art 2840: reading 8

This reading was from Lea Vergine’s The Body As Language, and was accompanied by two videos of performances by Maria Abramovic and Chris Burden. In class we have been looking at various performances using the body. I watched Abramovic wildly (and sometimes violently) brush and comb her hair while repeating, “art must be beautiful, artist must be beautiful.” Sigh. Just like other performance art, I was really on edge because I was afraid she was going to cutting her self, I am not a fan of blood. Watching her brush her hair while saying that was frustrating, she was beautiful then (and still is, it’s like she’s barely aged) so I feel like rolling my eyes hearing another beautiful girl with some sort of statement about beauty all the while being BEAUTIFUL. I was also worried the entire hour of the video was her brushing her hair… but no, now she’s FREEING THE VOICE. She’s moaning. If she’d add a little variation she could work a haunted house. The thing about performance art is that it occupies a space of artists doing things that are sometimes ridiculous and without an artist statement on why, it’s hard to take it seriously. (I would give Bas Jan Ader as an example. I watched a video of him falling slow-mo off of a house and I laughed till I cried, but he had his own reasons for doing it.) For Freeing the Memory, a list of words. She kind of looks like she is broadcasting from outerspace. Now to free the body. I can buy this. I think there’s no better way to free the body than through dancing and dancing naked is the ultimate freedom. The mask is strange, I don’t like it, it makes it less fun and more like a hostage situation.
Now onto Chris. MOUSTACHE. I am going to admit, I am a bit nervous about watching this because Chris has done some crazy things. My name is Chris Burden. I noticed you’re admiring my guyliner and moustache. Please, there’s more to me than that! Let’s look at my work.
I am SO GLAD he is explaining the pieces. The simple act of an explanation gives me so much more insight and respect for pieces created. I think it adds a lot to hear what the artist intended.
First piece: “220” HOLY BALLS. Flooded gallery, ladders, ELECTRICITY. Kind of reminds me of Jaws. I feel tense just looking at this set-up. Here comes “Shoot” This is a piece I have already seen, but it’s so strange because I am expecting something extremely violent everytime. Bloodspatter, some kind of pained cries, but there is none of that. “Bed Piece” 22 days of being in bed. He brings up the aspect of the people providing him food had to deal with him as an object and a person, and that is an interesting thing to explore. He occupies their space, but he isn’t speaking to them. The next one has road flares and Burden was arrested. It’s interesting to me that he was frightened by the process of arrest and trial, but he takes all these risks to his body.
Smoking dope and watching tv is up now. This was seems less interesting. He’s wearing stolen pants. “Icarus” Awesome glass and gasoline. The vapour ignited beautifully. B.C. Mexico. Vicarious participation. That makes sense as an access point. “Through the Night Softly” Gorgeous, the opening comment about broken glass as stars touches me because I love stars and I also have a thing for broken glass scattered across parking lots. I know he is getting cut up, but I don’t feel any of the tension. I feel like, “WHAT A STATEMENT” I know he hasn’t mentioned anything of the sort, but isn’t there someone in your life that you would wiggle across broken glass for? I do feel uncomfortable for him though. SHEESH, that looks sharp. This TV Ad thing is so honest, he just wanted to be on tv. Oh, Chris!!! Real TV. Haha, and now he’s requesting volunteers and it doesn’t sound like anyone is just jumping up to do it. I am not surprised in the least. Oh yikes… pushpins. This one is more tense, is the volunteer gonna do it? Just a few, but they did it.
By using body, Burden and Abramovic are able to access a media that EVERYONE has on them at all times: their body. Maybe you can’t paint or draw, but you have a body and most people have a fascination with watching terrible things happen to others. Seeing one person’s body injured gives you that cringe/chill of your imagination feeling it for a second happening to your own body.

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