While in Paris last week, I dropped by the Centre Pompidou to take a look at some art. The Center is quite big and relatively new so I’d never been there before. I already knew half of the pieces exhibited in the permanent collection, either because I’d seen them in some of my classes (that’s the case for a few Aktionismus and found footage videos, like Fuses by Carolee Schneemann) or because they were somehow in this or that retrospective, exhibition, etc; a few of the ones I had not yet seen struck me for specific reasons. One of those was Sigalit Landau‘s Barbed Hula which picked up on the 70′s performance art movement involving taking the body to the extreme – sometimes resulting in self-harm. It was a very touching piece, very simple and very beautifully filmed. It depicts a naked woman – presumably the artist herself – playing with a hula hoop. One soon realises that the hula hoop is made of barbed wire and that every turn will mark the woman’s body.
Another was Heartbeat by Nan Goldin. I have often seen photo-series by her, the one which got me the most in the past was one about her friend’s stay in the hospital. She had picked out one photograph for each day, showing the progress of the illness and the despair and sadness which hung over everyone’s head in that hospital room. This one, however, was a slideshow documenting intimate moments between couples she knew. It didn’t feel like voyeurism the way watching Fuses does; it was a beautiful work, especially since the soundtrack to it was a song by Björk – somehow, the ethereal voice of the Icelandic singer worked well with the concept and the images.
I tend to be partial to nudity. Mainly because these days, I feel like nudity and violence are used in art just like anywhere else to shock and attract rather than to make a real point; that is why I’m always thrilled to find a work which brings in nudity or blood because they are essential to the piece.

One Comment

  • Just checked out a film of that Landau piece on Youtube. Yes, very beautiful – but it also has a kind of dangerous fascination which I love.

    I think you are spot on regarding the whole nudity/violence/transgression thing. There is nothing wrong with creating extreme works of art which may be shocking and disturbing to some. The challenge is to do it in an honest and serious manner. That’s why I admire the Actionists so much. I was privileged to attend a Pentecost Feast at Nitsch’s castle earlier this year. I thought he’d given up the big actions so I was very surprised – and annoyed, cos I wasn’t there – to learn he just did one in the Netherlands. There’s a brilliant set of photos of it here:


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