Friday, May 23, 2003
Questions of quality?

I've now seen this site posted on a few weblogs, and I ran across it a while ago myself. Loosely speaking it's a running art exhibition promoting copyright violation as freedom of expression. I don't really think that focusing on copyright violation as an action addresses the eternal question regarding beauty and representation, but that aside, even for the low standards of performance-y art, nothing in that exhibit is worth the time. There's a saturation problem in contemporary art right now, but unlike a lot of people, I don't think its roots are in the nature of the performance or the installation--both are fine media. I see a problem with quality of execution in a lot of individual cases, and more generally with the easy access of filming, performing, and installation-installing. With that in mind, I found this site archiving "art adventures" performed over the last thirty years. Here's a few intriquing ones that I'd say were well executed:
1967 - Abbie Hoffman disrupted the New York stock exchange on August 1967. With a group of twelve individuals he threw dollars at the traders from the overhanging balcony of the exchange floor; an action that stopped trading for a few seconds when the brokers lunged to grab the money.

1969 - Valie Export dressed in pants with the crotch cut away and a machine gun slung over her shoulder entered a pornographic cinema in Munich. Adressing the audience that had come to watch genitalia on the screen she announced that "real" genitalia were available and that they could do whatever they wished. The people left the theatre. (Genital Panic).

1969 - Vito Acconci acted out "Following Piece" as part of "Street Works IV". This piece consisted of Acconci following randomly chosen individuals, abandoning them once they left the street to enter a building. It was an invisible artwork because the people were unaware that it was going on

1997 – The Russian performance artist Alexander Brener went into the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and sprayed a green dollar sign on Kazimir Malevich's painting “White Cross on Gray”. This has caused irreparable damage to the suprematist painting (valued at over $6 million) and got Brener a 10-month jail term. Brener claimed that the attack was "a political and cultural action against corruption and elitism in culture."

2000 - Spencer Tunick’s performances encompass dozens, hundreds, and even thousands of volunteers, and his photographs are records of these events. Most often grouped together and lying prone, the individual bodies become one large organism that extends into and upon the landscape. These grouped masses - which do not underscore sexuality - challenge or reconfigure one’s views of nudity and privacy. His work also refers to the complex issues of presenting art in permanent or temporary public spaces."

And on and on. Those five were performances that probably every art history student reads about in depth when they're covering contemporary stuff, but there are a ton more listed on the site. You can get into question of value about these guys, too--especially when a bastard like Brener vandalizes one of five Malevich white-on-white painting--but I think it's all theoretically more sound than the "illegal art" stuff.