Issue

2.15 / Performance: The Body Politic

April 14 2011

Introduction

April 14, 2011. Can artists meaningfully participate in the political process? And if so, how? These questions drive the practices of many artists concerned with issues of domination, exclusion, and equality. Art Practical’s third thematic issue, “Performance: The Body Politic,” examines more than four decades of the marriage between politics and performance art in the Bay Area. For the artists profiled, the body serves as a political arena in and of itself. Interviews with Guillermo Gómez-Peña and Lynn Hershman Leeson provide insight into the practices of two of the region’s seminal performance artists, whose work with race and gender have influenced countless artists. A series of interviews and essays pulls this historical thread through to the current day. Jeanne Gerrity’s essay on Wafaa Yasin and Carol Anne McChrystal’s essay on the performance series “Self Expression Night” illuminate ways in which contemporary emerging performers address their bodies’ resistance to, or complicity with, dominant political ideologies and structures. Enjoy. —MHT

Features

Introduction: Art qua Politics

Introduction: Art qua Politics

By Matthew Harrison Tedford

Such a history of civic engagement has fomented a performance art tradition that pays special attention to the politics of the body. For those who are denied access to, or for those who voluntarily eschew, traditional political outlets, their own bodies can become a sites of political transformation or contestation.

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Interview with Shannon Jackson

Interview with Shannon Jackson

By Christina Linden

When Life is invoked in art practice, it is often equated pretty quickly with associations like “freedom,” “spontaneity,” and “disruption,” and I thought it was worth thinking about some other elements, especially the elements of the world that make Life possible.

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The Museum of Conceptual Art: A Prolegomena to Hip

The Museum of Conceptual Art: A Prolegomena to Hip

By Matthew Harrison Tedford

Central to the structure of MOCA was the fact that it was not a collecting institution. This lent itself to fostering Conceptual art that would be ephemeral and performative. Marioni says that everything that happened at MOCA in its first years was “action by sculptors.”

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Interview with La Chica Boom

Interview with La Chica Boom

By Marta Martinez

What I get out of burlesque is being able to unabashedly perform sexuality and race. It’s expected for me to play with themes around sexuality. The other thing that I get out of it is that I can be silly, which is how I think about my sexuality.

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Interview with Guillermo Gomez-Pena

Interview with Guillermo Gomez-Pena

By Tess Thackara

Performance artists may have all sorts of social shortcomings, and we may be terrible with administering our finances or sustaining a nine to five job, but when it comes to crossing borders, we make very good intercultural diplomats. I think that if governments were more enlightened, they would make good use of us.

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Control Room: Jennifer Locke

Control Room: Jennifer Locke

By Glen Helfand

Locke’s works are the antithesis of messy, sensationalized spectacles. Rather they are rigorous, almost meditative actions, poetic and often studded with the levity of their absurdity. Her projects generally involve two primary tools—the trained body (hers and/or others) and the still or video camera either recording or producing a live feed.

 

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Looking for Roberta Breitmore

Looking for Roberta Breitmore

By Patricia Maloney

One looks at these projects together and understands that Hershman Leeson has consistently and successfully expanded the possibilities for sites of encounter with art throughout her career. Her work has been both embodied and interactive; she has situated it far outside the institutional realm of the museum, in places that are liminal and virtual. She has gone beyond representing identity to producing identities.

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Interview with Nayland Blake

Interview with Nayland Blake

By Renny Pritikin

A big component of the work that I’m doing now comes from an assignment that I used to give my students: to make a piece for one person. These days I'm doing a lot of performance where the participants in the piece are the audience. It’s something that we’re doing together—a kinky, queer, sexual play—and I'm not interested in everybody having equal access to that. I think that you treat an experience differently when you have to win access to it.

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