Witness to Accomplice: Audience in Performance Art

Parsons School of Design: Sch. Art and Dsgn Hist and Th

Liberal Arts
Undergraduate Course
Degree Students
Audience in Performance Art
Fall 2023
Taught By: Emily Bauman
Section: A

CRN: 16123

Credits: 3

In 1971 Chris Burden invited a small group of friends and colleagues to watch himself get shot. One friend was asked to do the shooting. Around the same time, Robert Barry invited gallery goers to come to a show of performance work with no date and no location where all actions had been taken in remote locations and were available to visitors by description on a phone answering service. Lorraine O’Grady crashed an NYC gallery opening dressed as a beauty queen with a chrysanthemum studded cattail whip, questioning the gallery and its patron’s roles in excluding Black artists. Meanwhile, Bas Jan Ader invited the whole world to witness what would culminate in his death at sea. Other artists started putting themselves and their audience into uncomfortable and sometimes illegal situations, from Paul McCarthy’s self-penetrating performances in intimate spaces to Coco Fusco putting herself on display in a cage. Through these performances a transformative role for the art audience was established. This role has been built upon by performance artists over the following five decades, expanding the role of the audience from passive witness to collaborator. These works implicate their audiences by their actions (or inaction) in the face of questionably dangerous or morally ambiguous situations. This class will explore the various ways that viewers of performance art are asked to join in or stand by and what the theoretical implications are for them (as well as the moral and ethical ones). We will look at how various platforms have been used and manipulated by artists to create complicated interactions with viewers. These include curating one-on-one interactions in private spaces, live-streaming actions taken just out of sight, creating videogame interfaces with real-life consequences and more. We will consider what the difference is between an action performed by an artist and filmed for later viewing versus that same action performed as a group participatory piece, such as Pope.L’s crawl pieces from his solo Great White Way to his group Conquest work. Other examples of works we will consider include the many iterations and takes on Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece; Rirkrit Tirivanija’s communal cooking/eating experiences; Dave McKenzie’s various dancing pieces and the evolution of voguing and dance hall culture in performance art; Stelarc and Ron Athey’s self-suspension and bodily alterations, as well as other work that involves self-abnegation or bodily injury such as those by Sherman Fleming (aka RodForce).

Open to: University undergraduate degree students, juniors and seniors only. Pre-requisite(s): first-year university writing course and at least two prior history or methods courses in art, media, film, or visual culture. One of these courses should be 3000-level.

College: Parsons School of Design (PS)

Department: Sch. Art and Dsgn Hist and Th (ADHT)

Campus: New York City (GV)

Course Format: Seminar (R)

Modality: In-Person

Max Enrollment: 20

Add/Drop Deadline: September 11, 2023 (Monday)

Online Withdrawal Deadline: November 19, 2023 (Sunday)

Seats Available: Yes

Status: Closed*

* Status information is updated every few minutes. The status of this course may have changed since the last update. Open seats may have restrictions that will prevent some students from registering. Updated: 5:02pm EST 12/5/2023

Meeting Info:
Days: Wednesday
Times: 4:00pm - 6:40pm
Building: 6 East 16th Street
Room: 704
Date Range: 8/30/2023 - 12/6/2023
Days: TBD
Times: TBD
Building: TBD
Room: TBD
Date Range: 12/7/2023 - 12/13/2023