Fotograf Magazine

“Presence” in absentia Experiencing Performance as Documentation

I was not yet three years old, living in central North Carolina, when Carolee Schneemann performed Meat Joy at the Festival of Free Expression in Paris in 1964; three when Yoko Ono performed Cut Piece in Kyoto; eight when Vito Acconci did his Push Ups in the sand at Jones Beach and Barbara T. Smith began her exploration of bodily experiences with her Ritual Meal performance in Los Angeles; nine when Adrian Piper paraded through the streets of New York making herself repulsive in the Catalysis series; ten when Valie Export rolled over glass in Eros/ Ion in Frankfurt; twelve in 1973 when, in Milan, Gina Pane cut her arm to make blood roses flow (Sentimental Action); fifteen (still in North Carolina, completely unaware of any art world doings) when Marina Abramovic and Ulay collided against each other in Relation in Space at the Venice Biennale in 1976 (fig. 1). I was thirty years old–then 1991– when I began to study performance or body art1 from this explosive and important period, entirely through its documentation.

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