Action Art: A Bibliography of Artists' Performance from Futurism to Fluxus and Beyond

By John Gray | Go to book overview

Introduction

. . . there will always be an avant garde so long as there are new possibilities (formal or otherwise), and the useful thing is not to moralize about its goodness or badness but to try to identify what it is and where it is going.

Dick Higgins

During the 20th century there have been two major developments in the art world, one concerned with formal innovations in object making (painting and sculpture) and a second involved with live performance. The first is well documented and available to anyone with access to a library, museum or gallery. The second, decidedly anti-object-oriented and impermanent in nature, is much more difficult to trace. In fact, judging by most mainstream modern art histories and survey courses, it is difficult, if not impossible, to know that such a development has even existed. The literally thousands of formalist monographs and journal articles on both pre-WWII and post-war art developments are equally silent. In these studies the major, and usually only topics, are the objects produced by those movements, while the key role of performance in virtually all of the pre-war movements from Futurism to the Bauhaus, as well as its influence on many post-war ones such as Conceptual, Body, and Performance Art, remains unmentioned.

Fortunately, despite this mainstream silence, there have been a number of works written on artists' performance, most notably RoseLee Goldberg Performance Art (# 255), Al Hansen's A Primer of Happenings and Time/Space Art (# 257), Adrian Henri Total Art (# 258), Allan Kaprow Assemblage, Environments and Happenings (# 261), Michael Kirby Happenings (# 263), Richard Kostelanetz The Theatre of Mixed Means (# 264), Arnaud Labelle-Rojoux L'Acte Pour L'Art (# 267), Jurgen Schilling Aktionskunst (# 279) and Wolf Vostell Aktionen (# 281). However, all but the Labelle-Rojoux work were written in the 1960s or 70s. In addition, none are comprehensive in their coverage. With this in mind, I thought that now, a little more than eight decades after the first Futurist performances, might be a good time to take stock. What I have tried to do in these pages is to provide as

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