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one Performance after Minimalism ......................................................................................................... fantasies of public and private T he transformations of the audience e√ected 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 and early seventies have not been adequately discussed.∞ This despite the fact that in the early 1960s, important minimalists had clearly operated —at least in New York—in a milieu in which minimalist or protominimalist practices were developed alongside di√erent kinds of performance.≤ Acconci and Burden are central figures in American performance art from the period, which especially in its more systematic , less gestural or expressive versions has most commonly been related to conceptual art.≥ Without denying that there are conceptual aspects to Acconci’s and Burden’s early works, their performances emerged from a more immediate relation to minimalism.∂ In fact the questions that minimalism raised about the embodiment of aesthetic experience, and about its status as public, were clearly relevant for performance art; this chapter explores that relationship. Not long after the fact, in 1977, Acconci referred to his performance work as ‘‘a last gasp of minimalism,’’∑ and twenty years later said that minimalism had been ‘‘the father art’’ for him (while the conceptualists were ‘‘sort of over there, doing their own thing’’∏ ). In 1996, Burden referred to himself as having been a ‘‘young minimalist ,’’π and, as Anne Wagner has observed, this is corroborated by works he made in 1968 as an undergraduate: ‘‘fully realized minimalizing works . . . [which] illustrate how promptly a particular version of Minimalism was institutionalized and how fully and easily it could be assimilated by a talented student.’’∫ This is to argue that Acconci and Burden were quite deliberate in their engagement with minimalism. To characterize this engagement, Acconci’s and Burden’s perfor- (previous page) ..... Vito Acconci, Seedbed, 1972. ∫ Acconci Studio. Photo: Bernadette Meyer 29 ............ p e r f o r m a n c e a f t e r m i n i m a l i s m mances were enabled by, yet provided a critique of minimalism. In particular, their work undercut the distinction between the categories of public and private in such a way as to make clear the fault lines running through minimalism’s version of publicness. As performance artists it might seem, almost by definition, that Acconci and Burden should be regarded as ‘‘post-medium’’ artists. But in fact their relation to minimalism implicated their work in a struggle with the status of medium in which minimalism was an important participant. Historically, the gradual devaluation of the importance of traditional mediums to the making of art might be seen, in turn, to help develop the question of the relations between modernism and postmodernism, and there has been a tendency to assume Acconci’s and Burden’s status as postmodernists.Ω But postmodernism was not a term or category that was integral to debates over medium in 1970, and neither was it a secure category then, any more than it is now. Instead, their work is more accurately characterized by uneasy, openended relations to elements of modernism and postmodernism (particularly via the question of medium). The main characteristics of the three-dimensional minimalist art relevant to a consideration of Acconci’s and Burden’s work are familiar : simple geometric shapes, industrially fabricated in industrial materials , often repeated in series or grids. The principal artists invoked here, despite their di√erences, are Robert Morris, Donald Judd, and Carl Andre.∞≠ Four decades later, minimalism’s stubborn objects sometimes seem overburdened by rhetoric, both the artists’ own, widely circulated analyses of what they were doing (statements of intention, after all), and the elaborations of their critical champions and opponents . But in a post- and anti-expressionist context, it was seen as minimalism’s strength, that its material straightforwardness and compositional severity disallowed the separation of thought from perception . This is one reason that the dominant accounts of American avant-garde art since the sixties begin with the role of these very objects , and of the accompanying rhetoric as well. The characteristics of these arguments are also by now familiar, within art history, at least. Minimalism punctured the supposed autonomy of modernist art by foregrounding the embodied, temporal quality of the viewer’s experience of art. This remained an abstract 30 ............ n o i n n o c e n t b y s t a n...


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