– Summer 2013

When Form Starts Talking: On Lecture-Performances

Rike Frank

You are invited to a new talk piece by American poet David Antin. […] Antin is, in his own words, ‘committed to a poetry of thinking — not of thought but of thinking’. This thinking, like a work in progress, taking the shape of language, within the context of the gallery, represents, for us, a highly relevant and contemporary form.1

In a photograph relating to the event, a microphone stand is visible to the right, alone in the middle of a brightly lit gallery space, its boom arm swivelled towards the middle of the room, while to the left stands a bulky reel-to-reel tape recorder.2 Devoid of tables, chairs or any other typical elements of a classic lecture situation, such as a glass of water or a spotlight, the formal and aesthetic language of the setting recalls the tradition of post-Conceptual media installations — a reference further emphasised by the white-cube gallery space. In this way, the arrangement subverts the associations that most frequently spring to mind when we hear or read the term ‘lecture-performance’, namely an emphasis on the presence of the lecturer, the attendance of an audience and the social gathering that ensues from their encounter. Modes of communication, forms of subjectivity and mediation are nevertheless indubitably at the heart of the event; or, to put it another way, the focus is on processes of ‘remembering recording representing’ — as David Antin titled one of the chapters of his book talking at the boundaries (1976).3

Antin has been performing in public since the early 1970s. His talk pieces, or ‘talk poems’,

  1. ‘David Antin: talk piece’ [press release], Cabinet, London, 12 November 2009.

  2. There is no ‘documentation’ of Antin’s talk piece in the traditional sense — registering the talking. But Cabinet gallery provided three documents that survived the event: ‘the image of the space where David presented his talk piece, the invite and the press release’. Martin McGeown, Co-director of Cabinet, London, email correspondence with the author, 10 March 2013.

  3. David Antin, talking at the boundaries, New York: New Directions, 1976.

  4. In the July/August 1970 issue of Studio International (vol.180, no.924), each of these six critics was given eight pages to edit as they wished. Among the artists they invited to contribute were Eleanor Antin, Pier Paolo Calzolari, Hanne Darboven, Dan Graham, Stephen Kaltenbach, John Latham, Fred Lonidier, Mario Merz, N.E. Thing Co., Keith Sonnier and Gilberto Zorio. Subsequently, the issue was reproduced in book form: Seth Sieglaub (ed.), July/August Exhibition Book, London: Studio International, 1970.

  5. See, for example, Sabeth Buchmann, ‘Introduction: From Conceptualism to Feminism’, in Cornelia Butler et al., From Conceptualism to Feminism: Lucy Lippard’s Numbers Shows 1969—74, London: Afterall Books, 2012, pp.8—15.

  6. Ibid., p.9.

  7. Patricia Milder, ‘Teaching as Art: The Contemporary Lecture-Performance’, PAJ: Art Journal of Performance and Art, vol.33, no.1, January 2011, p.19.

  8. Robert Smithson’s Hotel Palenque originally took the form of a lecture given to architecture students at the University of Utah to accompany a series of slides he took of a hotel in Mexico in 1969, which, in the context of the work, illustrate and develop his idea of a ‘ruin in reverse’. The work exists since as a series of 31 colour slides and the audio recording of the lecture. See ‘Robert Smithson: Hotel Palenque, 1969—72’, Parkett, no.43, 1995, pp.117—32.

  9. Morris addressed many other important ideas in 21.3, in particular the subversion of Panofsky’s argument by ‘closing off the very distinction between form and content on which Panofsky’s demonstration had depended’. Kimberly Paice, ‘21.3, 1994’, Robert Morris: The Mind/Body Problem (exh. cat), New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 1994, p.160. He re-enacted the performance in 1994 with an actor as lecturer, which was filmed by Babette Mangolte.

  10. Anonymous, ‘Artists Talking at the Doubting Interface’, VerySmallKitchen [online blog], 20 December 2011, available at http://verysmallkitchen.com/2011/12/20/kitchen-essay-artists-talking-at-thedoubting- interface (last accessed on 2 April 2013).

  11. Jenny Dirksen, ‘Ars Academica — the Lecture between Artistic and Academic Discourse’, in Kathrin Jentjens et al. (ed.), Lecture Performance (exh. cat.), Berlin: Revolver Publishing, 2009, pp.9 16. The publication accompanied an eponymous exhibition at the K.lnischer Kunstverein in Cologne (24 October—20 December 2009), and then travelled to the Salon of the Museum of Contemporary Art (24 January—28 February 2010) and the Kuća legata (Heritage House, 24 January—24 February 2010), both in Belgrade.

  12. Marianne Wagner, ‘Doing Lectures: Performative Lectures as a Framework for Artistic Action’, in K. Jentjens et al., Lecture Performance, op. cit., pp.17—30.

  13. Hito Steyerl, ‘Withdrawal from Representation’, paper presented at the conference ‘The Psychopathologies of Cognitive Capitalism, Part 2’, Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry (ici), Berlin, 7—9 March 2013. See http://www.ici-berlin.org/event/476 (last accessed on 2 April 2013).

  14. In this context, Jean-Luc Godard’s Histoire(s) du cinema (1988—98) can also be read as a filmed lecture-performance.

  15. Andrea Fraser, ‘What Is Institutional Critique’, in John C. Welchman (ed.), Institutional Critique and After, Zürich: JRP|Ringier, 2006, p.306. Emphasis in the original. The essay first appeared in German as A. Fraser, ‘Was ist Institutionskritik?’, Texte zur Kunst, no.59, September 2005, pp.87—88.

  16. See Tom Holert, ‘Art in the Knowledge-based Polis’, e-flux journal, no.3, 2009, available at http:// www.e-flux.com/journal/art-in-the-knowledge-based-polis (last accessed on 2 April 2013); and Simon Sheikh, ‘Talk Value: Cultural Industry and Knowledge Economy’, in Binna Choi, Maria Hlavajova and Jill Winder (ed.), On Knowledge Production: A Critical Reader in Contemporary Art, Utrecht: basis voor actuele kunst, 2008, pp.182—97.

  17. Likewise, McGeown has said, ‘What interests me is the narrative structures that become physically apparent during the course of an Antin piece…’. Email correspondence with the author, 13 March 2013.

  18. ‘Amazing! Clever! Linguistic! An Adventure in Conceptual Art’, Generali Foundation, Vienna (18 January—28 April 2013).

  19. Guillaume Désanges, ‘Amazing! Clever! Linguistic! An Adventure in Conceptual Art’ [curatorial statement], Generali Foundation, Vienna, 2013, available at http://foundation.generali.at/en/info/press (last accessed on 2 April 2013).

  20. In his curatorial statement, Désanges defines ‘deskilled curating’ as ‘avoiding reflexes and the temptations of virtuosity, with the goal of reconnecting with the spirit of freedom and risk-taking that animated the pioneers of Conceptual art.’ Ibid.

  21. The performance was co-produced by Halles de Schaerbeek, Brussels; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; and FRAC Lorraine, Metz. An excerpt of the performance at the Generali Foundation is available at http://vimeo.com/58377603. Video footage of its presentation at Tate Modern, London (February 2009), is available at http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/video/ubs-openings-saturday-livecharacters- figures-and-signs-free-daytime-events (both last accessed on 2 April 2013).

  22. For example, Désanges has used this term to define his performance A History of Performance in 20 Minutes (2004). See ‘A history of performance in 20 minutes’, available at http://guillaumedesanges.com/ IMG/pdf/Dossierhistoireperfenglish7.doc.pdf (last accessed on 2 April 2013).

  23. G. Désanges, Signs and Wonders (Théorie de l’art moderne/ Théorème de l’art maudit) (trans. Matthew Cunningham), Vitry-Sur-Seine: MAC-VAL, 2010, p.63.

  24. See Richard Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1979.

  25. T. Holert, ‘Invitation to the Interval’, in Rike Frank (ed.), Sketches of Universal History Compiled from Several Authors by Sarah Pierce, London: Book Works, 2013, p.164. On the role of conversation within contemporary art, see also Monika Szewczyk, ‘Art of Conversation: Part I’, e-flux journal, no.3, February 2009, available at http://www.e-flux.com/journal/art-of-conversation-part-i; and M. Szewczyk, ‘Art of Conversation: Part II’, e-flux journal, no.7, June 2009, available at http://www.e-flux.com/journal/art-of-conversation-part-ii (both last accessed on 2 April 2013).

  26. D. Antin and Charles Bernstein, A Conversation with David Antin, New York: Granary Books, 2002, p.59.

  27. The exhibition ‘Push and Pull’ took place at the Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna (mumok, 6—31 October 2010); the eponymous performance programme took place at mumok and Tanzquartier, Vienna (1—31 October 2010) and, as a two-day programme, at Tate Modern, London (18—19 March 2011). See Barbara Clausen, ‘Parallel Times — Whether One’s Own or That of Others. On Curating Performance Art’, in Beatrice von Bismarck et al. (ed.), Timing — On the Temporal Dimension of Exhibiting, Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2013 (forthcoming); and R. Frank (ed.), Sketches of Universal History Compiled from Several Authors by Sarah Pierce, op. cit.

  28. Sarah Pierce, ‘Future Exhibitions’, in ibid., pp.136—57. The exhibition ‘0.10’ was held at Dobychina Gallery, Petrograd (19 December 1915—19 January 1916).

  29. See, for example, B. von Bismarck, ‘Making Exhibitions — Processing Relations’, in Peter Pakesch et al. (ed.), Protections. Das ist keine Ausstellung / Protections. This Is Not an Exhibition (exh. cat.), Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walter K.nig, 2006, pp.40—60.

  30. R. Frank, ‘On Affinities’, in R. Frank (ed.), Sketches of Universal History, op. cit., p.7.