COLUMNS

  • A. K. Burns and A. L. Steiner’s Community Action Center

    The little cretin shepardess was now ruined for normal love and she ran amok among the other freaks, inflaming them.

    —Jack Smith, “Normal Love,” 1963

    SOME FEMININE PRODUCTS: Makeup, paint, and brushes. Floggers and Boston creams. Joints. Bananas that bleed when stabbed. Bloody pinkies poked through magazine pages and punctured beer cans held in taut tighty-whiteys. Watermelons split by samurai swords. Adult babies sprung from clay wombs.

    FEMININE PRODUCTS says the sign, hoisted atop a stretched canvas above a slew of art supplies. It is both the literal and the conceptual establishing shot

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  • Ann Liv Young

    IF SHERRY WERE ANY GOOD, she wouldn’t have to insult other people. The Kitchen in New York won’t present her work again, she guesses, “because I’m nasty to the audience.” Sherry sure is nasty. And mercurial, brash, honest, and mean. Her T. J. Maxx business-class drag (blond wig, makeup, pumps, polyester dress) exudes arriviste confidence: “It’s amazing / I’m the reason / everybody’s fired up this evenin’,” Sherry sings crazily, with gusto, atop the Kanye West anthem “Amazing.” This isn’t appropriation or karaoke; this is competitive Pop. Sherry sings not with the original track—played via

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  • René Pollesch

    AROUND TEN YOUNG GIRLS wearing pink nightgowns and toting crude wooden rifles take the stage. They strike various poses in rapid succession, threatening us, conducting drills, enacting tableaux vivants. Most of the poses are taken directly from the Maoist comic Das Mädchen aus der Volkskommune (The Girl from the People’s Commune), which, in the early 1970s, was popular with European leftists, and which was published in book form, complete with an afterword by Umberto Eco, by a German literary press. The performance of the pink-gowned girls goes on for quite a while and is peppered with political

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  • Deborah Hay

    THE AMERICAN CHOREOGRAPHER Deborah Hay has minimal interest in movement. She’ll tell you herself: She is not interested in athletic movement, or in abstract movement, or in movement that comes naturally. After nearly fifty years of experimentation—beginning as a dancer for Merce Cunningham and as a member of Judson Dance Theater in the 1960s—Hay has arrived at an understanding of dance that relies not on pedestrian tasks or set phrases but rather on radical shifts of awareness.

    Hay’s approach elicits remarkable performances in which movement is akin to a side effect—as in If I Sing

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  • “LIVE FILM! JACK SMITH!”

    RENÉ RIVERA IS A SLIGHT, CASUALLY COMPOSED seventy-four-year-old Nuyorican in thick glasses. He’s so inconspicuous as to stand out: It took three days of encountering Rivera in plain clothes during the “LIVE FILM! JACK SMITH! Five Flaming Days in a Rented World!” conference in Berlin this past fall before I realized he was also Mario Montez—the enchanting icon who had already appeared multiple times onstage in performance, strikingly refurbished in brunette wig and soigné gloves, shrugs, and gowns. Montez, star of Jack Smith’s two most significant films, Flaming Creatures (1962–63) and

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  • Robert Ashley

    IN AN INTERVIEW LAST YEAR, composer Robert Ashley recalled a story about his Uncle Willard, who called the police one day to report a UFO in his living room. When the officers arrived, they asked him where the UFO was. He pointed toward a peach pit on a windowsill.

    “Willard, that’s not a UFO, that’s just a peach pit,” the Sheriff sighed.

    “Well, it may look like a peach pit to you!” Willard replied.

    The figure of Uncle Willard, with his divergent take on collectively perceived reality, speaks like one of the characters from Ashley’s operas. We can imagine the sound of his voice coming to us from

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  • Sherrie Levine and The Mother of Us All

    FROM THE BEGINNING, Sherrie Levine’s work has been about names and how to count them. Depending on how one took her early appropriations, they seemed to promise a practice without origins or names and, as Craig Owens wrote, without “the paternal rights assigned to the author by law.”¹ Or they suggested precisely the opposite, an agonic and Oedipal struggle over the name: not no names but exactly two. That was Carter Ratcliff’s early argument: “Her ‘appropriations’ are most effective as expressions of her resentment at the fact that her name will never be as glamorous as Walker Evans’s.”² Now,

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  • “Our Literal Speed”

    CHAIRING A TALK at the Frieze Art Fair in London in 2006, art historian and critic Claire Bishop observed that the live panel discussion had, in recent years, replaced performance art as the home of “authenticity.” Paradoxically, her comment put into relief the performed quality of the thoughts being articulated by the panelists surrounding her on the podium, making it seem that Bishop was very much aware of the theater at play in such an impression—especially as the live event in question was a supplement to the nakedly transactional character of an art fair. It’s very often that the academic

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  • Ei Arakawa

    TO GET A SENSE of Ei Arakawa’s BYOF—Bring Your Own Flowers, a collaboration with painter Amy Sillman that took place last November at New York’s Japan Society, as part of Performa 07, one would do well to look back to Peter Handke’s 1966 play Publikumsbeschimpfung (Offending the Audience). As the curtain rises, four actors appear onstage and announce that there will be no production. They explain that they are not acting, noting that those seated are doing an excellent job performing the role of the audience. By the time this information is delivered, it’s less a shock than a confirmation: The

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  • Kirsten Forkert and Mark Tribe

    “THE ART WORLD IS A POISON in the community of artists and must be removed by obliteration,” asserted Carl Andre at a late-1960s meeting of the Art Workers’ Coalition, calling for the demolition of a system that he deemed a source of “infinite corruption.” His demands were sweeping: “No more ‘shows’”; “No more ‘scene’”; “No more big-money artists.” An audio recording reveals that Andre’s invective elicited loud applause, and indeed, amid the current orgy of commercialism, his anger retains its relevance, although his idealism seems outmoded. But as it turns out, the speech was not his own: It

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  • Il Tempo del Postino

    For a joint commission between the Manchester International Festival and the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, curator Hans-Ulrich Obrist and artist Philippe Parreno orchestrated a series of performances by artists, which premiered last July at the Opera House in Manchester, UK. Artforum asked two of its regular contributors to give their impressions of the works presented onstage.

    MARTIN HERBERT

    FOR “IL TEMPO DEL POSTINO (The Time of the Postman), which took place on three evenings this past July in Manchester, curators Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Philippe Parreno offered contemporary artists not previously

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  • Freelance Stenographer

    SINCE THE START of its media restoration project, The Kitchen has evolved from an artists’ collective and nonprofit performance space into a vast archive of some five thousand videotapes, five hundred audiotapes, and more recent material captured on digital video. As a home for various distribution mechanisms and artistic practices, The Kitchen seemed a perfect site for the dispersion strategies of Seth Price and Kelley Walker, in Freelance Stenographer, 2007, their first collaborative project. After all, here was not just a particular set of artworks to reproduce and redistribute but a mechanism—in

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