In the vibrant downtown Manhattan art scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Taiwanese-American artist Tehching Hsieh made an exceptional series of artworks. Hsieh realized five separate one-year-long performances that were unprecedented in their use of physical difficulty over extreme durations and in their absolute conception of art and life as simultaneous processes.
In her dance and performances of the 1960s, Yvonne Rainer famously transformed the performing body—stripped it of special techniques and star status, traded its costumes and leotards for T-shirts and sneakers, and asked it to haul mattresses or recite texts rather than leap or spin. Without discounting these innovations, Carrie Lambert-Beatty argues in Being Watched that the crucial site of Rainer's interventions in the 1960s was less the body of the performer than the eye of the viewer—or rather, the body as offered to the eye.
In Closer, Susan Kozel draws on live performance practice, digital technologies, and the philosophical approach of phenomenology. Trained in dance and philosophy, Kozel places the human body at the center of explorations of interactive interfaces, responsive systems, and affective computing, asking what can be discovered as we become closer to our computers—as they become extensions of our ways of thinking, moving, and touching.
"It is my overall concern to reveal people as they are engaged in various kinds of activities—alone, with each other, with objects—and to weight the quality of the human body towards that of objects and away from the super-stylization of the dancer."
—Yvonne Rainer, STATEMENT accompanying The Mind is a Muscle, 1968
The past decade has seen an extraordinarily intense period of experimentation with computer technology within the performing arts. Digital media has been increasingly incorporated into live theater and dance, and new forms of interactive performance have emerged in participatory installations, on CD-ROM, and on the Web.
The cinematic has been a springboard for the work of many influential artists, including Victor Burgin, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Stan Douglas, Nan Goldin, Douglas Gordon, Cindy Sherman, and Jeff Wall, among others. Much recent cinema, meanwhile, is rich with references to contemporary photography. Video art has taken a photographic turn into pensive slowness; photography now has at its disposal the budgets and scale of cinema.
Caked in mud, bearing a lattice appendage of sticks attached to his back, wearing a headdress and a nylon mask, artist Kim Jones's alter ego Mudman began appearing on city streets, on the beach, and in galleries around Southern California in the 1970s. Jones emerged from the performance art movement, and the unsettling, itinerant figure of Mudman connected the abstract, formal investigations of process- and material-based artists with the intense physicality of body-based performances. Mudman was both artistic persona and artistic construction.
If you're interested in Plato, you're reading the wrong book. If you're interested in difficult childhoods, sexual misadventures, aesthetics, cultural history, and the reasons that a club sandwich and other meals—including breakfast—have remained in the memory of the present writer, keep reading.
—from Feelings Are Facts
Pioneering conceptual artist Vito Acconci began his career as a poet. In the 1960s, before beginning his work in performance and video art, Acconci studied at the Iowa Writers Workshop and published poems in journals and chapbooks. Almost all of this work remains unknown; much of it appeared in the self-produced magazines of the Lower East Side's mimeo revolution, and many other pieces were never published.