– Summer 2013

Rupture and Continuity in Feminist Re-performance

Audrey Chan, Alexandra Grant, Elana Mann

Alexandra Grant and Channing Hansen, Womb-Womb Room, 2011, yarn, thread and wire in installation, dimensions variable. Installation view, Night Gallery, Los Angeles, 2012. Courtesy the artists.

In 2007, ‘WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution’ became the first museum retrospective to explore the legacy of international feminist art made between 1965 and 1980.1 The fact that this project was initiated at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles is no coincidence, since feminist art flourished within Southern California schools and artistic communities in the early 1970s.2 By now the exhibition has become a landmark of the recent impulse to re-examine Los Angeles’s post-War artistic legacy, and its feminist roots in particular. The project ‘Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945—1980’ can be understood in the wake of such institutional and critical reassessment.3 Unfolding from October 2011 until March 2012 in over sixty cultural institutions across Southern California, ‘Pacific Standard Time’ was based upon the premise that art movements that thrived in Los Angeles — such as feminist art, Chicano art, African-American art, Light and Space, LA Pop and post-Minimalism — have been neglected within the canon of modern art from the US, which has been predominantly focused on the New York art scene. Although canonisation may not have been a primary motivation for these artists, ‘Pacific Standard Time’ tacitly acknowledged that the only alternative to historisation is historical erasure.

In an effort to re-activate a large archive of performance and ephemeral works, a number of artists were invited to restage and reinterpret past performances for ‘Pacific Standard Time’, amongst whom were Alexandra Grant, Elana Mann and myself, Audrey Chan. Mann and I collaborated with artist-activists Leslie Labowitz-Starus and Suzanne Lacy to re-create Labowitz-Starus’s Myths of Rape (1977), originally performed as

  1. ‘WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution’, curated by Cornelia Butler, was first shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (4 March—16 July 2007), and then toured to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC (21 September—16 December 2007); PS1 Contemporary Art Center, Museum of Modern Art, New York (17 February—12 May 2008); and Vancouver Art Gallery (4 October 2008—11 January 2009). See C. Butler and Lisa Gabrielle Mark (ed.), WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution (exh. cat.), Los Angeles, Cambridge, MA and London: Museum of Contemporary Art and The MIT Press, 2007

  2. Examples include Judy Chicago’s Feminist Art Program at California State College, Fresno, from 1970 until 1971, which was later co-led with Miriam Schapiro at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), Valencia, from 1971 until 1973; the Feminist Design Program at CalArts, founded by Sheila de Bretteville in 1972; and the Woman’s Building in downtown Los Angeles, which operated from 1973 until 1991.

  3. The initiative began in 2002 and grew out of the work conducted by the Getty Research Institute to preserve a record of Los Angeles’s post-War art scene in the form of oral histories and archives. The Getty Foundation provided over 11 million dollars in grants to museums, galleries, universities and cultural institutions to research, exhibit, catalogue and host symposia and events featuring the art of this period. For more information on the project, see http://www.getty.edu/foundation/ funding/access/current/pst.html (last accessed on 5 March 2013).

  4. Suzanne Lacy, ‘“Three Weeks in May”: Speaking Out on Rape, a Political Art Piece’, Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, vol.2, no.1, Spring 1977, p. 64.

  5. Invited to California by gallerist Virginia Dwan, Saint Phalle realised her Tirs in front of a crowd that included John Cage, Ed Ruscha, Leo Castelli and the artist’s partner, Jean Tinguely. ‘Tirs: Reloaded’ took place on 22 January 2012, at Angeles Shooting Ranges in Lake View Terrace, California, and included work by Alex Becerra, Liz Craft, Karon Davis, Noah Davis, Alexandra Grant, Noah Kienholz, Lipschutz & Lipschutz, Matthew Monahan, Lara Schnitger, Henry Taylor, Jennifer West and Brigitte Zieger. See http://pacificstandardtimefestival.org/events/tirs-reloaded-by-niki-de-saint-phalle/ (last accessed on 4 March 2013).

  6. Alongside ‘Pacific Standard Time’, these include ‘Marina Abramović: Seven Easy Pieces’, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (9—15 November 2005) and ‘Allan Kaprow–Art as Life’, The Geffen Contemporary at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (23 March—30 June 2008). There have been similar attempts elsewhere, such as ‘Art in Action’ at the Tate Tanks, London (18 July—28 October 2012).

  7. Jenni Sorkin, ‘Mythology and the Remake: The Culture of Re-performance and Strategies of Simulation’, East of Borneo [online journal], 13 October 2010, available at http://eastofborneo.org/ articles/mythology-and-the-remake-the-culture-of-re-performance-and-strategies-of-simulation (last accessed on 4 March 2013). Mike Kelley,

  8. Mike Kelley, ‘Shall We Kill Daddy?’, in Marianne van Leeuw and Anne Pont.gnie (ed.), Origin and Destination: Alighiero e Boetti, Douglas Huebler (exh. cat.), Brussels: La Soci.t. des Expositions du Palais des Beaux-Arts du Bruxelles, 1997, pp.155—71. Available at http://strikingdistance.com/c3inov/ kelley.html (last accessed on 4 March 2013).

  9. Martha Rosler, ‘The Second Time as Farce’, IDIOM [online magazine], 21 February 2011, available at http://idiommag.com/2011/02/the-second-time-as-farce/ (last accessed on 4 March 2013).

  10. Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece was first performed on 20 July 1964 at Yamaichi Concert Hall in Kyoto. It was performed again by the artist at Theatre Le Ranelagh in Paris on 15 September 2003. See Kevin Concannon, ‘Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece: From Text to Performance and Back Again’, PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, September 2008, vol.30, no.3, pp.81—93.

  11. Nanas was the sculptures series Niki de Saint Phalle started making in the mid-1960s, right after Tirs. They are archetypal female forms made out of papier-mâché and often painted in bright colours

  12. Marina Abromović re-created seven performance works from the 1960s and 70s at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York on seven consecutive nights (9—5 November 2005). The first five nights featured works by Bruce Nauman, Vito Acconci, VALIE EXPORT, Gina Pane and Joseph Beuys, with two final nights of re-performances of her own work. See http://pastexhibitions.guggenheim.org/ abramovic/ (last accessed on 4 March 2013).