Some art projects dealing with Global challenges
Interview by Jean Fisher : In Spirit of Conviviality
- Land artist Michael Heizer’s double negative 1969 – a displacement of 240K tons of earth in the Nevada desert;
- Water de Maria’s Lighting Field, 1977 – 400 steel lightning conductors set in a grid over a square mile of the New Mexico desert;
- Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, 1970
Adrian Piper’s 1907 -71 Catalysis series f absurd street performance.
Adrian Piper’s works are about taking risks and challenging herself as an artist. She dives right into the concept without any hesitation or self-doubt. She did just that for her first performance of the Catalysis Series too. She soaked her clothes in a mixture of vinegar, eggs, milk, and cod-liver oil for a week. She then wore these on a public train in the evening. There is nothing else that could provoke more reactions from surrounding people than wearing the nasty smell of vinegar on a public train during rush hours.
Essentially a recording of the artist whistling along a piece by Bach, the German composer, the second performance was a much subdued version of a commentary on social behavior and norms.
The third performance included a shopping trip to Macy’s, a departmental store. The artist wore clothing that had previously been painted with sticky white emulsion paint. The front of her shirt read “WET PAINT”. Just like a park bench marked with the same warning, she became a thing of curiosity. Anyone witnessing a similar scenario would be intrigued to know whether the paint was actually wet. They would want to touch her, but would not do so in fear of doing something that might perhaps have been offensive in a ‘normal’ situation.
Carried out in 1971, the seventh piece involved Piper going into public places and taking public transport with a mouthful, literally! She had stuffed a white bath towel on the sides of her mouth with the other end hanging out in front of her. With this defiance of proper public conduct, she was coercing her audience to shun or scorn her behavior.
Libraries require a certain social conduct. Naturally, one of Piper’s performances was staged at the Donnell Library, New York. The artist had recorded herself making belches at five-minute intervals previously. For the performance, she hid the tape recorder on her and carried on her usual research, reading and searching for books, while it loudly played in the background.
Possibly the piece that attracted the most attention, Catalysis VI involved some helium-filled Mickey Mouse balloons. The artist walked around Central Park in New York with these tied to her ears, her teeth as well as her hair. As compared to the rest of the performances, this was also the most theatrical one.
For the last performance, Piper demonstrated the same courage and audacity as her very first work of the series. She actually played the role of a viewer and the viewed simultaneously at the Metropolitan Museum Of Art, New York. While experiencing the art, she chewed on large amounts of chewing gum, blew up large balloons and let the remnants of the gum remain on her face. Possibly the most interesting out of the lot, this work not only challenged social norms but also the roles of the artist as well as the viewer.