COLUMNS

  • “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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  • Wieder und Wider

    IF YOU VISITED Vienna’s Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig (MUMOK) in the middle of the second week of the exhibition “Wieder und Wider: Performance Appropriated” this past winter, you would have encountered seven slide projectors arranged in a row, of which three were running through a continuous cycle of images, and four were not yet operational. The projections were part of Sharon Hayes’s In the Near Future—Vienna, 2006, for which Hayes was staging seven “actions” at various locations in the Austrian capital over the course of a week, holding signs for causes specific to the city’s history

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  • Liza With a “Z”

    YES IS LIZA’S first word in Liza With a “Z”: A Concert for Television. In her dressing room during the brief opening credits, she laughs, and, after her indelible silhouette punctuates ruby backlighting—“Ladies and gentlemen, Liza Minnelli”—she whirls into motion, cruises downstage, tosses her white fedora to the wings, stows her snow-fur boa with some lucky dresser in the pit, and giggles into the mic. But her first word is yes.

    It becomes an admonition to anyone who’s listening to “say yes”: Yes to the world of “brilliance, bisexuality, and betrayal” she was born into—yes to Hollywood; yes to

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  • Marina Abramovic

    SITTING SQUARELY BETWEEN Jack Nicholson’s five and Bartók’s ten, Marina Abramovic’s Seven Easy Pieces occasioned a week of nightly pilgrimages to New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum last November. There she presented a different performance each evening, beginning at 5 PM and culminating at midnight. Yet the performances, save for the final two, weren’t actually her own—at least, not in the conventional sense. Rather, the artist had chosen five works from the 1960s and ’70s that she deemed pivotal (and for which she pointedly obtained permissions and agreed to pay copyright fees). These

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  • T:BA:05

    FOR TEN DAYS every September since 2003, the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s Time-Based Art Festival (TBA) turns Oregon’s largest city into a temporary international performance hub, casting local artists alongside better-known global acts in a drama that normally plays out at a round-robin of bigger festivals around the world: Buenos Aires, Melbourne, New York, and beyond. Disused industrial sheds become a nightclub and cafeteria; a crude theater-in-the-round is hewn from a now-defunct press; conventional theaters participate too, hosting shows night after night; tram lines fill with

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