MIKE PARRIMAGE GALLERY

MIKE PARR SHERMAN GALLERIES GOODHOPE 6 SEPTEMBER - 29 SEPTEMBER 2001. MIKE PARR AND CARRIE LUMBY - A CONVERSATION. HOW DO YOU DEFINE PERFORMANCE ART AS A GENRE? ( AS OPPOSED TO EXPERIMENTAL THEATRE, VIDEO ART ETC) I THINK PERFORMANCE ART STRIVES TO SEPARATE ITSELF OUT FROM EXPERIMENTAL THEATRE, VIDEO ART ETC, VIA NOTIONS OF THE REAL. IT HAS A KIND OF CRISIS RELATIONSHIP TO THE REAL, WHICH I AM PARENTHESISING BECAUSE THE REAL IS BECOMING SUCH A VEXED NOTION AND A PROBLEMATIC CATEGORY. PERFORMANCE ART IS BOUND UP WITH THEATRE AND VIDEO BECAUSE IT IS A REPRESENTATIONAL FORM, BUT AT THE SAME TIME PERFORMANCE ART WORKS BY BREAKING WITH THEATRE AND VIDEO. IN A WAY WE COULD SAY THAT PERFORMANCE ART REPRESENTS THE 'REPRESENTATIONAL' AS A PERPETUAL CRISIS OF THE REAL. IN A DEEPLY PHILOSOPHICAL SENSE ITS REALISM IS A MIRROR IMAGE. TO TAKE JUST ONE PARAMETER OF THIS 'CRISIS'. I NEVER REPEAT PERFORMANCES BECAUSE REPETITION MEANS THAT THE PERFORMER BECOMES AN ACTOR, BECAUSE AS AN ACTOR ONE KNOWS IN ADVANCE WHAT WILL HAPPEN, NOT JUST PROPOSITIONALLY BUT PSYCHOLOGICALLY, EMOTIONALLY... AND ONE COULD THEREFORE PREPARE. IT IS THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF PREPARATION, OTHER THAN SIMPLE DETERMINATION, THAT MAKES MY PERFORMANCES SO EDGY. IT IS THIS 'BREAKDOWN' RELATIONSHIP TO THE PRESENT TENSE, THAT I HAVE SO OFTEN THEORISED IN THE PAST, THAT CONTINUES TO HAUNT MY UNDERSTANDING OF ART AS ACTION. WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE ACTUAL TEMPORAL PERFORMANCE AND ITS DOCUMENTATION? PERFORMANCE ARTISTS TAKE RISKS WITH IDENTITY, MENTAL HEALTH ETC, FOR THE SAKE OF CONTENTS THAT ARE ESSENTIALLY PRE-SYMBOLIC, THOUGH THE PARADOX IN MY CASE IS THAT I HAVE ALWAYS MAINTAINED THAT 'PERFORMANCE ART ENABLES ME TO THINK'. I'M ACKNOWLEDGING THEN THAT PERFORMANCE ART BREAKS SOMETHING UP. THE PROBLEM OF THE REPRESENTATIONAL IN THE FORM OF GHETTOS LIKE THEATRE, VIDEO ART, ETC, IS THAT THE FORMS DETERMINE THE CONTENT. OF COURSE THIS FORMALIST ACCUSATION IS STRENUOUSLY DENIED BY EXPERIMENTERS IN THOSE MEDIUMS, BUT THE REALITY OF PERFORMANCE ART ALWAYS DECONSTRUCTS THEIR POSITION. NOTHING GLEEFUL ABOUT THIS, BUT THE ESSENTIAL DIFFERANCE OF PERFORMANCE ART IS ASSERTED AS A CONSEQUENCE. THE BREAKING UP OF PERFORMANCE ART IS BOTH CATHARTIC (IN THAT THE PROBLEM OF ITS FORM IS SIMULTANEOUSLY A PROBLEM OF CONTENT) AND POLITICAL, BECAUSE IT EN-DISTANCES AND 'CRITICISES' THE REPRESENTATIONAL (EXPOSES TO VIEW THE REALISATION THAT ALL REPRESENTATION IS A FORM OF ILLUSIONISM AND ALIENATION). THIS SOUNDS LIKE HEAVY GOING! I CAN ONLY BURBLE IT OFF LIKE A CREDO BECAUSE I'VE SPENT YEARS HACKING MY WAY THROUGH THE PERFORMANCE WILDERNESS. MUCH MORE INTENSE AND OVERGROWN NOW THAT PERFORMANCE ART HAS SUCH AN ESTABLISHED NAME! DOCUMENTATION. GOOD QUESTION! IMMENSELY PROBLEMATIC IN EVERY RESPECT BECAUSE STRAIGHT OFF ONE COULD PLAUSIBLY ARGUE THAT THE PHOTOGRAPH OR THE VIDEOTAPE STANDING IN FOR THE TRANSGRESSIVE, REINCARNATES ITS PANIC AS A KIND OF FIXED ACCOUNT. IN A WAY THAT'S TRUE, BUT THE INTENSITY AND DISTURBANCE OF THAT TRUTH HAS PRODUCED ALL MY WORK IN OTHER MEDIA. FOR EXAMPLE, I BEGAN DRAWING AS A WAY OF INTERROGATING THE DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPH. IN OTHER WORDS DRAWING WAS MY WAY OF THINKING ABOUT DOCUMENTATION AS FREEZING. THE IMPLICATIONS OF THIS VERY SIMPLE PROCEDURE HAVE PRODUCED ALL THE MIASMAS OF THE SELF PORTRAIT PROJECT SUCH AS, PRINTMAKING, INSTALLATION, SCULPTURE. THE RANGE OF THIS WORK IS A WAY OF THINKING ABOUT POINT OF VIEW AS THE PRODUCER OF PRIVILEGED REPRESENTATIONS AND THE WAY IN WHICH SUCH RE- REPRESENTATION TURNS THE IMAGE INTO A KIND OF THEATRE OF SELF EXPRESSION. I AM ITALICIZING THEATRE HERE TO INDICATE THAT THE EXTENSIONS OF THE S.P.P. ARE AN EXAMPLE OF PERFORMANCE ART ENABLING ME TO THINK! IT IS A PROCESS THAT PARODIES THE SELF- EXPRESSIVE INTENTIONS OF THE ARTIST. YOU CAN SEE WHY I SET FIRE TO MY FOOT! BUT DOCUMENTATION IS NOT JUST A REIFIED PRODUCTION FOR MUSEUM CONSUMPTION. IT'S HAUNTED BY THE REALITY OF THE EVENT WHICH IS PRODUCING IT. THE CHICKEN AND EGG QUESTION RESOLVES VERY SIMPLY AND THE VERY INTERESTING THING IS THAT PERFORMANCE PHOTODOCUMENTATION AND FILM DOES LOOK VERY DIFFERENT FROM 'ART PHOTOGRAPHY' OR 'ART FILM'. THE PHOTOGRAPH OF THE VIETCONG OFFICER BEING EXECUTED BY A SOUTH VIETNAMESE GENERAL, HAS NEVER LOST ITS SHOCK OF THE REAL, BECAUSE THE PHOTOGRAPHIC MEANS IN THIS INSTANCE CAN'T DISPLACE THE REALITY OF THE EVENT. THE CHICKEN AND EGG QUESTIONS OF THE POST MODERN BECOME COMPLETELY TRIVIAL! THIS PHOTOGRAPH ALONE COMPLETELY SHORTS-OUT THE CAJOLERY OF JUDY ANNEAR'S PHOTOGRAPHIC CATEGORIES. SIMILARLY, THE SAME INCOHERENT URGENCY OF PERFORMANCE DOCUMENTATION IS NOT BEING ADDRESSED BY OUR MUSEUMS AS SALIENCE IN RELATION TO THE ESTABLISHED FORMS. PERFORMANCE ART HAS ALWAYS BEEN CONTAINED VIA THIS DOWNPLAYING OF INTENTION AND MEANING. DOCUMENTATION CAN PRESERVE THIS INTENTIONALLY AND DOES SO IN THE CORROSIVE SENSE THAT THE PERFORMANCE ARTIST INTENDS. ULTIMATELY THIS IS THE PROBLEM OF CURATORSHIP AND CRITICISM, WHICH ARE ALWAYS PREENINGLY OVER-PRIVILEGED FORMS IN A PROVINCIAL CULTURE.HOW DOES PERFORMANCE RELATE TO THE REST OF YOUR PRACTICE? PERFORMANCE ART IS MY WAY OF BREAKING UP THE STABILITY OF ART. MY ART IN TERMS OF MY 'TALENTS' AND TECHNICAL PROCEDURES. I MAKE PRINTS IN ORDER TO ANNIHILATE THE CATEGORY OF PRINTMAKING... TO ANNIHILATE ITS OVER-DEFENDED TECHNICAL SELF-REFLEXIVITY AND THE 'MENTAL' CONDITION OF CONNOISSEURSHIP THAT TECHNIQUE AS DETERMINING VALUE GIVES RISE TO. AGAIN VERY PROGRAMMATIC! THE ACTUAL CONNECTION HAS TO DO WITH RECOGNISING AND AFFIRMING ALL KINDS OF 'MISTAKES'. NOT A MEANING I OFTEN SAY TO MYSELF, BUT A MISTAKE! PROBLEMS OF RECOGNITION AND CO-EXISTENCE WITH EXTENDED AMBIGUITY THAT ONLY THE DEVASTATING FAILURES AND ABJECTIONS OF PERFORMANCE ART CAN PREPARE ONE FOR. ALL MY WORK AFTER PERFORMANCE ART IS BUILT ON TASK PERFORMANCE, MESS, INCOHERENCIES OF ALL KINDS. THAT IS WHY I SO ENJOYED THE ELEPHANT PAINTING AT THE MCA, BECAUSE IT TRANSVALUES ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM COMPLETELY! NOTHING REMAINS EXCEPT THE INDIGNATIONS OF A PROVINCIAL CULTURE! PERFORMANCE ART IS MY MEANS FOR DOING THAT TO ALL ASPECTS OF MY WORK AND IT IS A PROCESS THAT MAKES MY WORK FUNDAMENTALLY DIALOGIC IN RELATION TO ITSELF (THE PERFORMANCE CRISIS IS VISIBLE IN ALL MY WORK). HOW DO YOU SEE THE AUDIENCE'S ROLE? ARE THEY PERHAPS COLLECTORS THEMSELVES? THE AUDIENCE ARE PERHAPS COLLECTORS THEMSELVES BUT I DON'T REALLY ALLOW THEM ANY ROLE AT ALL. THAT'S WHY I HAVE NEVER CHARGED ADMISSION TO ANY OF MY PERFORMANCES. THE AUDIENCE CAN LEAVE ANYTIME THEY WANT BUT THEY ARE NOT TO BE ALLOWED THE LUXURY OF SUBSTITUTING MORAL INDIGNATION FOR THE RUTHLESS FACTICITY OF THE WORK. THEY CAN'T DEMAND THEIR MONEY BACK AS THE CONVENTIONAL MEASURE OF 'BAD THEATRE'. IF I DECIDE TO CUT MY THROAT AN INCH AT A TIME THEN THEY RUN THE RISK OF NOT BEING ABLE TO DECLARE THAT THEY WERE ONLY MEMBERS OF THE AUDIENCE! WHAT DIFFICULTIES (IF ANY) DO YOU SEE WITH PRIVATE/PUBLIC COLLECTORS COLLECTING THE DOCUMENTATION OF WORK THAT IS ESSENTIALLY EPHEMERAL? I HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH PUBLIC OR PRIVATE COLLECTORS. DOCUMENTATION IS EXTRAORDINARILY INTERESTING VISUALLY BECAUSE IT IS PRODUCED BY THE 'MACHINE' OF PERFORMANCE. IT IS TRULY LIKE ELEPHANT PAINTING, IF WE THINK OF THE ELEPHANT AS SIMPLY A MACHINE╔ A KIND OF UNKNOWABLE OTHERNESS THAT CAN ONLY BE KNOWN SPECIOUSLY, ANTHROPOMORPHICALLY╔ THAT IS SET IN MOTION LIKE AN ARTIST╔ THAT GIVES US ART THAT CAN ONLY BE ACCEPTED OR REJECTED NOT MEANINGFULLY RE-CONFIGURED (TO EDIT THE WORK IS TO DESTROY THE ELEPHANT AS PRODUCER). PERFORMANCE ART AS SUCH IS A KIND OF ELEPHANT IN RELATION TO DOCUMENTATION AS ART. THERE IS SOMETHING DEEPLY ANONYMOUS ABOUT DOCUMENTATION BECAUSE THE PRE- SYMBOLIC OF PERFORMANCE ART TAKES OVER THE CAMERA.

top of page