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Introduction ......................................................................................................... reimagining the audience If you leave decisions to the public, you can be killed. ..... marina abramovi¢∞ 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 object too. An illegal alien forbidden to work punches a time clock, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for one year. These are descriptions of Chris Burden’s Shoot (1971), Vito Acconci’s Seedbed (1972), Marina Abramovi¢’s Rhythm 0 (1974), and Tehching Hsieh’s One Year Performance 1980–1981 (Time Clock Piece). Whether or not it was a legitimate insight, in 1971, to see a work like Shoot as the result of a logic of escalating extremity at work within avant-garde circles,≤ these works have nevertheless outlasted their initial moment: Shoot and Seedbed, in particular, have become icons of the 1970s heyday of experimental and frequently confrontational performance art (their iconic status somewhat ironic, given performance art’s undermining of the primacy of visual experience for art). Clearly, these events, even described somewhat abstractly, remain challenging in their physical and/or psychological extremity and intensity. But what might otherwise , free of context, be understood as mundane violence or pathological behavior has been legitimated by its framing as art. These events have remained compelling not only because they set new parameters for risk, the breaking of taboos, or sheer duration, but also because, set in the context of art, they established an interplay between what happened, described in general terms—a man was shot, a man masturbated in (semi-)public, a woman subjected herself to the whims of a group of strangers, a man undertook to repeat an action according to a schedule so rigorous it controlled his life—and what happened, considered as art. The importance of art as a context here is that it at once invokes and relies upon (even as it may capture) an (previous page) ..... Chris Burden, Shoot, 1971. ∫ Chris Burden. Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery 3 ............ Vito Acconci, Seedbed, 1972. ∫ Acconci Studio. Photo: Bernadette Meyer audience. How these performances reimagined their audiences is the focus of this book. The works central to this book are Acconci’s Claim (1971) and his notorious masturbation piece, Seedbed (1972); Burden’s Five Day Locker Piece and Shoot, both in 1971; the five performances that constitute Abramovi¢’sRhythmseries(1973–1974),andherThomas’Lips(1975,and reperformed in 2005); Hsieh’s five One Year Performances (1978–1986), andhisfinalwork,TehchingHsieh1986–1999.≥ Theseretaincontemporary relevance because they pose questions in such challenging terms about how art imagines its audiences, and the possibilities of their transformation. Is it all right to stand by and watch someone be shot? When is it appropriate to involve complete strangers in your sexual fantasies? What to do when a woman o√ers herself to you as an object? Can there be any art when the artist keeps that art secret? Acconci, Burden, Abramovi¢, and Hsieh exemplify the performance art that provides the most striking instances of the shift away from object-based practices in the wake of the sixties. While performance 4 ............ n o i n n o c e n t b y s t a n d e r s art and its histories have often taken subjectivity as an important concern (one that is discussed in this book), performance art has also, just as importantly, modeled new constructions of its audiences: these can be seen in relation to the categories of public and community, in particular . In my view, subjectivity is intimately bound to these constructions of the audience, so this book examines a double trajectory. Performanceartisseentoarcfromexplicitlypost -minimalistexplorationsof the idea of the public in works by Acconci and Burden, through the generation of aversive models of community in works by Burden and Abramovi¢, to the virtual abandonment of the audience by Hsieh. At the same time, this arc of performance interprets a historical and theoretical shift, in which the possibility of envisaging critical artistic engagement with the democratic potential of the public sphere or of publicness, seen in a broadly Habermasian sense, fractures and gives way to unstable reliance on smaller-scale group formations. These formations are able to be categorized under ‘‘community,’’ as that concept is redefined in the work of theorists engaged in the attempt...


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