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No Innocent Bystanders

Performance Art and Audience

Frazer Ward

Publication Year: 2012

The changing role of the spectator in contemporary performance art At a moment when performance art and performance generally are at the center of the international art world, Frazer Ward offers us insightful readings of major performance pieces by the likes of Acconci, Burden, Abramović, and Hsieh, and confronts the twisting and troubled relationship that performance art has had with the spectator and the public sphere. Ward contends that the ethical challenges with which performance art confronts its viewers speak to the reimagining of the audience, in terms that suggest the collapse of notions like “public” and “community.” A thoughtful, even urgent discussion of the relationship between art and the audience that will appeal to a broad range of art historians, artists, and others interested in constructions of the public sphere.

Published by: Dartmouth College Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. xi

This book has roots in a long-ago dissertation, and I owe thanks to my dissertation committee, Hal Foster, Susan Buck-Morss, and Mark Seltzer, as well as to Peter Hohendahl and David Bathrick. I remain grateful to Hal Foster that he encouraged his graduate students to find their own areas of interest and their own...

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Introduction: Reimagining the Audience

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pp. 1-26

A man arranges to be shot in the arm by his friend. Another man masturbates under the floor of a public space, narrating his fantasies aloud as he goes. A woman lays a series of objects out on a table—among them soap, feathers, chain, and gun—and says she is to be treated as an...

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1. Performance after Minimalism: Fantasies of Public and Private

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pp. 27-51

The transformations of the audience effected in Acconci and Burden’s early performances are rooted in their relations to minimalism, in particular minimalism’s own revisioning of art’s status as public. The relations between minimalism and performance art from the late sixties...

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2. Acconci: "Public space is wishful thinking."

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pp. 53-80

Of the four artists examined in this book, Acconci is the only one with any avowed interest in psychology, and his is the work that has been discussed at most length in terms of the construction of subjectivity. Much of this discussion has been productive, nonetheless...

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3. Burden: "I'd set it up by telling a bunch of people, and that would make it happen."

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pp. 81-108

In Chapter 2, we saw Acconci disturb the relations between public and private, often along an axis of property ownership. He put his personal property in the public space of the gallery in Room Piece; he exercised ‘‘his’’ sexual fantasies in Seedbed, in a public room that he rather made his own, and in...

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4. Abramović: "You can stop. You don't have to do this."

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pp. 109-130

Perhaps against the grain, Burden’s work might be conceived of as a critique of community in general and, more specifically, of the art community, in the instance of the community of interest and expectation who showed up and ‘‘made it happen.’’ The art community is typically one of relative...

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5. Hsieh: "For me, the audience is secondary. However, without them my performances couldn't exist."

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pp. 131-149

Before Abramović’s canonization, Tehching Hsieh had already received the imprimatur of the Museum of Modern Art’s belated recognition of performance art when, in 2009, an exhibition of the documentation of One Year Performance 1978–79 (Cage Piece) inaugurated the...


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pp. 151-182


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pp. 183-193


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pp. 195-205

E-ISBN-13: 9781611683363
E-ISBN-10: 161168336X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611683349
Print-ISBN-10: 1611683343

Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 24 illus.
Publication Year: 2012