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Book review (part five) of Roselee Goldberg's Performance: Live Art since 1960

Updated on July 11, 2010
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".


Chapter four, entitled "identities, feminism, multiculturalism, sexuality", of Roselee Goldberg's book "Performance: Live Art since 1960" begins with a discussion on the emergence of feminist performance art in the 1970's; and the milieu that it sprang from. The chapter traces the historical sweep of feminist performance art, first in the United States, and then overseas. We are introduced to the collaborative nature of events in California; like "Womanhouse" in Los Angeles - a group performance of 26 women re-imaging a house in feminist terms. It is contrasted to a more individual approach of artists on the east coast. One memorable example is of Laurie Anderson turning her camera on any man that approached her in the street, thereby changing the power dynamics of the moment.

Feminism in the United States was greatly informed by the civil rights movement of the 1960's; and this gave the performers here a particular perspective that artists overseas didn't embody. Their events were more subtle, if equally searing in critique. For example, Rose English and Sally Potter collaborated on "Berlin, Part Two: The Spectacle (on ice)" in 1976, it involved a "woman in black carrying a stool, a cradle bursting into flame, skating men, and a naked boy." Generally, such a performance lends itself to metaphor, and many events overseas had this sort of flavor to them.

With the emergence and growth of conscious multiculturalism (people seeking out different cultural experiences or more fully recognizing their own cultural roots), which Roselee Goldberg argues was deeply influenced by feminism, in the 1980s and 1990s, artists grappled with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the cold war; and the continual brewing of the cultural melting pot that is the U. S. of A. From this time period, and informed by the feminist artists that helped lay the ground work, are many examples of art in this chapter which incorporate gay pride, cultural or ethnic pride; and homeless people's pride.

One very poignant action by David Wojnarowicz, who succumbed to AIDS related complications in 1992, was documented in the ACT-UP film, "Silence Equals Death", in which he sewed his lips together. A very dramatic representation of the silencing of gays by themselves and in our society.

A number of African American and Hispanic American artists have used performance to draw attention to the inequalities that they face on a daily basis. Ronald Fraser-Munro takes a humorous poke at the establishment in his "action tableaux" entitled "Cesare Cappucino"; in it, he has assumed a jaunty pose while dressed like Catholic Cardinal. Catholic Cardinals are part of the old boy Caucasian network . . .

Of particular interest, I believe, are the works of performance artists that deal explicitly with the homeless population. As Mahatma Gandhi said: "a nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members". In this regard the work of the "Los Angeles Poverty Department" or "LAPD" is of note. The director, John Malpede, works with homeless people from the Los Angeles shelter (or other major cities' shelters); who write plays and act in them. The visceral and emotive qualities of the performances are front and center; and within the plays "angry confrontations are often barely contained".


As with the other chapters in Roselee Goldberg's book, "Performance: Live Art since 1960", chapter four, has a few pages of text, followed by about a dozen pages of photographs and sidebars. It explores the themes of feminism, multiculturalism and sexuality. The chapter indicates how feminist thought and performance art first emerged in the 1970s, and then influenced other spheres of expression in the 1980s and 90s. The dynamic that connects feminism, multiculturalism and gay pride is explored.

Further Reading

If you found this article interesting, you may be interested in reading the other reviews I have written about Roselee Goldberg's book: "Performance: Live Art since 1960".

You can read a review of the introduction to Roselee Goldberg's book 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.

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.

Here's my review of the third chapter.

Roselee Goldberg's book Performance: Live Art since 1960 tackles one of the most charged areas in performance art: the human body. This chapter is packed with a visceral punch!

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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