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Body Art

Parent categories: contemporary art - performance art - body - bodily fluids in art

Practitioners: Viennese Actionists - Orlan - Marina Abramoviæ - Fakir Musafar

Practitioners (metaphorically): Ron Mueck

Body art in film: Sweet Movie (1974) - Dusan Makavejev

Key work of art: Tapp und Tastkino (1968) - Valie Export [Google gallery]


Body art is art made on, or consisting of, the human body. The commonest forms of body art are tattoos and body piercings.

More extreme body art can involve mutilation, or in some way pushing the body to its limits. One of Marina Abramovic's works, for example, consisted of her dancing until she collapsed from exhaustion, while one of Dennis Oppenheim's better known works saw him lying in the sunlight with a book on his chest until the skin not covered by the book was badly sunburned. It can even consist of preserved bodies arranged and dissected in an artistic fashion, as in the case of the plastinated bodies used in the travelling Body Worlds exhibit. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_Art [Sept 2004]

The body in revolt

we can consciously hold our breath and halt the automatic process of breathing for a short period of time until the body revolts and reasserts control -- http://www.artic.edu/~tholme/c_o_breath/purpose.html The Culture of Breath, Tiffany Holmes

Examples of body art

Vito Acconci once documented, through photos and text, his daily exercise routine of stepping on and off a chair for as long as possible over several months. Acconci also performed a 'Following Piece', in which he followed randomly chosen New Yorkers.

Chris Burden actually had an assistant shoot him in the arm in his piece ‘Shoot’ (1971), which was observed by a live audience. This was documented in an eight-second video and is a notorious example of video art as well as performance art. In ‘Through the Night Softly' (1973), Burden crawled naked through broken glass, which he saw as stars in the sky, and turned the video footage into a ten-second commercial that was aired on television. In ‘Locker’, he spent five days jammed into a 2' x 2' x 3' locker at UCLA; in ‘Sculpture in Three Parts’ (1974), he sat on an upright chair on a sculpture pedestal for 48 hours, until he fell off due to exhaustion; in ‘White Light/White Heat’ (1975), he spent 22 days alone and invisible to the public on a high platform in a gallery, neither eating, speaking, seeing or being seen. Most of these performances are known only through photographs or short video clips.

The Vienna Action Group was formed in 1965 by Herman Nitsch, Otto Muhl, Gunter Brus and Rudolf Schwartzkogler. They performed several body art actions, usually involving social taboos (such as genital mutilation).

Marina Abramovic performed ‘Rhythm O’ in Belgrade, in 1974, until her performance was closed down by the police. She had invited her audience to abuse her at will for six hours. Her clothes were cut away and her skin slashed. The police arrived when someone displayed a loaded gun. After the will of decompartmentalization of the artistic categories and inversion of the middle-class values strongly anchored in the corporal art of the years 1970, the movement gradually evolved to the works more directed in the personal mythologies, as at Jana Sterbak, Rebecca Horn, Youri Messen-Jaschin or Javier Perez.

Jake Lloyd Jones a Sydney based artist conceived a body art ride which has become an annual event, participants are painted to form a living rainbow that rides to the Pacific Ocean and immerses itself in the waves. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_Art [Aug 2006]

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