Magazine article Artforum International

John Bock

Magazine article Artforum International

John Bock

Article excerpt

ANTON KERN GALLERY

"I'm in New Yok, and in New Yok the tradition is that the ahtist makes a Happening," John Bock announced while standing on a curious plywood platform that formed the stage for his most recent performance. Cheerfully, earnestly, the German artist urged his Chelsea audience to "Go do it, it's a Happening!" The viewers, most of whom were probably in diapers during the Happenings era (as Bock himself was), responded with sluggish amusement, as if they had been asked to dance the frug. Some accepted the beer and cigarettes Bock proffered. Others allowed him to douse twists of their hair with hairspray. One woman giggled with embarrassment as he tried to cajole her neighbors into nuzzling her. The hour-long event, complete with knitted sculptures, a costumed goat, and a surprise ending, felt sloppy, fresh, and yet strangely quaint, a throwback to a rime when live performance promised to renew art with an infusion of raw, unframeable creativity.

"He just seems sort of ... green," one charmed pundit offered afterward. But if Bock's persona has a winning innocence, the performance itself couldn't have been more knowing. With their mock-Beuysman philosophical patter ("In the hyperbole disco is the way of truth"), Paul McCarthyish foodplay, Matthew Barneyish prosthetic costumes, and a host of other recognizable echoes, Bock's "lectures" can seem like anthologies of avant-garde performance. Understandably, critical writing about them tends to bog down in nif-spotting: Brecht, Fluxus, Viennese Actionism, Kippenberger, Rhoades, take your pick. The result is that the artist's own identity seems a little elusive. With his James Spader--esque good looks, it's easy to think of Bock categorically, as a sort of echt "New German": unruly, gregarious, more-pluralist-than-thou.

Of course, self-mockery comes with this territory. …

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.