PERFORMANCE (March 26th)

Fried

A performance of David Levine’s “The Best New Work” at the Princeton Art Museum, featuring Laura Beckner.

Some videos HERE

LHP:

Here’s a chronological section of the experience through images/captions:

LHP AVK 1

Walking around performing AV&K, stops by museum visitor, visitor questions the performer, performer proceeds to “answer” in the words of Greenberg. Fabulously hilarious!

LHP AVK 2

A very scenic launchpad for decrying Repin!

LHP AVK 4

Dude to the left did not avert his gaze once from the hand-held tech, as the visitor/audience watched and performer continued, with feeling!

LHP AVK 5

It got dramatic!

LHP AVK 6

Captive audience.

LHP AVK 7

Words of AV&K thrust onto / in front of work of art…dissonance, generative musing, psychobabble?

What an experience. Engaging, nuts and absolutely funny. The viewer reactions were captivating, especially viewers that seemed totally mystified/confused. But was the whole performance just “entertaining” (or baffling to the unaware/uniformed)? And if that’s the case, is that an issue, is it problematic?  Theory flung at art objects for what purpose? As a type of audio-visual experiment? I did not leave with an understanding of the text (and I hadn’t walked in intending to attain one). There are hints of institutional critique (thinking to Fraser’s Museum Highlights and masquerading as tour guide) at play with choice text and works of art (and museum institution) left in a state of use and abuse, disregarded, trivialized (spectacularized). Or one could find in the collision of spoken text and visual the potential for generative/new/random (aleatory) associations. The concept of “spectacle” comes to mind, making the spectacular, spectacularizing and the potential for animation performance allows. And I return to the funny–the humorous, a trance-like, hypnotic type of laughter induced, following and trying to keep up with the leader-performer. But were the actual words “funny”? Or was it just a situational awkwardness of sorts?

LC:

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 8.30.34 PM

Beckner chose to deliver a passage on Mussolini’s appeal to the masses by way of their aesthetic tastes in this room full of Italian paintings and sculptures, suggesting something less than a completely arbitrary relationship between content and setting. In what registered to me as the end of a scene/movement, she gestures toward a gilded thing in a vitrine and proposes, “The masses must be provided with objects of admiration and wonder” (video embedded in the still above).That shiny object is a 17th-century gilt bronze and silver angel attributed to the French sculptor Jean Regnaud during his time in Italy, perhaps once a piece of a reliquary holding an instrument of the Passion, probably the nails, its label speculates.

IMG_0005

The small angel becomes a false idol in relation to the performed text and hit perhaps more dramatically than would a modernist work nearer the aesthetic Mussolini used to distract from the brutality of his rule. It made the described subjugation of the people register as more biblical than bureaucratic.

ISB:

I was struck by the way the performer moved back and forth between being total obliviousness to her audience–totally inside her own head, moving as if through her own fog–and totally aware of her audience, making eye-contact and interacting. But the mode of interaction with the audience felt less like the performer descending from her own self-created world, and more like the performer ushering the audience into *her* plane of existence. The audience became a part of this odd virtual in-between space of performance art.

The performance also made me interact differently with the space of the museum. I was aware of the museum as a sanctified space that was now being made into a space to *live in*, made into a kind of home for a brief time. I felt compelled to lean on objects as if they were furniture, to take advantage of the acoustics of certain rooms in order to sing or declaim poetry. What happens to a museum when the entire space becomes stage, becomes virtual playground?

I was also intrigued by the activity of looking for the performer, of finding her and losing her again. Was this also a part of the experience of the audience? The disorienting idea that this performer will go on whether you (or any given audience member) is there at all? (This was thrown into particular relief when the performer entered a bathroom and continued with her monologue even though only one or two people could hear her.)

What was going on when the performer stopped her monologue to observe a painting? I found myself watching her watching a painting. The activity of being an audience member thrust itself to the fore, as did the activity of looking at artworks in a museum. These moments made me think of the performance as a kind of satirical version of a museum tour guide who does not wait for museum goers to follow her and often gets lost in her own thoughts, rendering her role superfluous…

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DGB:

I had a lot on my mind as I watched the performance on Saturday, and I really look forward to talking about it together tomorrow.  The whole thing definitely stimulated my thinking as we look forward to our final project, and the experience of watching Laura do the piece enormously sharpened for me many of the questions I think we need to resolve for ourselves as we move toward a pedagogical/performative activation of “Art and Objecthood.”

Below, a short clip I took — the final image of the bystander (her fingers are in her ears, as you will see) says a lot about how one museum-goer managed the situation.  I think this image heightens for me the challenges we face as we seek a form of text-performance that is closer to teaching — since this is really important to me.

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 10.51.07 PM

———————–

EVT:

It is such a bummer that I missed the “Best New Work” this past weekend; thank you everyone for your videos/pictures/comments! After watching them, some things came to mind. However, I apologize in advance if I am misinterpreting what actually happened on Saturday; I have tried to reconstruct what the performance was all about based on what I just saw on your posts.

The first thing I want to bring up is the idea of talking about art in an art space vs talking about something that has no relation to the physical space we are performing in. I think that one of the reasons that makes this performance stronger is its content relation to the museum. As Graham points out, now looking at our project we should aim for a text-performance that resembles teaching. However, I am not totally sure how more (or less) powerful/challenging/rewarding could be to perform/teach about art in a non-artistic space. Looking at the videos, I see how Beckner looks at some objects and paintings, which sometimes relate to what she is saying. Nevertheless, her conversational tone, hand gestures and interaction with the space in general (not relying on the spatial artistic personality of the museum too much) seem to me the powerful components of her performance. I think this is something we could reflect on moving forward. Why do we need to perform in a museum for it to be more of a “teaching” exercise?

As some of you pointed out, she looks at times as a tour guide—or at least, some bystanders confuse her as one when they first see her. I could not tell from the video who she was actually looking at all the time. I saw that sometimes she looks at some people (e.g. the guy who was doing work (?!) in the museum) as if she was engaging in a conversation with him. In a more “teachy” performance as our final project, should we indeed be conversational and interactive?

Finally, I want to comment on the corporality of Beckner’s performance, which I found fascinating. She laid down and abruptly sat down, used hang gestures, and changed her voice tone appropriately. In watching and admiring her performativity, I also wonder if she was creating a dependency on it to converse and situate herself in the space. I felt that such performativity drew people’s attention to her and to even wonder what she was doing; at times, it added to the oddness of performing a text in a museum. Can we imagine her doing the whole text just in one space without moving? How would the oddness/performativity be seen as more or less of a “spectacle” in this hypothetic scenario?

 

NW:

Kitsch, “a product of the industrial revolution” – an ersatz version of ‘genuine culture’, whoch the dominant bourgeoisie sold to the proletariat who had lost its folkic traditions in its move to the cities. Mass produced kitsch became the ‘first universal culture ever beheld’ and supported the ‘illusion that the masses really rule”. This was what made kitsch integral to the regimes of Hitler, Moussolini, Stalin and others.

I have been trying to work out what made me feel uncomfortable with the performance. Yes it was entertaining, it made me laugh, sometimes chuckle out loud, but this was never at the words, never at the ‘acting’ but rather, as has been said above at the awkward interactions with the members of the public who were not ‘in’ on what was happening. A certain exclusivity was given to those ‘in the know’ – those aware of the ‘performance’ and in some contexts this could be fine, but the joke seemed to be on the members of the public who weren’t, those who were confused by what was occurring. There is a certain elitism in theory itself (although Avant-Garde and kitsch is arguably more criticism), a certain elitism enshrines academia, this in itself is no bad thing, but with the rise of knowledge and information economies a certain updating of Greenbergs essay is due, not one that leaves it as empty, not one that makes it Kitsch. (as Hermann Broch charecterizes it on the year the Nazi’s take office, “the evil in the value-system of art”.

There were other moments, that I must admit I was slightly seduced by. The talk of POWER and the third Reich whilst sitting in front of a large painting of an eagle. The Eagle as audience or bestower of power? But a recent trip to Broodthaers had left the eagle image firmly imprinted in my memory. The metaphor lacked though, it seemed cheap, easy perhaps, the same with pointing to certain artefacts, perhaps a shiny… it all seemed rather nice, rather quaint. I struggled to scratch below all of this, and at the moments when I did, I realized I sat an uncomfortable side of a power dynamic between actor / general public

Kitsch, “a product of the industrial revolution” – an ersatz version of ‘genuine culture’, whoch the dominant bourgeoisie sold to the proletariat who had lost its folkic traditions in its move to the cities. Mass produced kitsch became the ‘first universal culture ever beheld’ and supported the ‘illusion that the masses really rule”. This was what made kitsch integral to the regimes of Hitler, Moussolini, Stalin and others.

I have been trying to work out what made me feel uncomfortable with the performance. Yes it was entertaining, it made me laugh, sometimes chuckle out loud, but this was never at the words, never at the ‘acting’ but rather, as has been said above at the awkward interactions with the members of the public who were not ‘in’ on what was happening. A certain exclusivity was given to those ‘in the know’ – those aware of the ‘performance’ and in some contexts this could be fine, but the joke seemed to be on the members of the public who weren’t, those who were confused by what was occurring. There is a certain elitism in theory itself (although Avant-Garde and kitsch is arguably more criticism), a certain elitism enshrines academia, this in itself is no bad thing, but with the rise of knowledge and information economies a certain updating of Greenbergs essay is due, not one that leaves it as empty, not one that makes it Kitsch. (as Hermann Broch charecterizes it on the year the Nazi’s take office, “the evil in the value-system of art”.

There were other moments, that I must admit I was slightly seduced by. The talk of POWER and the third Reich whilst sitting in front of a large painting of an eagle. The Eagle as audience or bestower of power? But a recent trip to Broodthaers had left the eagle image firmly imprinted in my memory. The metaphor lacked though, it seemed cheap, easy perhaps, the same with pointing to certain artefacts, perhaps a shiny… it all seemed rather nice, rather quaint. I struggled to scratch below all of this, and at the moments when I did, I realized I sat an uncomfortable side of a power dynamic between actor / general public

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