Book review (part four) of Roselee Goldberg Performance: Live Art since 1960

Roselee Goldberg's Book.

Front cover of Roselee Goldberg's book Performance: Live Art since 1960.
Front cover of Roselee Goldberg's book Performance: Live Art since 1960.
Back cover of Roselee Goldberg's book Performance: Live Art since 1960.
Back cover of Roselee Goldberg's book Performance: Live Art since 1960.
Page view of Roselee Goldberg's book Performance: Live Art since 1960.
Page view of Roselee Goldberg's book Performance: Live Art since 1960.
Where does the human end and the puppet begins?
Where does the human end and the puppet begins?

Where art ends and the artist begins.

Where does art end and the artist begin?

  • At the painting end of a paintbrush.
  • A living artist's fingernail clippings are no longer art.
  • The fingernails are art; but a room vacated by the artist is no longer art.
  • The empty room is art, but these words I'm typing in the form of bits on a server, are not art.
  • Them bits is art! It's only the artist intention that makes or unmakes art.
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All about the body

Review of chapter three of Roselee Goldberg's book Performance: Live Art since 1960.

This chapter "The body: ritual, living sculpture, performed photography" in Roselee Goldberg's book "Performance: Live Art since 1960" identifies performance artists and events that make the actual human body the focal point. Like the other chapters in the book, there is a general overview, in this case, of how artists have interpreted the living human body as art from the 1960s through the 1990s. The chapter begins with events like Yves Kleins's "Anthropometries of the Blue Period"; where Klein employed naked female models as "living paintbrushes" instructing them to press their paint soaked bodies against white canvasses; or Piero Manzoni's "Living Sculpture" of 1961, where Manzoni signed the bodies of naked women; and presented them with a certificate of their authenticity as art pieces.

Roselee Goldberg quickly points out that the relatively benign media attention that male artists received for using female models to create art was diametrically opposed to the sort of attention that female artists like Carolee Schneemann received when they appeared naked in their own art work ("Eye Body"). The male gaze, with its taboos and limitations continues to inform and motivate much of what is created today. However, many artists have rebelled against it; or playfully challenge it, and in this chapter, Roselee Goldberg notes a number of them. Some, like Yoko Ono are female, some are parts of a female-male team (as Katharina Sieverding and her partner Klaus Mettig).

The chapter reveals the trajectory of the human body in performance art, from the 1960s through the 1990s. There are some exceptionally vivid examples of performance art in this chapter: another's body is not that unlike our own. So when a performer has an accomplice shoot him in the arm at a gallery opening (as did Chris Burden in "Shoot" 1971) and then holds the spectators equally culpable as the marksman; I have a visceral reaction to it at a distance. When Yoko Ono invites members of the audience to come up and cut away her clothing with a pair of scissors till she is mostly naked ("Cut Piece", 1964) I have a gut feeling upon reading about it now.

Like the previous chapters in "Performance: Live Art since 1960" there are only a few pages of text which are followed by about a dozen pages of photographs and sidebars. We are privileged to see documents from humorous, thought provoking, mysterious, masochistic, unnerving, otherworldly and ritualistic events. It is a torrent of thoughts, words and deeds; made real by it's subject and subject matter: the human body. While I have touched on some of the chapters contents, I have left much of it alone. Each performer or performance is a stepping off point for discussion and investigation.

Conclusion

This chapter in "Performance: Live Art since 1960" is both entertaining and disturbing. There is grist for thought, inspiration for future actions; and a lineage of events and performers that presage modern mainstream entertainers like Erykah Badu in her video "Window Seat". This is where performance art really shines when (as with the monologues that Spalding Gray popularized, or the performances of Laurie Anderson) it transcends its spawning ground: the galleries and clubs of Los Angeles, New York, London and Tokyo; and merges into the mainstream. While many of the performers here will never achieve the popularity of Erykah Badu (and I know some of you are saying "Erykah . . . who?) this chapter captures their intense dedication to performance art. It is a stunning array of artistic intention and results.

If you found this article interesting, you may be interested in reading more about Roselee Goldberg's book Performance: Live Art since 1960.

You may read my review of the introduction here.

The book Performance: Live Art since 1960 by Roselee Goldberg discusses the growth of performance art (also known as live art, or time based art) through the 1960's up to the late 1990's. It is an excellent overview of the performance art scene.

Here is a review of the first chapter.

The first chapter of Roselee Goldberg's book Performance: Live Art since 1960 is an accounting of some of the more politically motivated performance artists from the 1960s through the 1990s.

You can read my review of the second chapter here.

The second chapter of Roselee Goldberg's book Performance: Live Art since 1960 pertains to theater, opera and, to a lesser extent, music; by performance artists from the 1960s through the 1990s.

This is my review for chapter four.

Chapter four of Roselee Goldberg's book "Performance: Live Art since 1960" is about feminism, gay pride, and multiculturalism; and it showcases very powerful images, statements and performers.

My review of chapter five.

Roselee Goldberg observes the merging of performance art and dance in this chapter of her book "Performance: Live Art since 1960". She covers a lot of ground here!

Here is my review for chapter six.

Roselee Goldberg's book "Performance: Live Art since 1960" concludes with the chapter "video, rock n' roll, the spoken word". As well as exploring this trinity, we get a look at the underground scene in New York, and how it contributed to them.



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Comments 2 comments

Riin 6 years ago

Somehow it's always naked women, whether men are using them or they're on their own. Never naked men, and certainly not women using naked men. Quite a power imbalance.


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Robert Hughes 6 years ago Author

Yup, you know that's true; and it's not right. Thanks for commenting.

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