5 July, 2013
John Kaldor and the John Kaldor Projects present some of the most interesting art experiences for the general public. Kaldor is a dedicated collector, patron and supporter of contemporary art and has recently donated his collection to the Art Gallery of NSW for everyone to view. Through his non-for-profit organisation the John Kaldor Projects has brought some of the most sought after artists and projects to our Australian shores. If you missed their last exhibition, 13 Rooms, don’t fret. It isn’t long until the next program is shooting around the corner. However, it was this last 13 Rooms, curated by Klaus Biesenbach and Hans Ulrich Obrist, that got the art community chatting about performance art.
Performance art was an integral part of the expansion of artist communication with audiences around the 1960’s and 70’s and continuing on till today. Artists that paved the way in performance were Yoko Ono, Joseph Beuys, Yayoi Kusama & Caroline Schneemann. The queen of Performance art, Marina Abramovic, was featured in the 13 Rooms exhibition. Marina Abramovic gained momentum as performance artist in the 1970’s for using her body as the medium, sometimes violently violating it and pushing it to its physical limits. The John Kaldor Projects brought one of her most famous works Luminosity to Sydney . Abramovic’s work was replicated by a handful of selected performers. Although simple in execution the performances were exhibited as documentation, or “living sculpture” as the website details. Is this to say that groundbreaking performances of the late 20th century can now be re-performed by volunteers? In a sense they can, but the authenticity of the work is reduced. The legitimacy of the performer and the audience-artist relationship is still present, however the work does lose its aura. This is the very essence of the discussion. Abramovic herself has shown the great intensity of her performance pieces, and how the aspect of endurance greatly strengthens her work. Recently an HBO documentary on the artist was released called The Artist is Present. It is an incredible look at the artists latest project of the same name and the emotional and physical toll the performance had on the artist.
Regardless, this re-performance of performance as documentation is an interesting point of discussion. It is also controversial as the initial project 11 Rooms was designed as more of a homage to Performance work. However, 13 Rooms in Sydney involved the contemporary and living Brisbane based artists Clark Beaumont who were the only artists who were actually and physically present. Does this homage to some of the greatest performance pieces suddenly become redundant? No, it doesn’t. But it does confuse the intent of the exhibition. If all except one work are re-performed by others than the one work that is actually performed becomes strengthened. The success of 13 Rooms is the fact that it has ignited a debate about performance art and its documentation / re-performance.
Sydney has caught the Performance bug a little bit, and there has been a few contemporary performance art pieces happening all around. Coming soon to Performance Space at CarriageWorks is a great piece by Justin Shoulder, titled The River Eats. If you haven’t seen his work get ready to see the Mythmaker and his team in full swing. Performance art is exceptionally important and we must support it when we can.
One must be aware of the authenticity of a work. However, viewing Illuminosity live in the flesh, with or without Marina Abramovic was pretty special. Majority of the works at 13 Rooms were really successful, and this is because of their intent and the artists initial desire to perform. However, the issues surrounding documentation as re-performance are prevalent.
So, get out there, see some performance art and have a think about how you would feel if someone else performed the same piece in 30 years! Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…