“Baden’s pieces forced viewers into awkward situations that expressed his interest in kinesthetics — physical perceptions and the changes that took place in neuromuscular memory as the body moved through the work. In Seat Belts (1969-71) Baden explored the difference between what it felt like to walk around a modified circle while tied with a strap from the waist to the floor and what it looked like it would feel like. He wanted to manipulate the “body prints” of the viewers to alter their perceptions of balance, and creating a new “sensory imprint” was his sculptural aspiration. … Baden’s experiments with sculptural-psychological, body-oriented works in the late 1960s and early 1970s would prove to be highly influential on artists such as Charles Ray and Chris Burden, both of whom were his students.” (Schimmel, Paul. “Leap into the Void: Performance and the Object,” Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object, 1949-1979. The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 1998. Page 94.)
Category Archives: Wearables and Tools
Daniel Buren, Seven Ballets in Manhattan” (1975)
Seven Ballets in Manhattan. Performed by Sue Bailey, Joanne Caring, Peter Frank, Susan Heinemann, Mark Levine. Choreography by Daniel Buren. May 27 – June 2, 1975.
Daniel Buren (1938-)
“The artist Daniel Buren explored the idea of movement through performance, it is no longer a question of static works but of an orchestrated choreography. It is in the form of an ambulatory ballet in the streets of New York, that he manages to put his emblematic motifs into action.
Indeed, for 5 days, 5 actors marched in different areas of the city, each of them carrying a poster covered with white and colored bands. In the manner of protesters, the performers walked according to the precise directives of the artist. They had to follow the imposed route and only respond to passers-by by the name of the color present on their respective poster. What could be described not as a peaceful demonstration, but rather as an artistic demonstration, comes to be placed as a questioning of the public. In fact, spectators no longer travel to museums or galleries, but the work comes directly to them.
This performance was not perceived in the same way on the different courses. Indeed, in each district evolved distinct socio-professional categories, the population of Soho was very curious and sensitive to the work, while the residents of Wall Street interpreted it as a threat in the image of a real demonstration.
Thus the performance, which is not a very common mode of presentation with Daniel Buren, creates a real tension with the public. It contrasts with the static aspect of its striped pattern, but manages through the use of posters to dialogue with the spectators and the city.” (credit)
Joseph Beuys, Ausfegen (Sweeping Up) (1972)
“On May 1, 1972, after the Labor Day demonstrations, artist Joseph Beuys was sweeping up the Karl-Marx-Platz in West Berlin together with two foreign students. This action took place at a time when Beuys had become politicized after the events of 1968 and had first founded the “Deutsche Studentenpartei (German Student Party)” in 1971, then the “Organisation für Direkte Demokratie durch Volksabstimmung (Organization for Direct Democracy Through Plebiscites).” In 1972, he was also expelled from the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. Since then, Beuys was performing political and ecological actions and interventions, in addition to the more elaborate art performances.
The cleaning squad from May 1, 1972 only requires a small gesture to make plain what Beuys meant by his extended concept of art. He refers to social differences and to a problem of leftist politics: Those who had to clean up after the Labour Day celebrations and demonstrations were the “guest workers.” Yet, the unions had never done much for the foreign workers who were paid low wages. On the other hand, throughout the 1970s the political Left kept mentioning international solidarity between the lower classes. In this respect, the group of three also achieved some considerable social clearing work. It is no coincidence that the two students and Beuys swept up not only on May 1, but also at Karl-Marx-Platz. While Beuys subscribed to Marx’s analysis of the economic relations, he had a different conception of alienation. Beuys shared the view that every form of capital is a form of slavery, but he saw actions as a way out. Moreover, to him every person was a subject and not an object of history. Hence, picking up the broom is a step towards Beuys’s ideal of self determination. via” (credit)
Catherine D’Ignazio, It takes 154,000 breaths to evacuate Boston (2007-9)
“Catherine D’Ignazio ran the entire evacuation route system in Boston and attempted to measure the distance in human breath. The project also involves a podcast and a sculptural installation of the archive of tens of thousands of breaths .
The project is an attempt to measure our post-9/11 collective fear in the individual breaths that it takes to traverse these new geographies of insecurity.
The $827,500 Boston emergency evacuation system was installed in 2006 to demonstrate the city’s preparedness for evacuating people in snowstorms, hurricanes, infrastructure failures, fires and/or terrorist attacks.
It takes 154,000 breaths to evacuate Boston consists of:
- a series of running performances in public space (2007)
- a web podcast of breaths (2007)
- a sculptural installation of the archive of breaths (2008)
Website & Podcast
Archive of Breaths (sculptural piece)
Medium: custom-made table, 26 jars, 26 speaker components, wire, 13 CD players
I created a sculptural & audio archive of the collection of breaths. There are 26 jars on a custom-made table which correspond to the 26 runs it took to cover the evacuation routes. Each jar size corresponds to the number of breaths from that run. The speaker inside the jar plays the breaths collected from that run. (Better documentation coming soon)
This piece is on view in Experimental Geography, a traveling show curated by Nato Thompson and produced by ICI.
Han Bing, Walking the Cabbage (2000-09)
“Social intervention performance” is how Chinese artist Han Bing (b. in 1974 in Jiangsu, lives in Beijing) describes his Walking the Cabbage series, which he discusses with the New York Times linked video. [credit]
“From Ginza to Times Square, from Tiananmen to the Champs-Elysées, Han Bing and his cabbage have traveled the world. Through his photographic series, Han Bing asks viewers to stop and consider: What do we hurtle towards? And at what cost?
Walking the Cabbage in Tiananmen (2000) features an androgynous figure walking a cabbage in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Nothing unusual about that, his easy pose and arm akimbo seems to suggest. The artist behind the work – and in front of the camera – is Chinese artist Han Bing. Han specializes in photography and site-specific performance art in which some of his performances span nearly a decade and cross continental divisions. Walking the Cabbage in Tiananmen is part of one such series of performative photographs. Han produced the Walking the Cabbage series over a period of eight years, from 2000 to 2008.
Walking the Cabbage in Tiananmen is one of the earliest photographs from the series; the journey continues with Han Bing walking the cabbage in the Houhai district of Beijing, Han Bing walking the cabbage in a subway carriage of Beijing (2004), Han Bing cradling his cabbage in Jiangsu Province (2005), Han Bing walking the cabbage in Miami Beach, USA and Chinatown (2007). Han Bing walks and walks, posing with his cabbage as if oblivious to the gawking crowds and ever-present camera.
According to the artist, his intention in making art is for “people to see how much of our daily lives are routines that we’ve blindly absorbed.” And in this work, Han does just that through his subtle manipulation of hackneyed imagery which raises important questions about contemporary Chinese social norms.
Walking the Cabbage in Tiananmen is a particularly ambitious undertaking. In it, Han takes on one of the most iconic of symbols of China – the Forbidden City. To the everyday Chinese, the Forbidden City is a symbol of imperial power; this frontal view from Tiananmen Square is also a place of great historical significance in modern China. Here on the first of October 1949, Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic of China, reportedly declaring that “The Chinese People have Stood Up.”
Today, the site’s political and historical significance is overshadowed by its new identity as the necessary photo-op for seemingly every tourist who passes through Beijing. In this sense, Han Bing’s photo is so obvious as to be banal.
But all is not as it seems, for the composition demands viewers to ask questions. What is the artist doing with a cabbage in the midst of Tiananmen Square? And here lies the creative brilliance of the composition. Han ignores a half-century of art history discourse as he seemingly fails to realize that his is an age where iconography has become decidedly passé; this series of works employ ordinary symbols to create meaning.
The Cabbage is a particular favorite in Han’s oeuvre. According to Han’s website, the Chinese Cabbage is “…a quintessentially Chinese symbol of sustenance and comfort for poor Chinese turned upside down. If a full stock of cabbage for the winter was once a symbol of material well-being in China, nowadays the nouveau riche have cast aside modest (monotonous) cabbage in favor of ostentatious gluttony in fancy restaurants where waste signifies status…Yet, for the poor and struggling, the realities of cabbage as a subsistence bottom line have not changed—what’s changed is the value structure that dictates what—and who—is valuable or worthless in Chinese society.”
Omit the cabbage and the picture becomes almost ordinary as the requisite tourist picture in front of Tiananmen.
Knowing the iconographic significance of this site, Han Bing plays with the imagery through his composition. From the low-angle view of the camera, Han Bing dominates the composition; he literally stands head and shoulder above Tiananmen’s great wall.
This striking view point lends a monumentality to Han and his cabbage that the camera emphasizes by focusing on the foreground and blurring the background. This viewpoint brings to mind the imagery of old Communist posters depicting the exuberant triumph of the proletariat. And if one so chooses, one could read into the picture a political statement.
With his casual stance, Han lulls the viewer into forgetting the meticulous framing of the image; he sneakily causes us to forget what is missing from this iconic view — the framed portrait of Chairman Mao. But the image could just be another tourist photo, where the tourist in his eagerness to show friends that he’s made it to Tiananmen, inadvertently blocks out the nation’s most famous face. Make of that what you will, the image suggests.
Perhaps politics is indeed a distraction. Although Chinese art in the West is often viewed politically, with Ai Weiwei being the poster child of political criticism, Han’s works seek instead to confront the problems faced by ordinary Chinese people in the march towards modernization and urbanization. In this image, Tiananmen Square becomes a mere backdrop for Han and his cabbage, a suitable starting point for his photographic series and his critique of contemporary Chinese values.
Placing the focal point on Han and his cabbage on a leash, Han seeks to address ‘the way our everyday practices serve to constitute ‘normalcy’ and our identities are often constituted by the act of claiming objects as our possessions’. The modest cabbage on a leash “offers a visual interrogation of contemporary social values.” Once a symbol of well-being and a full stomach, it has now been discarded for bigger, better, more expensive, more impressive and more frivolous thrills. And those will, in turn, be cast off for something better.” [credit]
Patrick Gillespie, Prosthetic for Public Space (2008)
Some artists might take dramatic action to hone in on sound, such as Patrick Gillespie (1980-) in his performative walk, Prosthetic for Public Space (2008) in which he donned a suit made of sheepskin that limited his sight and ability to speak. As he marched wearing this suit in a parade curated by Fritz Haeg, entitled East Meets West Interchange Overpass Parade (2008), he mainly relied on sound and directions from others to make his way, discovering new people and objects.
Anna Campbell, Saddledrag (2006-)
Specific to the 2008 iteration: “As part of her ongoing performance series Saddledrag, artist Anna Campbell dressed in self-proclaimed “cowboy drag” and pulled a cast-plaster saddle behind her. In her own words, this cowboy without a horse “hopes to critique both the construct of the American cowboys, as well as nostalgia for a romantic past that never existed.” The saddle was fully eroded by the end of the trek, leaving a two-mile double line that encircled the full parade route.”
— Credit: Uchill, Rebecca, editor. On Procession, Indianapolis Museum of Art, 2009. Page 99.
The parade, overseen by Fritz Haeg and titled East Meets West Interchange Overpass Parade, was sponsored by the Indianapolis Museum of Art and was held on April 26, 2008.
Dave McKenzie, Dave (2010)
Dave McKenzie (1977-)
“Your retrospective features a parade-sized balloon which was previously used in another performance at the Aspen Art Museum. Could you talk about the object in this iteration? Particularly your ideas around metaphor and repetition?
The balloon was originally created for a July 4th parade in Aspen, Colorado, and was based on a video that I made called Watch the Sky. In Watch the Sky, I used television footage of the Macy’s Day Parade and then superimposed a caricature of myself over top of a character named Little Bill (a Bill Cosby character). What ended up in Aspen was a Frankenstein version of this image from Watch the Sky. Aspen is not a town known for its racial diversity, so when viewers of the parade saw this Black figure—one they could not identify and had no particular reference or even affinity towards—they tended to fill in the gaps by associating this Black male with any popular Black male they could conjure up. Obama, Lebron [James], etc. In the [retrospective], I think the balloon will have a number of functions and refer to a number of things—it is beautiful and ugly, full and empty, present and absent. It’s my body, maybe, but certainly like my body it is already historical and preconceived. Still, if I had to put my figure on one thing it points to and addresses it would be breath.” [credit]
Dennis Oppenheim, Ground Mutations – Shoe Prints (1969)
Ground Mutations – Shoe Prints, November 1969, printed 2013
Black-and-white and color photographs and text on two panels“Shoes with 1/4” diagonal grooves down the soles and heels were worn for three winter months. I was connecting the patterns of thousands of individuals… my thoughts were filled with marching diagrams.”
Cannupa Hanska Luger and Rory Wakemup, Mirror Shield Project: Water Serpent Action (2016)
“The Mirror Shield Project was initiated in support for the Water Protectors as Oceti Sakowin camp near Standing Rock, ND in 2016. Artist Cannupa Hanska Luger (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, Lakota) created a tutorial video shared on social media inviting folks to create mirrored shields for use in onsite frontline actions. People from across the Nation created and sent these shields to the Water Protectors. The Mirror Shield Project has since been formatted and used in various resistance movements across the World.” [credit]
For the December 2016 iteration recorded using a drone camera, Luger collaborated with Rory Wakemup (Ojibwe) to orchestrate the more than 150 protesters. The work was inspired by Ukrainian revolutionaries who used mirrors to reflect back the images of Russian government forces. This iteration advanced nonviolent protest, referencing the reflected sky as well as the nearby river. (Morris, Kate. Shifting Grounds: Landscape in Contemporary Native American Art. University of Washington Press, 2019. Page 1.)