“Cycle of Experimental Art”, (1968), Rosario, Argentina by Graciela Carnevale.
In the context of Fascist Argentina, Carnevale invited an audience to an exhibition where she locked them inside the gallery for over an hour without prior notice or explanation, until the crowd finally decided to smash the glass to escape.
Nikki S. Lee, The Hip-Hop Project (1), 2001. Chromogenic color print, edition AP2, 54 x 71.1 cm. Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Brooklyn
In her “Projects” series, Nikki S. Lee adapted the costumes and customs of various American subcultures, immersing herself in their lifestyles. She was willing to change anything—hair, weight, clothing, skin color, behavior—to fit in. She told the group she was doing an art project, then worked to become accepted—a gradual process that could take weeks or even months. At first the photographs were taken by a friend who accompanied her; later she asked anyone available because she wanted them to have “the boring quality of snapshots.” To see only one Project will not convey Lee’s ideas adequately because, as she says, seeing the others brings out the special characteristics of each one.
The Projects, which are related to performance art, address issues of both social and cultural identity. As Lee once commented, “essentially life itself is a performance. When we change our clothes to alter our appearance, the real act is the transformation of our way of expression—the outward expression of our psyche.” (Source: Albright-Knox Museum)
Rhythm 0, 1974
To test the limits of the relationship between performer and audience, Abramović developed one of her most challenging (and best-known) performances. She assigned a passive role to herself, with the public being the force which would act on her.
Abramović had placed upon a table 72 objects that people were allowed to use (a sign informed them) in any way that they chose. Some of these were objects that could give pleasure, while others could be wielded to inflict pain, or to harm her. Among them were scissors, a knife, a whip, and, most notoriously, a gun and a single bullet. For six hours the artist allowed the audience members to manipulate her body and actions.
Initially, members of the audience reacted with caution and modesty, but as time passed (and the artist remained impassive) several people began to act quite aggressively. As Abramović described it later:
“The experience I learned was that…if you leave decision to the public, you can be killed.” … “I felt really violated: they cut my clothes, stuck rose thorns in my stomach, one person aimed the gun at my head, and another took it away. It created an aggressive atmosphere. After exactly 6 hours, as planned, I stood up and started walking toward the public. Everyone ran away, escaping an actual confrontation.”