Category Archives: Performance

Pots, dropped

Ai Weiwei, 'Droppin a Han Dynasty Urn',

Ai Weiwei, ‘Droppin a Han Dynasty Urn’, 1995

Maximo Caminero has been charged with allegedly destroying an artwork by Ai Weiwei at the Perez Art Museum in Miami. The local artist picked up and smashed the million dollar work from Ai’s 2006 series Colour Vases in protest against the museum’s lack of local artist displays.  He now faces felony criminal mischief charges.  It’s a curious case of life imitating art; one of Ai’s most notorious works, Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (1995) is a series of three silver gelatin prints featuring the artist doing just that.  Describing his protest, Caminero stated: “I was at PAMM and saw Ai Weiwei’s photos behind the vases where he drops an ancient Chinese vase and breaks it. And I saw it as a provocation by Weiwei to join him in an act of performance protest.”  The act was apparently spontaneous.

(And if you’re interested in seeing some of Ai Weiwei’s Colour Vases  in the flesh, there is a suite of them in QAG/GoMA’s collection)

The Humping Pact


A self described ‘suspended act of simulated stimulation towards the environment’, The Humping Pact is a collaborative project by Berlin-based artists Diego Agulló and Dmitry Paranyushkin that basically involves mass ‘humping’ performances in public (often industrial) locations.  Despite the array of bodies, each work actually only involves the two artists, whose ‘humps’ are looped and spread across the frame. Sure it’s pretty lightweight, but it beats Spencer Tunick any day!

So long, Otto Muehl


Controversial Austrian painter Otto Muehl has died in Portugal, aged 87.  Muehl was co-founder of the Viennese Actionist movement, notorious for bloody and violent work – often incorporating viscera and the human body – that intended to shock audiences out of a state of complacency.  The Actionists’s work was so extreme in fact, that during the 1960s Muehl and his counterparts (including Guenter Brus, Hermann Nitsch and Rudolf Schwarzkogler) all spent time in prison for violating decency laws.  Muehl’s personal life was equally excessive.  In the 1970s he established the Friedrichshof Commune just outside of Vienna, attracting 600 residents at its height.  In 1991 Muehl was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison for drug possession and sex with minors while living there.  The commune disbanded soon after.

Above: ‘Mama und Papa’ (1964), by Otto Muehl and Kurt Kren.

Meat Joy

Leg of Lamb was lucky enough to catch a screening of Carolee Schneemann’s ‘Meat Joy’ (above) at the IMA in Brisbane last week.  A performance piece first conducted in 1964 in Paris and re-staged in New York, ‘Meat Joy’ is an orgiastic ritual involving eight performers and an array of meats.  Clad in furry undies, the participants writhe around with a selection of fish, poultry, red meat – and some paint for good measure.  Schneemann described the piece as ‘an erotic rite – excessive, indulgent, a celebration of flesh as material’.  In fact, it’s an interesting foil to the contemporaneous flesh and blood-based Dionysiac rituals of the Viennese Actionists like Hermann Nitsch.   While the Actionists were out to shock, and no doubt Schneemann was too, ‘Meat Joy’ is ultimately an oddly playful affair, amplified by its cutesy 1960s pop soundtrack.

(Australian audiences might have seen a small screen version of ‘Meat Joy’ as part of the 2008 Biennale of Sydney.  The IMA is projecting it large scale with surround sound, so if you can, check it out in all its full screen glory).

Carolee Schneemann’s Meat Joy at the IMA, 420 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane until November 24.

Black Metal Indo Style

Cangkang Serigala performing at Ant Trax Studios, Jogjakarta

Norwegian black metal is an acquired taste, what with all the ‘corpse paint’ and talk of satan.  Forged in Norway in the early 1990s, the heavy metal sub genre is oft-intepreted as misanthropic and anti-Christian (church burning was a popular past time in the mid-90s, with black metallers responsible for the destruction of over 50 Norwegian churches).  So what happens when you strip black metal of its meaning and relocate the sound and the look to Indonesia?  The result is Cangkang Serigala, a performance project spearheaded by young Jogja-based artist Ican Harem.

Leg of Lamb recently squeezed into Ant Trax studios in Jogjakarta to partake in the spectacle.  Harem and his cohorts fully embrace the theatrics of the movement but rather than play the music themselves, they perform karaoke-style over black metal classics from the likes of bands Mayhem, Burzum and Emperor.  On occasion Cangkang Serigala invite the audience to perform with them, however no subtitling of the tracks is required.  As Harem observes; they have no idea what the Norwegians are saying, so instead they just scream.  This clash of cultures is remarkable, with the nefarious sentiments of the original movement cheekily lost in translation.

And if you want to experience Cangkang Serigala for yourself you’re in luck, Harem will be playing two shows in Melbourne this September, details to follow.

The Butter Dance

Leg of Lamb was recently introduced to the practice of Berlin-based Javanese performance artist Melati Suryodarmo.  One of her most well-known works is ‘Exergie: Butter Dance’ (above), a performance she first conducted in 2000.  The premise is simple; the artist appears in a tight black dress and high heels and attempts to dance on several blocks of butter over a twenty minute period.  Her initially graceful moves recall the gestures of Balinese dancers but as her balance becomes compromised by the rapidly melting butter, her performance quickly descends into a comical mess.

The Ability to Blow Themselves Up


Since 2005 Seung Yul Oh has been recording people blowing balloons up until they pop.  Entitled The Ability to Blow Themselves Up, the project is about to launch into the realms of live performance  for Made Active: The Chartwell Show, an exhibition featuring works from The Chartwell Collection that opens at Auckland Art Gallery on April 14th.  Yul Oh has enlisted the help of 50 volunteers who, on the show’s opening date, will be stationed throughout the gallery from 3pm blowing up balloons over a 30 minute period.  Live performance is a rare beast at AAG (in fact, this show heralds the first multi-artist performance program presented by the gallery since the 1970s), so be sure to head along if you’re in AK.  The show runs until July 15th.

An Artist’s Life Manifesto

Miss out on last year’s LA MOCA gala?  Here’s their spin on the controversial event. (Via OTN).

Abramovic to Direct LA MOCA Gala

Lady Gaga plays a piano designed by Damien Hirst at the 2009 LA MOCA Gala

Serbian performance artist Marina Abramović  has been appointed the Artistic Director of the 2011 Gala at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.  She is responsible for programming an evening of music and performance that will feature an as yet undisclosed ‘guest musician’.  Given that former AD Doug Aitken roped in Beck and Devendra Banhart last year and Francesco Vezzoli got Gaga to jam on a piano painted by Damien Hirst the year before, I’m guessing it’s going to be HUGE.

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