Magazine article Artforum International

"A Short History of Performance-Part II" Whitechapel Art Gallery

Magazine article Artforum International

"A Short History of Performance-Part II" Whitechapel Art Gallery

Article excerpt

The story so far: The first (2002) chapter of this series plunged elbow-deep into the '60s and '70s canon with revivals of works by Carolee Schneemann, Hermann Nitsch, Stuart Brisley, and others, exploring notions of the expressive, excessive, or abject body as privileged site of avantgarde resistance. The 2003 installment, with contributions from the Atlas Group (Walid Ra'ad), Mark Dion, Andrea Fraser, Inventory, Robert Morris, and Carey Young, tipped the balance toward recent and new work, organized around the theme of the performance lecture. Thus, it usefully identified a much-used but critically underexamined performance strategy and refocused the series on performance in its postmodern, postdisciplinary condition, informed--indeed transformed--by the dissemination of theories of performativity in the '90s.

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Most of the artists didn't so much stage border raids into other disciplines as probe the consequences of the dissolution of such disciplinary borders and reflect the generally sharpening awareness of the performative dimension of self-presentation. CEOs, academics, and even art-world professionals themselves more than ever understand the need to act the part. Testing parody's capacity to reveal official history's omissions, Powerpoint virtuoso Walid Ra'ad presents the Atlas Group's often preposterous archive with digital panache, but heuristic red herrings aren't the sole preserve of performance art: Ra'ad's work overlaps with the academic establishment's own pursuit of tricky textual strategies and its excavation of fallacies, fictions, and symptomatic utterances. The publication of Morris's lecture "From a Chomskian Couch: The Imperialistic Unconscious" (2003) in the academic journal Critical Inquiry, where it looked not at all out of place, rather proves the point. In this script of an imaginary analytic session with "Dr. …

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