Archive for March, 2017


Artaud on Gesture:

Gesture artaud


Roland Barthes
“The World of Wrestling”

[This is the initial essay in Barthes’ Mythologies, originally published in 1957. The book is a series of small structural investigations of (mass) cultural phenomena; as Barthes explains in his preface to the 1970 French second edition, “This book has a double theoretical framework: on the one hand, an ideological critique bearing on the language of so-called mass-culture; on the other, a first attempt to analyze semiologically the mechanics of this language. I had just read Saussure and as a result acquired the conviction that by treating ‘collective representations’ as sign-systems, one might hope to go further than the pious show of unmasking them and account in detail for the mystification which transforms petit-bourgeois culture into a universal nature.”]

The grandiloquent truth of gestures on life’s great occasions.

The virtue of all-in wrestling is that it is the spectacle of excess. Here we find a grandiloquence which must have been that of ancient theatres. And in fact wrestling is an open-air spectacle, for what makes the circus or the arena what they are is not the sky (a romantic value suited rather to fashionable occasions), it is the drenching and vertical quality of the flood of light. Even hidden in the most squalid Parisian halls, wrestling partakes of the nature of the great solar spectacles, Greek drama and bullfights: in both, a light without shadow generates an emotion without reserve.

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There is no more than a mere gesture separating us from chaos.
–Antonin Artaud


Franz Kline
Nijinsky (1950)
Enamel on Canvas, 45″ x 35″
Museum of Modern Art, New York

Kline was married to a ballet dancer, Elizabeth Parsons, who, like the famous Russian dancer Nijinsky, suffered from schizophrenia. Kline made several portraits of Nijinsky during his early years, when he worked as a commercial illustrator. This work, however, does not depict the dancer. It is one of the first in Kline’s mature style, developed over the winter of 1949–50.

During a visit to de Kooning’s studio, Kline saw one of his own sketches enlarged with an overhead projector. For the first time he saw that his calligraphic studies, which were made on the pages of a telephone book, worked well as large pictures.


Offhanded admiration from Antonin Artaud:

Go on behaving like snobs, flocking to hear some singer or other, some admirable performance which does not go beyond the realm of art (and even the Ballets Russes, at the height of their glory, never went beyond the realm of art).

There is no film footage of  Vaslav Nijinsky available, so far as I know. So, you’ll just have to settle for this video of Ekaterina Kondaurova, of the Mariinsky Ballet. Bummer. Not.

Anyone, interested in how theater design, in particular that of the Russian Ballet, and Surrealism destroyed Pablo PIcasso? If so, this is the book for you.

Beginning with such key artists as Marcel Duchamp and Jackson Pollock, this book examines a selection of the most significant players who have used their bodies to create their art – among them, in the 1960s Carolee Scheemann, Rudolf Schwarzkogler, Yoko Ono; in the 1970s, Chris Burden, Ana Mendieta, Vito Acconci, Marina Abramovic; up to the turn of the millennium, Matthew Barney, Marc Quinn, Tracey Emin and Mona Hatoum.

–Jacket Statement

Vito Acconci
Trademarks (1970)

The success, even the survival, of the arts has come increasingly to depend on their ability to defeat theatre [i.e., performance at]. This is perhaps nowhere more evident than within theatre itself, where the need to defeat what I have been calling theatre has chiefly made itself felt as the need to establish a drastically different relation to its audience. (The relevant texts are, of course, Brecht and Artaud.) For theatre has an audience — it exists for one — in a way the other arts do not; in fact, this more than anything else is what modernist sensibility finds intolerable in theatre generally. Here it should be remarked that literalist art, too, possesses an audience, though a somewhat special one: that the beholder is confronted by literalist work within a situation that he experiences as his means that there is an important sense in which the work in question exists for him alone, even if he is not actually alone with the work at the time. … Art degenerates as it approaches the condition of theatre. Theatre is the common denominator that binds a large and seemingly disparate variety of activities to one another, and that distinguishes those activities from the radically different enterprises of the modernist arts. … The concepts of quality and value-and to the extent that these are central to art, the concept of art itself-are meaningful, or wholly meaningful, only within the individual arts. What lies between the arts is theatre.

–Michael Fried, “Art and Objecthood” (1967)

Yoko Ono
Cut Piece (1964)

Carolee Schneeman
Meat Joy (1964)

We Came, We Saw!

Posted: March 30, 2017 in Uncategorized

Whether most persons recognize it or not, the U of U’s School of Dance is one of the very finest dance programs in the entire country, attracting students from all fifty states. A number of my students are will performing in this weekend’s gala. I would strongly encourage you to attend at least one of the events. Support your peers and see them at their very best!

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Posted: March 26, 2017 in Uncategorized

Don’t let this happen to you.

Just after 10 p.m. on August 11, 1956, Jackson Pollock, who had been drinking, crashed his car into a tree less than a mile from his home. Ruth Kligman, his girlfriend at the time, was thrown from the car and survived. Another passenger, Edith Metzger, was killed, and Pollock was thrown 50 feet into the air and into a birch tree. He died immediately.

Can you identify the key differences between the work of sculptor David Smith and that of John Chamberlain?

David Smith
Tanktotem (1956)

“When he died in a car crash the artworks for his last show remained unsold.”

John Chamberlain
Velvet White (1962)

“Chamberlain moved to New York in 1956 and within a few years hit
upon the decision to utilize car metal as art material.”

John Chamberlain
The Guggenheim Museum – NYC, NY

From my IT1 class, Fall 2011:

The soul is the effect and instrument of political anatomy;
the soul is the prison of the body.
Michel Foucault

As I tried to point out in class, a very large (albeit unspoken) determining factor behind Jean-Pierre Vernant‘s study of classical antiquity was the contemporary political climate in which he was writing. During WWII, France, and in particular the capital city of Paris, had been occupied by the Germans and administrated by the cooperating Vichy government. After the war, the fiercely nationalist de Gaul government, along with the liberal social institutions maintained by it, continued, to many radical thinkers, to mirror too closely the oppressive regime from under which France had just emerged. This new order seemed simply to be a softer and more insidious version of the older order, one vast self-regulating penitentiary.

Or, groups such as Situationist International (the source from whence were stolen the look, attitude and slogans of first-wave British punk), saw modern French life, and in particular students life, as a state of perpetual captivity to ubiquitous banality and boredom. Consequently, leading intellectuals, motivated students (the diametrical opposite of the quintessential ‘good student’ in the Honors College) and industrial laborers, banded together, set up barricades against police attack, and sought to reclaim their access to an educational system they considered to have been stolen from them by the established regime.

One of the principle wings of this intellectual and political resistance to authority was the Anti-Psychiatric Movement, which arose in reaction to the pervasiveness of Freudian psychology through French academics and therapeutics. One of the classic statements (still widely read and taught today) of this movement was a volume co-authored by philosopher Gilles Deleuze and psychiatrist Felix Guattari (a specialist in psychosis), Anti-Oedipus. This landmark text, which unmasked that numerous oppositional drives and desires held in a state in extreme “tension and ambiguity” by Freud’s socially constructed and reinforced Oedipal Complex, seeks to challenge compulsory and normative neurosis with a post-psychological view of the schizoid body; a restless and excessive anti-Human body which recognizes no rules of due proportion or any ‘golden mean,’ but rather manifests itself as a perpetually mobile ‘desiring-machine’. Meanwhile, society at large might be seen, according to Deleuze and Guattari, as a vast apparatus of physical forms and conventional signs designed to restrict and channel the intensive flows and surges of libidinal forces and bodily energies – this in opposition to the rationalist Cartesian body (or automaton), which is understood as mere res extensa, matter extended in space.

When the act of narration becomes as integral to the total story as the actions narrated, as motivated by restless urges, as fraught with perils, pains and ecstasies; then the story suddenly bristles, an automaton turned inside out. All the inner devices of poetics are exposed, brought into plain view. The author is revealed to be a writing machine. His desires now figure as mere drives, his unfathomable creative force as hydraulic differential flow. With this inversion the artist passes beyond himself, outside his ego. Likewise, the work of art, originally and reassuringly emblematized by the scenes of peace and plenty contained within the gilt frame of the shield of Achilles, inverts itself. Its cogs, planes, levers, screws and pulleys, its ropes and bellows now exposed and live (as wires are said to be live); the work of art then becomes Deleuze’s war machine, Vaucanson’s famous defecating duck gone on a killing spree. The horror . . . and the hilarity.

Please consider registering for a Praxis Lab!

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JAM verb \ˈjam\

intransitive verb

1a: to become blocked, wedged, or stuck fast; b: to become unworkable when a movable part becomes blocked or stuck the gun jammed

2: to force one’s way into a restricted space

3: to improvise on a musical instrument with a group : to take part in a jam session musicians jamming together

transitive verb

1a: to press into a close or tight position; b(1): to cause to become wedged or stuck so as to be unworkable (2): to make (machinery) unworkable by becoming wedged or stuck c: to block passage of, d: to fill to excess

2: to push forcibly : to apply (brakes) suddenly and forcibly

3: to cause (a part of the body) to be painfully crushed or squeezed jammed his finger in the door

4a: to make unintelligible by sending out interfering signals or messages jam a radio broadcast; b: to make (a radar apparatus) ineffective by sending out interfering signals or by causing reflection of radar waves


Richard Serra is considered by many to be the most important sculptor of the postwar period. The essays in this volume cover the complete span of Serra’s work to date — from his first experiments with materials and processes through his early films and site works to his current series of “torqued ellipses.” There is a special emphasis on those moments when Serra extended aesthetic convention and/or challenged political authority, as in the famous struggle with the General Services Administration over the site-specific piece Tilted Arc.

Tilted Arc 2

In 1981, artist Richard Serra installs his sculpture Tilted Arc, in Federal Plaza in New York City. It has been commissioned by the Arts-in-Architecture program of the U.S. General Services Administration, which earmarks 0.5 percent of a federal building’s cost for artwork. Tilted Arc is a curving wall of raw steel, 120 feet long and 12 feet high, that carves the space of the Federal Plaza in half. Those working in surrounding buildings must circumvent its enormous bulk as they go through the plaza. According to Serra, this is the point, “The viewer becomes aware of himself and of his movement through the plaza. As he moves, the sculpture changes. Contraction and expansion of the sculpture result from the viewer’s movement. Step by step the perception not only of the sculpture but of the entire environment changes.”

Tilted Arc

The sculpture generates controversy as soon as it is erected, and Judge Edward Re begins a letter-writing campaign to have the $175,000 work removed. Four years later, William Diamond, regional administrator for the GSA, decides to hold a public hearing to determine whether Tilted Arc should be relocated. Estimates for the cost of dismantling the work are $35,000, with an additional $50,000 estimated to erect it in another location. Richard Serra testifies that the sculpture is site-specific, and that to remove it from its site is to destroy it. If the sculpture is relocated, he will remove his name from it.

Tilted Arc 6

The public hearing is held in March 1985. During the hearing, 122 people testify in favor of retaining the sculpture, and 58 testify in favor of removing it. The art establishment — artists, museum curators, and art critics — testify that Tilted Arc is a great work of art. Those against the sculpture, for the most part people who work at Federal Plaza, say that the sculpture interferes with public use of the plaza. They also accuse it of attracting graffiti, rats, and terrorists who might use it as a blasting wall for bombs. The jury of five, chaired by William Diamond, vote 4-1 in favor of removing the sculpture.

Titled Arc 3

Serra’s appeal of the ruling fails. On March 15, 1989, during the night, federal workers cut Tilted Arc into three pieces, remove it from Federal Plaza, and cart it off to a scrap-metal yard.

Tilted Arc 4

If Michael Fried argues, in “Art and Objecthood” (1967), that the very best abstract formalist paintings and sculptures of the day are absolutely authoritative, in their own right and on their own terms, and stand in no need whatsoever of public approval or applause, . . .

Morris Louis
#11 (1961)

Jules Olitski
Tin Lizzie Green (1964)

Frank Stella
Black Series II (1967)

Yellow Swing 1965 by Sir Anthony Caro born 1924

Sir Anthony Caro
Yellow Swing (1965)

. . . what, then, would Fried want us to make of the ‘music’ of John Cage, Gyorgy Ligeti and Steve Reich?

And, further, what would Fried want us to think of ‘sculptures’ such as those of Richard Serra?

Richard Serra
Tilted Arc (1981)


Past, present, and future, the world is full of opportunities for bystanders to take meaningful action to prevent horrific crimes. Yet, far too often bystanders remain complacent. In Nazi Germany, an untold number of bystanders watched as millions were subjected to the most heinous treatment in the history of the modern world. Today, bystanders have an opportunity to prevent atrocities from being thrust onto victims. Whether they are refugees from Syria or college freshmen on our own campuses, bystanders have an opportunity to act; yet, they often choose not to.

The symposium will first consider bystanders during the Holocaust. No other tragedy can highlight the bystander dilemma like the Holocaust, because so many individuals had an opportunity to act; but most failed. The following two panels will consider the bystander dilemma in the context of modern day War Crimes and sexual assaults. For a complete list of the distinguished speakers contributing to the symposium, please see the event website.

This event is free and open to the public but registration is requested. Visit the event website for more details,