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BETWEEN COVERS Tony Whitfield Books by Knowles, Greyson, Applebroog In a discussion of the early twentieth century in her Performance, Live Art 1909 to the Present, RoseLee Goldberg posits that "it was in performance that artists tested their ideas, only later expressing them in objects.'" While this is true in the case of artists during that period, the artist in 1980 who has made live art his or her primary form of expression is establishing new relationships to the art object. Three works which can be loosely categorized as "artists ' books'' present interesting possibilities for interplay between the art object and the performance medium. In no way are these works pure documentation; yet their contingency upon live art concepts is undeniable and a complete understanding of the books is absolutely dependent on them. This dependency is not necessarily a fault. On the contrary, it should be viewed as a restatement of the frequent aesthetic necessity to dissolve media boundaries as well as of performance principles (if such things exist). Of the three, Typings by Christopher Knowles is the least direct in establishing its relationship to performance. Beautifully produced, embossed in red-gold, in clothbound , hardcover, and paperback editions, Typings includes sixty or so poems, a play, a number of drawings, and other pieces executed on typewriters and printed from their original typed form. The question that arises almost immediately about Knowles' work is how are we to come to terms with the work of an artist who has 30 Typings, Christopher Knowles ($25 hard, $12 paper). Aspects of Contemporary Gay Art, John Greyson (unpriced). It Isn't True, The Sweet Smell of Sage, I Feel Sorry For You, A Performance, Ida Applebroog ($3.50 each). been mistakenly categorized by such an imprecise and little-understood label as ''autistic"? Is it art or merely a curiosity? It is first what it is, the product of a mind which -like any other-flourishes in and falls victim to its own idiosyncratic perceptions at the same time. While Knowles' poems (and, to a certain extent, the play) may not be literature of a high order, they are language of the first degree. If the warp and weft of poetry are rhythm and repetition , and its fiber the conscious ordering of material dredged from the unconscious, then Knowles' writing is the stuff of poetry. Beyond this point, however, success can only be claimed for these works vis-a-vis the transformation they undergo in performance . Although Knowles possesses a considerable ability to imitate and simplify structure (evidenced not only in his poetry but in his drawings), he appears to be incapable of the editing process needed to form coherent statements that hold up beyond an initial reading for content. They become a fragmentary stream of consciousness. However, when read aloud in performance , as many were last year by Lucinda Childs and Robert Wilson, the effect is mesmerizing. When read exactly as written , these pieces often take on the characteristics of amplified thought patterns , of ideas being formulated despite (and punctuated by) the insidious noise of pop culture. If Typings were to be considered as an independent work, therein would also lie its concise description. Although linked to performance, Knowles' Typings can be considered as an independent work of art if only to its detriment. John Greyson's recent publication, Aspects of Contemporary Gay Art, is inextricably tied to his performance of the same name. In two parts, a calendar of events and a radio broadcast transcript, ACGA is the documentation of a performance that used the convention of on-location news reporting to dramatize the struggle to both publicize gay cultural achievement and to underline the numerous methods by which such achievement has been impeded. In much the same way as Orson Welles invented his extraterrestial invasion in "War of the Worlds," Greyson creates an invasion of his fictitious gay arts conference by the "hostile other" of the non-gay world in a six-hour radio broadcast from Toronto's Harbourfront where the ten day symposium was supposed to have occurred. It must be noted here that this is one of the rare instances when gay culture is approached as subject matter within the...


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pp. 30-31
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