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

Updated on May 27, 2011
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".
Musicians like John Cage asked "what is music"?
Musicians like John Cage asked "what is music"?

Review of chapter two

As with the rest of Roselee Goldberg's book "Performance: Live Art since 1960", the second chapter, "theater, music, opera", is filled with photographs from performances gone by. The images document the explosion of performance art into the realm of what might be considered theater or opera. I say might, because Roselee Goldberg makes it clear that the director's involved do not necessarily embrace standard theatrical conceits (like actors or narrative) but rather are solely concerned - or at least are equally concerned - with movement, images and time.

Music is part of the chapter's title because it was musicians like John Cage who influenced American directors to deconstruct the theater. Additionally, music is an integral, or in some cases fundamental, part of many of the performances discussed. As with the previous chapter, a survey is made of events and artists starting from the early 1950's (as the roots) and moving through the 1960s, up to the 1990s. The progress of the theater is traced from America to Europe and back again. We are introduced to the seed moment of this history with John Cage's "Untitled Event" of 1952 - which involved a lone figure dancing in the aisles; simultaneous poetry readings; film projections and white canvases along with music from a "prepared" piano.

The ideas of character, narrative, direction; all are abandoned to one degree or another in this work; and that impulse carries through over the decades, until it crescendos with Phillip Glass' Einstein on the Beach. Originally performed in July of 1976 at the Festival d'Avignon, this tour-de-force with it's gigantic staging and use of movement created a sensation in Europe. It was from this point that Theater as Performance Art took off overseas (though it had been incubating all along in New York City).

The chapter "theater, music, opera" in Roselee Goldberg's book Performance: Live Art since 1960 showcases with pictures and a few words over 25 theatrical or operatic experiences from Jan Fabre to Richard Foreman; from Robert Lepage to Laurie Anderson. The performances themselves were conducted in theaters, old warehouses, out of doors; and in one case involved bumper cars! Representing a broad range of ideas and styles these artists and events have helped to define what is music, what is performance and what is art.


Once again Roselee Goldberg presents an astonishing array of information in a few dozen pages. In pictures and words she opens a portal to times gone by. This chapter, and indeed the whole book, serve as a launching pad for investigation, remembrance or inspiration; or perhaps all three, depending on the reader. Performance: Live Art since 1960 is a monumental effort to create a document of many different people's impact on the art world. While at times overwhelming in it's scope, I recommend it for the patron or enthusiast of performance art.

Further reading:

My review of the book's 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.

My review of for the first chapter of this book.

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 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.

Theater . . . where does it end?

Sitting at your computer reading: is it theater?

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