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

Updated on July 11, 2010
Performance: Live Art since 1960 Front Cover
Performance: Live Art since 1960 Front Cover
Performance: Live Art since 1960 Back Cover
Performance: Live Art since 1960 Back Cover
Performance: Live Art since 1960 Page View
Performance: Live Art since 1960 Page View
Time based art captured on film!
Time based art captured on film!

General overview

The first chapter of Roselee Goldberg's book, Performance: Live Art since 1960 entitled "Performance, politics, real life", as with each additional chapter, has only a few pages of text, followed by a dozen or more pages of photographs with explanatory notes. The book is arranged thematically, and this first chapter deals with some of the more political, as well as some of the more mundane, performance art events between 1960 and 1998. Emma Goldman's quote: "If I can't dance - I don't want to be part of your revolution" comes to mind to describe some of the events, like Robert Rauschanberg's 1964 Elgin Tie, where the assemblage artist Rauschanberg is suspended by a rope encircled by an audience; or Allan Kaprow's Household, where college students are pictured participating at a large happening. from the same year. Unfortunately, these pictures capture only a small part of the events, and the text that goes with them does little to suggest where they fall in the spectrum suggested by the chapter's title; though they seem to be towards the "real life" end of things. Both of these events, and in fact almost all of the events documented through out the book, look like they would have left a lasting impression on the audience; however, the pictures in some cases fail to communicate the intention of the artist.

Many of the photos have there own evocative quality, as for instance Joseph Beuys "Coyote: I like America and America likes me" from 1974; and Tomas Ruller's 8.8.88 from 1988. In Beuys event he shut himself in a room with a wild coyote for a week. Ruller's event, on the other hand, was in response the Prague government shutting down his show: before it even opened, and so he set himself on fire. The corresponding photos in the book give a sense of the overall events they were taken at, as well as distilling down key aspects from them; and further my understanding of the political, (or social), criticism or exploration that they embodied, in contrast to the pieces mentioned in the proceeding paragraph, which from the image and sidebar alone, lack any political or social context (other than the evocative title of Kaprow's Household, which might be a tip off to social criticism, though I can't tell from the accompanying photo).

Evidently the theme suggested by the chapter's title: "performance, politics, real life" is in point of fact multiple themes, or perhaps the intersection of various themes into the crucible of performance art. With the inclusion of work that is obviously politically charged, (as that of Ruller's), to work - that at least from the little bit mentioned in the book (as Rauschanberg's) - is not political, in this chapter, I am left with the impression that the uniting theme of the chapter is things that happen in real life. One might ask, is the Burning Man festival political, or artistic. Additionally, this chapter has numerous artists and photographs which are showcased, and each one could be a jumping off point for more exploration or inspiration. One example of that is the group Fluxus. To me that is the litmus test of this book: does it inspire, provoke and engage. To that end it certainly does, as each artist represented in Performance: Live Art since 1960, could easily fill a book of this size with their own work.


This chapter in Roselee Goldberg's book Performance: Live Art since 1960 does a great job of introducing the reader to a wide range of politically motivated; and not so politically motivated, artists and also to some events that they have created. There are bits in the text that are just as inspiring as the photos; and I feel that I want to see or participate in events like the ones described here. A fleeting moment of art history is documented in these pages; and, if you are interested in performance art, I would recommend taking a look at Roselee Goldberg's book when you have the chance.

Read more about Roselee Goldberg's Performance: Live Art since 1960.

Read my review of the introduction.

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.

Read my review of the second chapter.

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.

You may read my review of the third chapter here.

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

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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