and create great, progressive art. The key, as Kaprow’s work gets at, is getting the audience to truly unconsciously react to the art within. How to do that? I’m not totally sure. But, I’ll keep working on it.

I know going into this class, that Tom is a fan of site specific artistic work. His group, Dead White Zombies specializes in site specific performance. And, I think it’s really cool and results in really visceral, honest performances. I like the notion. And it’s something I want to do with my work. Which leads me to the assignment (etude) for the week…

In class poetry assignment…

Write down 30 words that are about us, describe us, are current interests, etc. I don’t remember the specific wording.

Then, we choose the 15 we feel best suit us.

Then, we write a poem using all 15 words.

Here is my process and poem…

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Final poem…

 

Building, painting, shooting, editing.

Combining the writing, performance, and video.

Philosophy and comedy in baffling, yet engaging, abstraction.

Constructing an aesthetic space full of action.

Revealing an identity.

 

Grip

This is the short film Joe and I made in 2009. It was our first foray into film. We were amateurs. We still, technically, are. But, we’ve come so far. This was a valuable learning experience, and a fun footnote in our path…

There’s another scene, also on vimeo. It was the opening scene. Eventually, I split it form the rest of the film because, through no fault of the actors, it just never quite worked.

Of course, the film doesn’t quite work. But, it was fun and educational nevertheless…

Etude #2: Everything ends up in a box…

Our second assignment in Performance Installation class was called “High Points of Your Life”

The basic premise was, choose seven high points from our life (good, bad, or otherwise). These high points had to, essentially, manifest in an object (found or created), a sound, a video, a text, has to be performed, and consider spatial relationships. Shape all of these to a perspective and take a point of view (implied that it’s other than our own).

So, here are my notes on the assignment. Again, you’ll notice they’re somewhat brief. Sometimes the things that happen in my head go too fast to write down…

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And, here is the finished product…

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As you can see from the notes, I began with very practical life events, but soon moved to more abstract concepts. 

But, at one point I realized that I had a major dividing line in my life. It was in 2009 amid the depression. I’d recently moved, and it had been before I had another place to go. So, I put all my stuff in a storage unit. However, even after I found a new house, I was so busy and I knew the move was only for a year, so I left most of the stuff in the storage unit. Int the meantime I had started a business (an art gallery I co-owned with an artist friend), and the recession had hit – closing said gallery eventually. And here’s where I ran into a problem.

The recession was hard. I wasn’t making very much money at the gallery as most of my labor was essentially sweat equity. Also, I ended up getting screwed over by departing roommates and stiffed on rent. Because of this paying bills became a sporadic event. That said, I knew my storage unit was most important, and I tried to pay the bill as often as possible. 

At one point, I’d sent a check that would cover two months and any late fees I’d accumulated. However, a couple of weeks later I got a phone call from them. My storage unit was about to be auctioned off unless I paid in the next couple of hours. I asked about the check I’d sent, almost certain that I’d seen it clear the bank. They said it was $14 short of what I’d owed and weren’t sure if I wanted it applied to my balance or wanted to send another check for the right amount. Mind you, they waited until right before they were going to auction it to tell me about this issue, which is real flimsy in the first place. Of course apply it to the balance. Then, call me and tell me to send you $14 more dollars. But, this was a setup. I got the money together and called them back, but no one answered. I called a dozen times over the next few hours. Never an answer. 

About a month later I got a check in the mail for $175. My cut after the balance owed was paid off of what they auctioned it for. 

Doing the math, that means most of what I owned, most of my life, was worth less than $600. 

Furniture, clothes, hundreds of DVD’s, hundreds of books, a lot of my masters notes, papers, etc. Keepsakes, gifts, mementos. All gone. Stolen, essentially.

But, I was so low at that point there was no fight left in me.

The gallery closed soon after. I had a falling out at grad school. Got screwed over by friends. Had the absolute worst breakup of my life. And then got most of my stuff stolen by a shady storage place. I’d lost everything. I was at rock bottom.

I moved back into my parents’ house and went back to work in the family business. The very thing I thought I’d escaped from just three years earlier was once again my resting place. 

I realized of the big events in my life, losing that storage unit might have been the biggest. Because I essentially had to reboot everything. 

And I did. 

Though I had to work a day job to pay down bills, I decided to fully devote myself to the pursuit of art. The thing I’d always let others convince me could never be anything more than a hobby would be my life, come hell or high water. 

To that end, I’d met and started writing with my, now, closest collaborator Joe, and we soon had a script for a short film completed and a production company in Austin that wanted to produce it. 

Since then, it’s still been an up and down, sometimes rocky road on the path to being a working artist. But, it’s getting there. I eventually went back and finished grad school. After living at home for three years, I was able to move into a dream apartment (a converted warehouse loft space catered to artists), and I wrote and co-directed promotional videos that aired on national television. And I eventually went back to school to work on a PhD in the arts, which eventually led me to this class. 

Now things are happening faster than ever. I have a lot of irons in the firs that are ready to strike. It’s taken six years, but I’m getting close. 

So, I built my installation around a box. The point of view is that of the auctioneer, auctioning off all my belongings to the highest bidder. The perspective, theme, or whatever you want to call it is simple. Everything (and everyone) ends up in a box. No matter what we accumulate it life, it’s all temporary. And the ability to let go is a experience that can transformative. 

For the performance aspect of the piece, I prepared a manifest on my yellow notepad (to give it the look of a ledger) and read this prepared script…

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An accounting of the contents:

1. The American League Championship trophy replica is from the Texas Rangers 2011 season. Despite being an “artist”, I love sports. Hey, I grew up in Texas, after all. And above everything else, I love baseball and the Texas Rangers. And during the 2011 playoffs I was at Game 6 against the Detroit Tigers when Nelson Cruz hit the walk off grand slam to send the Rangers to the World Series. In fact, the ball even landed near us. Even remembering it now, it was an emotional moment. I’ve never in my life experienced that much shared jubilation and euphoria. It may be the most positive feeling I’ve ever had in one single moment. And I shared it simultaneously with 50,000 other people. It was amazing. To me, it represents happiness.

2. My masters hood from the University of North Texas. I experienced the highest of highs (being named Outstanding Graduate Scholar, the top non thesis award in the department), and the lowest of lows (being passed over for a job I felt I deserved and my advisor being hit by a car on her bike). I took nearly two years off at one point. But, Tom Riccio (of all people!), played a big role in convincing me to finish. I gutted up, took one more class in which I made a complete fool of myself, took my comprehensive exams, and graduated. It was a big moment for me, in the end. I’ll never be the academic that some of my classmates were, but I feel like I had a great overall experience and it made me a better person. It represents hard work and accomplishment. And a book end to the rough patch of my life (graduated in Fall 2011).

3. Two burned DVD’s from two plays I was in at Duncanville Community Theatre. They were The Diary of Anne Frank and The Curious Savage, in which I played Hannibal (a role once also played by Spalding Gray!). As a theater critic, I don’t get to do much theater. But, DCT doesn’t get reviewed and I have a lot of close friends there. So, I sneak down occasionally and do a show. My best role in the last few years was as the title character in The Nerd! This represents my continued pursuit of art stemming from that reboot.

4. Two Criterion Collection Luis Buñuel films, “The Exterminating Angel” and “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie”. I included these because of my love of film and desire to make films, but also because, due to my earlier compromises in life, I’d never actually studied filmmaking. So, part of my reboot was essentially trying to teach myself. I bought books, watched and studied films, listened to interviews, etc. But, a major tool of my education has been the Criterion Collection, which is known for being, essentially, film school on a disc. And through that exploration/education, I feel in love with the films of Luis Buñuel. This represents my drive and desire to make films.

5. Film wasn’t the only thing I took up study of. I also became a (renewed) student of theater. I’ve done theater pretty much my entire life. From the moment I could get on a stage, I did. Yet, I rarely studied it. I took 1 1/2 years in junior high and two years in high school before switching to choir/show choir/musical theater because of schedule considerations. I stayed in choir in college, but got back into theater late. Over my last three semesters of undergrad I did about a dozen plays. That said, it was too late to take any classes. My graduate work (in performance studies) had gotten be back into that world at least tangentially. And coming off of that, and getting a job as a theater critic for Theater Jones (www.theaterjones.com), I decided to enhance my studies and learn more. To that end, I included the books Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic edited by John Willett and Martin Esslin’s The Theatre of the Absurd. These show both my continued education and specific interests, and represent how big a part of my life theater is.

6. During my reboot, like I mentioned, Joe and I got our first film made. It’s called Grip, and it’s not great. We were novices. Didn’t know what we were doing. And then we had issues with the production company and the edit, and ended up finishing it on our own, without all the footage. However, it was a major milestone and started my forays into making films. It’s important and will, hopefully be an amusing footnote moving forward in life. It’s playing on the iPad in the box. 

7. Finally, I included my Canon 7D, DSLR camera. It represents the evolution of my film/art making. I’ve shot several little projects on it and have several more planned. It represents the future. 

The box is labeled as “Random Stuff”, because in the end, that’s all it is to anyone else. It means something to me, but it’s temporary. And that knowledge has a dual effect on me. First, it actually makes these moments mean more to me. Because they are so unique and special to me. They’re rare and personal. That makes them mean more within the context of myself and my identity. However, it also helps me to not get to tied down to anything. Always be moving forward. Don’t fall back on sentimentality and certainly don’t ever get contented with the the easy path. 

 

The project went over well. I liked it. It’s the kind of thing, I feel, if I had more of a portfolio and display history, would be taken seriously as an installation piece. 

Performance Installation: Week 3

Our reading for the week was the Joseph Beuys: The Reader, edited by Claudia Mesch and Viola C. Danto.

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http://www.amazon.com/Joseph-Beuys-Reader-Claudia-Mesch/dp/0262633515/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1399472229&sr=8-1&keywords=joseph+beuys+reader

The book is a collection of essays on hugely influential, and often controversial artist/performer Joseph Beuys. A lot of the symbolism and, really, absurdity that we associate with performance art today can be largely credited to him. His installations, too, might seem absurd to the casual viewer. But, Beuys always had a purpose. Every material used, and how it was used had a meaning. 

Here’s a brief YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5UXAqpSJDk

 

Modern, postmodern, or whatever, Beuys did the kind of things in performance and art that we might role our eyes at today because it seems cliched. But, it’s cliched because he did it, essentially, first. It’s the old art adage, the first person to do it is a genius. Everyone after that is an unimaginative copycat. 

Beuys was definitely an original voice for 20th century art. Interesting, to say the least…

On to our assignment for the week…

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