Group Exhibition   The Missing Body: performance in the absence of the artist

June 27, 2014 - September 7, 2014

Vito Acconci, Blair Brennan, David Cross, Mandy Espezel and Mami Takahashi
Curated by Cindy Baker

June 27 to September 7, 2014
Opening Reception: June 27 at 5 PM

Reception sponsored by Davidson & Williams LLP

The Southern Alberta Art Gallery is co-producing a major curatorial project focused on expanding discourse around the nature of performance.  The Missing Body: performance in the absence of the artist, curated by Lethbridge-based Cindy Baker, explores the concept of performance via art in which the artist's body is obscured, hidden, or simply not present in the final manifestation of the work.  Through interactive projects (both in the gallery and outdoors/offsite), art that encourages the viewer to become the performer, and art that invites audiences to interact directly with the artist, The Missing Body offers hands-on opportunities for audiences of all ages to engage with performance art.

The Missing Body explores four specific approaches to performance where the artist's body is absent:

  1. Artists that hire other people to enact the performance - Performance artists often engage others to perform in their work; these individuals may be hired coerced, contracted, or are otherwise obligated through some kind of agreement to participate in a work of art.
  2. Encouraging audience transgressions in the presentation space which create, activate, or complete the work - Transgression is a key element of these works, creating the element of risk that enables the performative moment. The act of engaging the audience as a performer creates crucial opportunities for connection between artist and audience, audience and artwork, and perhaps most importantly, audience and the concepts and issues foundational to the work.
  3. Object-based artworks, which are stand-ins for the artists' own bodies - These objects may be the result of performative actions (performance ephemera or documents), or works that are meant to allow the artist to be present ("performing") in the space while providing the relative safety and detachment of physical distance.
  4. Artists whose bodies are hidden within the work - There are many different ways for bodies to be hidden within performance.  Costumes, obstructive props, and employment of separate performance and viewing spaces are but a few of the ways that artists can be physically present yet also absent from the performance. Artists may even be hidden by virtue of the fact that the audience is unsure of which person in a roomful of people is the artist.

Removing the artist's body from performance creates opportunities for others to step inside the work physically, conceptually or symbolically.  Denying the artist's centrality as the locus of the performance rejects the rarified position of the artist — hiding one body in order to substitute and privilege others' bodies, knowledge and expertise.

SAAG will host five artists, from New Zealand, United States, Japan, and Canada:

Vito Acconci (New York City, US), a contemporary artist best known for his work produced in the 1970s and 1980s, was influential in the American conceptual, video, and performance genres of that time period.  Acconci’s work since the early 70s has focused on blurring borders between audience and artist, while his performance quickly shifted from a focus on the body to work from which his body was absent. From performance featuring only his voice, to conceptual performance work that was manifested as prints, to work where his body was hidden within the performance space, Acconci’s art has been foundational to the concept of performance in the absence of the artist’s body. Acconci has exhibited widely around the globe, including solo shows at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, the New York Museum of Modern Art, and Cologne’s Kolnischer Kunstverein.

Blair Brennan (Edmonton, AB) is an artist who believes in magic — particularly the kind wherein an object is able to transmit important information to a receptive viewer; where words are inadequate, art can convey meaning and perform the impossible. 

David Cross' Bounce (Wellington, NZ) is a large inflatable structure that the public is invited to play and climb on.  Users may not be aware that the artist is, in fact, inside the structure unless they notice the two tiny eye-holes.  Bounce will be installed behind the SAAG in Galt Gardens, in a one-day performance on August 16.  Cross' interactive work Pump will be installed in the gallery throughout the duration of the exhibition, and will be available for performance by the public.

Mandy Espezel's mixed media sculptural work (Lethbridge, AB) physically manifests anxieties around identity and bodily subjectivity, evoking the vulnerability felt at the limits of communication.

In photographic documentation of her performance Hiding/Observing, Mami Takahashi (Tokyo, JA) evokes the alienation of being between cultures.  While attempting to be invisible, Takahashi paradoxically draws attention to herself.  She currently resides in Portland, Oregon.

The Missing Body project is taking place throughout the City of Lethbridge and across the prairies. It includes works from the following artists: Vito Acconci, Blair Brennan, David Cross, Mandy Espezel, Sam Guerrero, Guerrilla Girls, Calder Harben, Rachel Herrick, Michelle Lacombe, Naima Lowe, Cheli Nighttraveller, and Mami Takahashi.  For details on our community partners and the additional works in the exhibition please refer to The Missing Body brochure.

The Missing Body: performance in the absence of the artist is supported by the Southern Alberta Art Gallery (SAAG), the Allied Arts Council of Lethbridge, Casa, Trapdoor Artist Run Centre, Mountain Standard Time, the Potemkin Collective, the University of Lethbridge/the Penny Building Gallery, DC3 Projects (Edmonton), and other community partners.  Funding assistance from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, the City of Lethbridge and the Heart of our City.

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