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This is NOT an Artefact: Under Arena D.I.B

Published 11 November 2015 Simon Marsh.

Art would express a perception, whether it was an intuitive thought or a sensation, and transform this non-objective sensation into knowing. (1)

It is no secret that from around 2010 the medium of drawing has plateaued. Yet it remains an art form that has succeeded since time immemorial. To suggest that drawing could fail is at a glance, fanciful, headline grabbing hyperbole. After all drawing is a material event that manifests often before we can talk: it seems hard wired into the human DNA. And yet Stefano Milani suggests that both the practice and discourse surrounding the medium has experienced a certain fatigue both in its capacity to understand and reflect. (2) The implied grandeur associated with contemporary drawing practice which toward the more fanatical end of the spectrum sees the medium as embodying all human and non corporeal gesture thereby can be seen to be threatening contemporary drawing with an over arching meaninglessness. Think here of vapour trails and digital mapping. (3) This capacity to increasingly veer toward metaphor through an invitation of distant media can almost be seen as begging for curatorial interrogation (4) and yet these provocative levels of de-skilling are holding hostage the foregrounding of knowledge and critical communication which together operate toward the material event of an overall visual appreciation or artistically aesthetic moment. It simply remains a fact that human thought, words and the drawn line are, amongst others, cognitive representational tools that we have all utilised at some stage in our life. However to suggest that “drawing is free from convention and therefore it is the ultimate expression of freedom,” is simply an outmoded expression that modernism – perhaps naively –  aspired toward. It embodies a paradoxical bind in that freedom without being tainted by necessity argues for drawing to inhabit its medium irrespective of the components utilised in the processes of making, irrespective of the finished piece. And so it remains that throughout the contemporary galaxies that together comprise the medium of drawing this article attempts to disentangle a few of the key components at play in a hybridised performative drawing event. However before digressing to the Under Arena performance art event, let’s take a quick look at the contemporary institutional state of the arts which is seemingly undermining criticality in lieu of market sustainability.

Art is difficult it is not entertainment. There are only a few people who can say something about art – (as a grouping of mediums) it is very restrictive. When I see a new artist I give myself a lot of time to reflect and decide whether it is art or not. (5)

It is the simple reality that most artists today rely on post graduate scholarships that enable them to pursue a professional career. That these scholarships demand an artistic production in alignment with a university’s ‘creative research’ policies can be viewed as the trade off. (6) Institutional art runs strangely parallel to a more independently professional output with both forms often inhabiting completely divergent universes. Now whilst ‘creative research’ is essential it runs the risk of infecting a practice into producing nothing more than an ‘art by numbers’ in lieu of artistic problem solving. The often times predictability of artistic objects meeting these research based outcomes in an alignment with the priorities of a market-oriented university can lead to a general subversion of art from its very mandate: (7) to agitate a response from the viewing public regardless of the intimated themes which at times can be considered as a violent event capable of tearing the fabric of our individual sensible construct. And yet the corporatisation of our institutions continues to sell – via a plethora of three word slogans – a corrupted model of art education arguably the mis-education of the next generation of artists. And it is arguably this level of de-skilling that we are beginning to experience first hand in the ever diminishing landscape of the Australian public, not for profit and commercial gallery spaces. To consider that all of this is happening primarily to sustain a constancy of capital flow through the educational institution has over time throughly corrupted a large portion of contemporary Australian art, artists and the education institution itself with many Australian institutions currently ‘flexing down’ (the corporate managerial genre of communication) through their trimming of essential core course outcomes and an embracing of the creative industries – once again following the money trail – which in turn threatens the total collapse of contemporary art to that of mere institutionally directed form of entertainment. And so we begin to see a corporatised institutional reasoning driven by market sustainability to be casting a wide net in cherry-picking from a variety of ‘distant’ mediums in satiating a desire to incorrectly and prematurely expand already over extended artistic disciplines. This approach can and often does lead to catastrophic failure and requires eventual recalibration. However the damage done by this methodology is at times irreparable from a paying practitioners perspective.

The way we use such terms as ‘universities’, higher education (and in this case art) is now best understood as the deployment of an inherited vocabulary without the underlying assumptions that for a long time made sense of it. (8)

Now with respect to drawing, the Queensland College of Art (QCA) via Dr William Platz, reasons that it is in fact “drawers who define what drawing encapsulates,” (9) and as such the institution has thrown open its doors in the acceptance of an unfathomably broad spectrum of mediums that together hold a tenuous grasp on the medium of drawing. Such a broad spectrum that for example a photographic practice receives right of passage toward securing a place at the mediums table. Add to this the highly dubious contemporary claims that the camera be positioned as both pencil and brush with the software as the palette underscores the contentiousness of this come what may approach. Now as convincing as Platz’s reasoning sounds it is simply a part – albeit an essential and central part – of the overall story of canonical acceptance. Of course the art and what the artist has to impart is the centralised theme. However hanging off this presently metaphorical central object is a variety of theorists, art historians, philosophers, social theorists and even psychiatrists who together engage in a rigorous process of criticality – for sometimes years – before a green light is given to any medium or part thereof. Interestingly in a similar vein to art making it entails the processes involved in theoretical artistic problem solving. Hence an institutional throwing open, the casting of a wide dragnet approach in an attempt to resuscitate a medium that does not require it, seems at the very least self-defeating. The “emancipation of drawing” that this statement intimates makes real the adage that the language of rebellion today is the rhetoric of sales tomorrow. (10) Need we look any further than Vivian Westwood to comprehensively appraise the truth value of this adage. That the medium of drawing as it stands is looking more like a multi headed, multi media inspired nightmare in desperate need of remedial surgery – a medium that has lost its theoretical poignancy (11) – highlights a need to at the very least, begin again in clearly defining – in accepted contemporary artistic and theoretical terms – what it is that actually constitutes drawing and specifically in this instance a hybridised collective of mediums that at times comfortably gather under the umbrella of performance art.

The Drawing International Brisbane Symposium (D.I.B) ran for three consecutive days from 30 September through to 2 October 2015. Comprising twelve separate, though conceptually linked exhibitions housed in commercial through to ‘not for profit’ gallery spaces with two exceptional public events and with over forty papers disseminated by local, national and international artists and art theorists, the D.I.B 2015 symposium held something of interest for all who participated. However the main thrust of this article is not to engage with an overall appraisal of the symposium but rather set a course for a balanced critical appraisal of the dynamics at play in one particular event.

Under Arena was one of the lesser-seen public events. A performance art happening installed into the historic Spring Hill Reservoir, it inaugurated the symposium and was in the main a captivating example of artistic professionalism. However before descending the two and a half flights of scaffolded stairway leading into the Reservoir – a space that holds the sublime aesthetic of an ancient subterranean aqueduct – it is of the utmost importance to momentarily digress yet again in following a troubling trend that has surfaced in the usage of the word theatricality as an institutional descriptor of performance art. A signifier that encompasses the banality of an artistic indeterminacy: in essence, art’s skepticism of art. Now theatricality in art – to be brief – was framed as that which renders a work as only capable of attaining nothing more than mere objecthood. Raising thoughts of fraudulence and in-authenticity, theatricality in art is positioned directly in opposition to an acknowledged artistic intentionality, physicality, immersivity, conversational ambiguity and an aesthetic absorption amongst many more. But where to begin to digress? Perhaps in this case beginning toward the end of the symposium would lend an overall symmetry to what it is that requires discussing.

I am completely an elitist, in the cultural but emphatically not the social sense. I prefer the good to the bad, the articulate to the mumbling, the aesthetically developed to the merely primitive, and full to partial consciousness. I love the spectacle of skill. (12)

The well-attended plenary session saw Associate professor Elisabeth Findlay chair a refreshingly heated panel discussion which included Deanna Petherbridge, Hannah Matthews and Barbara Bolt. What had become very clear very quickly – due to an unfortunate late arrival – was the disparaging way Bolt was correctly referring to the term theatricality in art and her contemptuousness toward certain forms of performative documentation. The process of documentation is currently a vexed issue with respect to performance art maintaining a stability and longevity as a medium throughout its recent ascension into the canon. But how best to preserve a contemporary corporeal form of ephemeral art for posterity? For critics, writers and the public, also students, curators and importantly the artists? This in itself raises too many issues to cover here however it remains a territory that is hotly contested throughout performance art’s resurgence onto the market’s radar. And yet it was as if no one in the lecture theatre quite knew how to absorb and or respond to Bolt’s unremittingly defiant stance (perhaps this was due to a shared exhaustion acquitting the burgeoning two day program) however theatricality was also one of the descriptors utilised by all but two of the artists I had interviewed with respect to the Under Arena performance art event. That they were the Sydney based duo of Todd Fuller and Carl Sciberras who together contribute to the conceptualisation’s behind the performance art group Flatline, intimates that a distance from the current theoretical trajectory of the QCA mandate contributed to their avoidance of and therefore tacit understanding of the disparaging affect theatricality has always had throughout a contemporary artistic practice. And yet when we begin to hear this malignant term used repeatedly by cohorts of the same school of art it threatens to become at the very least endemically worrying. However before we begin to reposition the lexicon of theatricality currently used by the QCA cohort toward an understanding of artistic intentionality, let’s firstly take a look at the consequences that theatricality has in its sublimation of an artistic practice. And yet we also need to question the legitimacy of its continued use as it has become a loaded term that art historian’s continue to throw about regardless of Michael Fried distancing himself from it – following a twenty-five year hiatus from actively pursuing art writing – in his most recent book Four Honest Outlaws (2011).

Every transition of the major ‘isms throughout Modernism from arguably Neo-Romanticism through Impressionism, modernism and Post Modernism invokes a ‘take no prisoners’ masculine violence. And so it was with the changing of the guard from modernism to Minimalism. What Fried liked to call Literalism. A devout Modernist and reverent disciple of Clement Greenberg what it was that Fried set out to achieve was to academically discredit Minimalism and the main protagonists namely Donald Judd and Robert Morris of what he termed a mere throwaway theatrical objecthood. Amongst other concerns and without venturing into Fried’s labyrinthine theory it can be seen that shape and the ability to invoke a gestalt of a “constant known shape” was what troubled modernist painters such as Stella, Olitski and Noland et al as well as the Literal sculptors. These artists held that it was the completeness of the singleness of the shape that secured the wholeness of the object. However the question of whether shape is a fundamental property of objects as opposed to shape as being a medium in and of itself remained a point of ongoing contention. (13) However Fried assesses this by suggesting that:

modernist painting has come to find it imperative that it defeat or suspend its own objecthood, and that the crucial factor in this undertaking is shape, but shape that must belong to painting. Whereas literalist art stakes everything on shape as a given property of objects, if not, indeed, as a kind of object in its own right. It aspires not to defeat or suspend its own objecthood, but on the contrary to discover and project objecthood. (14)

And so the sheer physicality of a piece of literalist sculpture, its unified wholeness and psychological (re) positioning of the viewer/beholder as a subject with the work as an object that exists in a non-relational space, intimated for Fried a theatrical presence:,

The answer I want to propose is this: the literalist espousal of objecthood amounts to nothing other than a plea for a new genre of theatre; and theatre is now the negation of art. Literalist sensibility is theatrical because, to begin with it is concerned with the actual circumstances in which the beholder encounters literalist work. (15)

Now it may seem surprising to some that Fried is exclusively dealing here with painting and sculpture however the term ‘theatricality’ since the writing of Art and Objecthood has been co-opted by art historians to critically assess many different and varied mediums with performance art constantly under the critical lens. However the point that needs to be reasserted is that Fried has distanced himself from the conclusions he raised throughout the writing of Art and Objecthood. In fact what we see in his most recent book is a man who has encountered an epiphany at the hands of Joseph Marioni’s translucent layering of liquid light. What we see is a born again Michael Fried describing the work as “paintings in the most fullest and exalted sense of the word.” (16) What we encounter is an individual who ‘discovers’ that the works of the Minimalists such as Robert Ryman and Brice Marden and the ‘concrete’ and ‘radical’ artists of Europe leading toward the Russian Formalists were in fact worthy of inclusion into the canon. What he goes to great lengths to stress is that the works themselves “actively raise the questions of intention behind them” and that the dedication to the art of painting as opposed to thoughts of surpassing that art form and thereby falling into mere objecthood is in the main what has allowed Fried to embrace the works of these artists. (17) In short it is a case of meaning what we say when communicating through art. It is the overall knowledgeable intention and the complexities of the artistic conversation in asserting the hand of the artist that requires reconciling.

Faith is naught but the repetition or acknowledgement of doubt. (18)

As for Descartes, philosophical skepticism is in a sense the incapacity to trust your physical experience of the world (of knowledge) as being intelligible. Everything essentially can be questioned and the only given fact is that we know we exist because we know we are questioning. (19) Now throughout his book Must We Mean What We Say? (1969) Stanley Cavell addresses intention, seriousness and sincerity in both art and music by testing it against claims of skepticism, fraudulence, insincerity and deceptiveness. In a Cavellian sense intention in an art practice equates to an artist ‘meaning’ what they communicate through visual language and the ability of the viewer to comprehend this meaning. (20)

Rather than freeing the flow of ideas the art market limits the discourse to the circulation of easily marketable clichés. (21)

Throughout the arts there exists many shades of difference. The varied language genres or communities that comprise contemporary artistic practice are testament to our constant encountering of what Jean-François Lyotard terms a ‘differend.’ In language this ‘differend’ occurs when phrases of particular language genres or communities conflict, rendering comprehension impossible by either one of the parties. (22) And as such for Lyotard there can be no meta-narrative that can claim both “universality and adjudicative power,” precisely due to the fact that there is no shared vocabulary and possibly more to the point: because meta-discourses “hide exclusionary rules beneath a rhetoric of inclusion.” (23) Take this article as proof of the preceding statement by Gallagher. The meta-narrative then forms part of the modern enlightenment tradition in which a particular ‘I’ or ‘you’ is subsumed into a universal ‘we’ – Lyotard refers to this form of interaction as “conversational imperialism.” (24) However what is preferred is what Lyotard refers to as an event – the manifestation of a phrase in a plurality of phrases. Each phrase is assembled in compliance with a set of rules or laws: “such as describing, narrating, questioning, and ordering.” (25) Each phrase is in essence a part of a ‘language genre’ that inhabits a universe of alternate ‘language genres’. Now what is being suggested here is a focus on the celebration of an articulated difference as opposed to an in-authentic homogeneity of language and affect.

However when looking at art Lyotard believed that this place of in-betweeness, this place of ‘otherness’ and interruption – the ‘differend’ – is what produces the sublime in visual discourse. This liminal metaphysical moment, experience or shock, is the violence of an aesthetic appreciation taking shape. The post-modern sublime then can be understood as an event directly related to the ‘differend’ and the in-between, liminal space it occupies. (26) Great works of art Lyotard argues will always hold this ‘double bind’. This shock that the soul experiences is evidence that nothing in fact can be suspended. This violence has the disposition of something taking place. It has the integrity of a “material event.” (27) To summarise Lyotard’s thesis is to comprehend that throughout visual discourse this ‘differend’ is what signifies the whether we do or do not become sutured into an aesthetic form of sublime ambiguity the moment we become physically, conversationally and psychologically affected and absorbed into a sublime work of contemporary fine art.

Body based performance is a highly structured psychosexual realm enacted in real time that in effect denies the audience enjoyment or entertainment rather endorsing a collective gain, release or catharsis. (28)

As an affected and completely immersed observer of the material events evidenced in their unfolding throughout three of the five groups involved in the Under Arena performance art event, there was absolutely no sense of theatricality at play. At not one moment were thoughts of an artistic skepticism evidenced. In fact there was not one moment where thoughts of fraudulence, inauthenticity, insincerity, indeterminacy or artistic deceptiveness were called into question. What became evidenced was the heightened sense of a controlled aesthetic taking shape. This coupled with the synaesthetic determinacy of the aleatoric sound-scape activating an artistic intentionality which in turn heightened a series of material events by a seemingly unremitting assault of increasingly amplified shocks specifically directed toward the sensible ideal of self: shocks that spiralled to all intents and purposes, ever upward threatening in their intensity, an eruption, an exalted moment of sublime aesthetic ecstasy. These three groups orchestrated by Kellie O’Dempsey, Michael Dick, Zoe Porter, Ben Eli, Mariana Joslin,  Mayu Moto, Todd Fuller and Carl Scibberas, to put it simply were exceedingly eloquent in the enunciation of the language genre specific to performance art. The performance existed purely in the metaphysical and yet the medium inhabited the corporeal. Their use of time, space and place within which to create, embodied none other than “the spectacle of skill.” (29) 

And so it seems incomprehensible for O’Dempsey to use theatricality as a standout signifier: a descriptor that had absolutely nothing to do with what was experienced. The use of ‘carnivalesque’ by Porter that was in turn echoed by O’Dempsey conjures an entertaining sideshow attraction that hovers around the boundaries of theatricality. However Platz’s purposefully intermittent insertion of signifiers such as the “theatre of drawing” or “the stage” signifying the drawing environment and models Dias, heralded a sign of things to come for the QCA drawing department. Let’s be very clear here in saying that contemporary art’s mandate has and continues to deny entertainment. And as Jenni Sorkin has clearly pointed out what it is that we are looking for is a collective gain, release or catharsis when interacting with performance art. A celebration of the artistic body, the aesthetic moment (s) and a visual lexicon of ideas that we can intelligibly interact with: the phenomenological, social and political concerns of art-making. (30) Indeed it requires asking once again: must we mean what we say when communicating about and through art? Problematically what we are seemingly faced with today is the very real prospect that being a contemporary artist does not intentionally equate with a comprehensive understanding of art. To paraphrase Gary Carsley: being a contemporary artist requires a memory that extends beyond last Thursday. And so it stands that if the conceptual scaffolding consists of merely a few cherry-picked ‘distant’ constructs, ill thought through and hastily harnessed in the supposed bolstering of a finished piece of art (often after the act of producing) then one would feel correct in raising thoughts of an artistic skepticism.

And yet given the school’s choice of language, perplexingly all the four pillars of performance art were masterfully displayed and addressed by these three groups. The interdisciplinary nature of performative art held, in this case, a captivating professionalism. The corporeal medium in turn translated toward a hyper-extended process of mark making. And whilst endurance was not an aspect of this particular performance, the suspension of time can be seen as a strategy that was utilised to perfection in the elevation of a series of material events. And whilst the Reservoir, the space, initially threatened a feeling of theatricality, primarily due to its other worldly aesthetic and distinct imposing form, it simply faded toward a secondary consequence as soon as the performance event commenced. The eye of the viewer was specifically and at times forcefully directed toward the performers and their disciplinary interaction with the processes of drawing. There existed a fluidity of difference and yet a common coherent dialogue throughout the visual conversation between these three separate groups of artists. All of which in turn artistically enhanced the relationship between the performer, the artwork, the viewer and the space.

The interdisciplinary onslaught of affectation ranged in turn from the authenticity of action expressed by Kellie O’Dempsey’s integration and hybridised blending of the digital and analogue. A dynamic process of contemporary mark making that referenced the anti-extentional, visionary, transcendental and metaphysical nature of an abstracted expressionism. Interestingly the material events created by O’Dempsey lay in the palpable in-between space that was initiated between the layering of the digital line over that of the analogue. The degrees of distance that this layering intimated allowed the eye of the viewer to comfortably inhabit this in-between space of liminality. The hyper absorption of O’Dempsey’s technique of mark making: dynamic, building, big and bold chiaroscuric gestures back dropping the electric incandescence of the digital line, over time, became increasingly difficult to detach from. The degrees of a spacial distance and the celebration of an articulated difference of media that these three groups exhibited were all heightened by the tempered sound sculpting of both Michael Dick and Ben Eli: unremitting in its aleatoric cyclical determinancy.

The Dada inspired surreal sublimity exhibited by Zoe Porter, Mariana Joslin and Mayu Moto that in turn also loosely referenced Fluxus with its incorporation of the viewers shadow-play and action into a series of highly worked appropriated projected imagery. The soft sculptural works that evoked a distinct sense of a hybrid form: referencing both the human and animal this hybridity acted as a psychological trigger allowing us access into an otherworldly frame of reference. Porter’s style of performance is hyper organic which allows her to respond in real time to real events and although a rough roadmap of the performance is discussed beforehand it is apt to change. The levels of an artistic phenomenology that operate throughout a Porter performance exacerbate an almost predetermined choice of whether we do or do not fall down Porters metaphorically constructed rabbit hole. As always it remains our individual choice as to whether we converse with the work or not. It is difficult. It is primal and yet intrinsically human, shamanistic and conceptually animal. Foundational in its referencing of the three basic shapes of drawing from which anything can manifest. However it is Porter’s capacity to slightly alter the projected outcome in real time that maintains an overarching element of danger: expect the unexpected. Once again we witnessed many points of access to the performance in which to converse with the work through its unfolding and the distinct processes of conceal/reveal that played a forceful aspect to Porter’s performance was also elegantly realised by Flatline.

When we start to drill down into the particulars of collaboration we consistently enter a space of experimentation that can be seen as a form of professional development. This sense of professional development can be clearly evidenced in the degrees of difference shown by Todd Fuller and Carl Sciberras together comprising Flatline: a practice that is based on technicalities and how to resolve the differences that exist between the languages of contemporary choreography, dance and drawing. What we are dealing with here is the interior/exterior nexus of line, point, space, shape and contour and how these basic actions can be interrogated and reconciled between each medium in arriving at a hybridised intellectual, artistic rendering of physicality. And as both artists agree there exist many points of entry for a viewer to engage the embodied dialogue of Flatline.

Formerly comprising a space inhabited by a dancer. Across this dancer – through an old school analogue epidiascope – is projected a film of transparency upon which a drawer makes their marks. Projected in this case onto a wall the drawn expression of the usually ephemeral medium of dance is quick and reflexive threatening both the drawn line and dancer to at times falter. Yet the simpatico between both artists immediately recovers toward a fluency of expression. The egalitarian nature of this collaboration sees this particular dynamic working both ways in adding to the intimated extremes of both mediums. The constancy of this push and pull between both of these medium’s build in the creation of a spatial liminality. It once again becomes an intense viewing moment to be a part of the degrees of an artistic knowingness that Flatline exhibit: it remains nothing short of mesmerising to behold. The fluidity of movement between both artists allows them to skilfully create and importantly sustain an articulated space throughout each performance. Both artists are alert to each other’s predisposition and can, but importantly will acquiesce to the better choice of line, the better choice of movement, shape contour and point. However the technique utilised by Sciberras of on occasion distancing himself from the intimated canvas, the wall, allowed Fuller to play and extend: articulating the line between the corporeal and the non-corporeal, the body and the shadow. Once again intentionally creating distance and space for the viewer to inhabit, this liminal space of uncertainty of which the human eye is drawn is an essential aspect to most contemporary practice. This doubling up of the form and line seemingly stretches the fabric of space and time. It offers a series of material events as triggers of a conversational ambiguity with which to enter the work. This level of an informed and focussed, professional performative practice can all be seen to be synonymous with the intention’s of performance art.

Adversely and surprisingly given Platz’s performative studio based practice which exhibits an intimated contact between and the complete embodiment of the corporeal, almost eliciting a visceral communion between the artist and model: Under Arena for Platz could be viewed as a failure. It evoked the level of poor choices made in the conceptualisation and execution of the performance. Drawing only in the most literal of senses with brush and ink whilst evoking a gestalt of high Modernist conservatism the work also failed as performance art. Whilst the denial of the artist’s body within the overall performative arena could be configured as a form of anti-performance, this was not it. Having segregated the space with an arch of Belgian linen the image gradually appeared to the viewer without any reference to the source of creation. This choice was incomprehensibly in direct reaction to the high levels of embodiment already exhibited by the other artists. However and importantly it removed the medium of performance art from the viewing public. Add to this the levels of interruption, the source of spatial static caused by the stretched canvas which inhibited the sonic flow and relegated the artistic conversations to that of the three previously mentioned groups. The canvas acted as a full stop, a cull de sac, an almost impenetrable void. Now whilst skill in execution was simply undeniable and a knowledgable grasp on the crucial aspects of time and spatial attenuation were evident the fact remains that behind this curtain of canvas Platz can clearly be seen to be referencing a sheet of paper throughout the production of the artistic object. Which oddly points to thoughts of an artistic fraudulence and an overarching skepticism when thinking about this configuration as performance art. And that the artwork produced was preordained for future exhibiting status immediately removed any sense of the ephemeral. In this instance the documentation is damning. Once having seen the documented imagery it is hard to turn away from the signifiers of an artistic insincerity.

And so it was not surprisingly that Velvet Pesu – inhabiting a space that was simply on the wrong side of Platz – remained invisible to any form of documentation that was available on the night: ironically making Pesu’s output the most ephemeral. That is until she broke through the spatial void intimated by Platz’s effort with her ritualised vocal performance piece, visibly linking all of the performers with what looked to be a large water loaded calligraphy brush that was dragged and splashed throughout the space. However it was the embodied, the emotive presence of Pesu and the distinct force that her delivery carried that cut through to a state of ambiguous reckoning within the viewer. It was time to reflect, the overall performance as such had reached its close.

High Performance (1978-1997) was central to the development, expansion and legitimisation of performance art as a medium distinct from theatre creating both an audience and a venue for the dissemination of live experimental and conceptual body-based work. (31)

Out of Los Angles High Performance magazine ran a highly structured manifesto in its acceptance of what does and does not constitute performance art. A magazine published and written by artists for artists, arts professionals and the general public, it became a go to magazine for referencing the subtle changes within the medium. Its nineteen year history can certainly be seen to have had influence toward the medium being accepted into the canon. Now if held to the High Performance structure, Under Arena would simply not be viewed as performance art. However when the medium is viewed as a whole from Dada and the advent of the Cabaret Voltaire through to a contemporary understanding performance art’s current hybridised blending of mediums can operate as a unified form of expression. That it has had to become more refined in its intentionality is certainly the case. And that it has had to surmount accusations of theatricality is a constant. However as professionals we do need to mean what we say when talking about our medium. Does performance as an art form still celebrate its ephemeral nature? To a degree, however what is of great interest here is the hybrid nature of a contemporary lexicon of interdisciplinary actions that can and do lead to worthwhile artistic investigations. The capacity to blend disciplines in the conceptualisation and performance of a piece of art and the benevolence of the shared attunement required in the performative process is certainly something to behold: one might say it is a radicalising experience.

Flatline (Todd Fuller + Carl Sciberras): “What we are dealing with here is the interior/exterior nexus of line, point, space, shape and contour…

Kellie O’Dempsey: Artist + Curator of the performance art event ”Under Arena.” Opening the Drawing International Brisbane Symposium 2015.

Zoe Porter: This conveyance is a subjectively inflected inference of the artistic intent of Zoe Porter, Ben Ely, Marianna Joslin and Mayu Moto.

Further Reading, Viewing and References

(1)  Kazimir Malevich.

(2)  Milani, Stefano  and Schoonderbeek, Marc. Drawing Theory: An Introduction.

(3) Kursynski, Karen. Drawing Is the New Painting. Art Journal, 2011.

(4) Griffin, Tim. Drawing now. Artforum International; 41, 135, 2003.

(5) Needham, Alex. Anselm Kiefer: Art is difficult, it’s not entertainment. The Guardian, 9 December, 2011.

(6) Carroll Harris, Lauren. Are Australian Universities Creating Good Artists? Overland 2015.

(7) Ibid.

(8) Collini, Stefan. Who are the sponges now? London Review of Books, 2016.

(9) In conversation with Dr William Platz.

(10) Above n4.

(11) Above n2.

(12) Hughes, Robert. The Spectacle of Skill: New and Selected Writings of Robert Hughes. Knopf, 2015.

(13) Fried, Michael. Art and Objecthood. 1967.

(14) Ibid.

(15) Above n13.

(16) Pestorius, David . A Room of Four Paintings by Joseph Marioni. Introduction Ross Searle. Brisbane: UQAM, 2000.

(17) Fried, Michael. Four honest outlaws: Sala, Ray, Marioni, Gordon. New Haven: Yale UP, 2011.

(18) Butler, Rex. Joseph Marioni and Robert Ryman: A Matter of (Not) Meaning It. 2012.

(19) Larmore, Charles. Descartes and Skepticism. The Blackwell Guide to Descartes’ Meditations. John Wiley & Sons: Blackwell P, 2008.

(20) Cavell, Stanley . A matter of Meaning It and Music Discomposed. Must We Mean What We Say? New York: Scribner, 1969.

(21) Above n3.

(22) Silverman, Hugh J. “Jean-Francois Lyotard-between Politics and Aesthetics: The Unbelievable Sublime”. Lyotard Philosophy, Politics and The Sublime. Edited by Hugh J. Silverman. Routledge, New York, 2002.

(23) Gallagher, Shaun. “Conversations in Postmodern hermeneutics: (II) The Conversation Between Rorty and Lyotard (Baltimore 1984)”. Lyotard Philosophy, Politics and The Sublime. Edited by Hugh J. Silverman. Routledge, New York, 2002.

(24) Ibid.

(25) Amit, Marcus. “Narrative Ethics and Incommensurable Discourses: Lyotard’s The Differend and Fowles’s The Collector”. Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature, 2008.

(26) Above n22.

(27) Aylesworth, Gary E. “Lyotard, Gadamer, and The Relation Between Ethics and Aesthetics: (III) Lyotard and The Sublime”. Lyotard Philosophy, Politics and The Sublime. Edited by Hugh J. Silverman. Routledge, New York, 2002.

(28) Envisioning high performance: Sorkin, Jenni. Art Journal; Summer 2003; 62, 2; ProQuest Central pg. 3.

(29) Above n12.

(30) Above n28.

(31) Ibid.


Of Interest: As a means to understand my own public drawing practice, I have recognised a need for a framework that examines the production of live drawing. Filtered through my observations at Draw to Perform 2, I will outline strategies that consider the presence, co-presence, materiality and participation of collaborative practice. This paper aims to identify elements and conditions of this event, questioning whether all drawing in public is performance? And, what it means to engage performance drawing? (kellie O’Dempsey)

Feel free to access the GCCAR website here. To download a range of papers from the symposium, navigate to this page.

Kellie O’Dempsey develops inclusive, site-specific installations and performances. Visit her website for a full overview of her practise.

Zoe Porter is a cross disciplinary artist working with a range of varying media. A detailed selection of her works can be viewed here.