Magazine article Art Monthly

Mel Brimfield: This Is Performance Art

Magazine article Art Monthly

Mel Brimfield: This Is Performance Art

Article excerpt

Mel Brimfield's This is Performance Art was held 9 April to 3 July and The Breakfast Sculpture 18 June at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

There used to be an undercurrent of British performance art that paid homage to the techniques of British variety entertainers just as much as it reflected the influence of the American Happening: Jeff Nuttall and his circle, the early work of Bruce McLean and Gilbert & George, and others disregarded by historians in the field who follow an American model. Mel Brimfield (bi.976) is not old enough to remember the performances to which her work alludes, but she has immersed herself in their history, and has perfect pitch for the re-collective and academic residue that is the only remaining presence around what she calls 'the absent performance in the middle, and the stuff you're left with', the brittle realm between truth and research. Having studied sculpture at Chelsea, Brimfield 'just stopped' making art, she says, but eventually turned to curating exhibitions and events about art. Like Alison Jackson, who constructs those unsettling photographs and short films using lookalikes of public figures, Brimfield remains just to one side of being either a biennale artist or a media satirist.

Using humour as a disarming way of entering into what would otherwise comprise a discrete academic discourse, Brimfield's 'This is Performance Art' is the second phase of a project initiated during her residency at Camden Arts Centre a year ago. There she began to make fake archival material related to a misremembered or parodied history of performance art. Brimfield's immaculately conceived exhibition is presented as a notional 'Room 27' of a larger museum display curated by 'Francis Spalding OBE'. In the entrance area the walls are covered in painted names, directly emulating the timeline wall at Tate Modern, except that here the names of performance art heroes such as Joseph Beuys and Valie Export are interspersed with those of Hot Gossip and Keith Harris and Orville. Brimfield has painstakingly simulated such documents as Hollywood biopic film posters promoting the machismo myths of Henry Moore and Richard Serra, and the regulation black and white documentary photographs of the fictional woman performance artist Alex Owens (b1958).

Best of all is a substantial film made for the exhibition which captures accurately the nature of many hastily scripted and assembled TV programmes about 1960s culture, juxtaposing exquisitely incongruous film clips and other found material. It is very, very British. It is doubtful that all of its references and resonances would be fully understood by an international art world audience. Like WC Sellars and RJ Yeatman on British history, Brimfield's ludicrously incorrect lampoon of performance art is a clever conflation of half-remembered taught facts and received historical stereotypes. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.