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As with all syllabi, this one is imperfect. Readers will see that the course in no way aspires to be global. but rather focuses on earlier historical material from Europe, together with contemporary U.S. happenings and performances, focusing on the 1960s and 1970s. There is much further work to be done, not only in bringing it "up-to-date" chronologically, but also theoretically. Equally, the selection of artists and works needs to be revised to present a more balanced reading in terms of cultural diversity, gender, and sexual orientation. I want to stress, too, that although I use many videos and audiotapes,(1) I have not been able to include a list of them here.
I have taught performance classes since the 1970s, first at the University of California, San Diego. and now at Mills College in Oakland. This current seminar is part of our regular curriculum, and I teach it every other year. revising it extensively each time. In recent years, I have produced photocopied "books" of students' essays. I also have selected one or two artists on whom to focus; in 1995, these were Suzanne Lacy and Joyce Scott (see readings for Weeks 2 and 4).(2) Additionally, we always do some sort of collective event. Among the most memorable were a twelve-hour theater piece (each piece, beginning on the hour, was located on the Mills campus); a red banquet (attended by a large audience that wore red to this lavish eight-course "red" meal with many performances); and a seven-course breakfast (designed in seven different colors in honor of Linda Montano's Seven Years of Living Art).
In 1995, I divided the material and readings into thirteen weeks as follows: 1) General Introduction; 2) Suzanne Lacy; 3) Dada, Futurism, and Dandyism; 4) Joyce Scott; 5) Revolutionary Russian, German, and French Theater; 6) Introduction to U.S. Happenings, Music, Theater, and Dance Experiments in the 1960s; 7) Fluxus Sensibilities; 8-9) Introduction to U.S. Performance Art, Late 1960s-1980s; 10) Pushing the Boundaries: Performance Art, Censorship, and AIDS. The remaining weeks were devoted to student presentations/performances.
Historically the seminar begins with the European antecedents of this art form in the Futurist, Dada, and Russian revolutionary art movements, and so on. Simultaneously it places the history of performance art in the wider context of the nineteenth-century dandy tradition and the history of avant-garde theater (including cabaret), dance, and music. The focus then shifts to the United States.
Performance art develops here in the 1960s, a highly theatrical as well as political decade, in the context of experimental theater, music, dance, and happenings, the Conceptual and earthwork art movements, and a deep questioning of art institutions and the role of the artist. As performance art formally emerges as a recognized genre in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it becomes a major vehicle for contemporary artists in the United States; from the beginning, women artists play leading roles in developing its character and scope.
The readings "required" for the 1995 seminar came from a photocopied anthology of texts (which I revised each time I teach this material) and Robyn Brentano and Olivia Georgia, Outside the Frame: Performance and the Object, A Survey History of Performance Art in the USA since 1950 (Cleveland: Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, 1994).
NB. In 1996, Marvin Carlson published an interesting text, which includes a useful bibliography: Performance: A Critical Introduction (New York: Routledge). Two other major new source books are Kristine Stiles and Peter Selz, eds., Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists' Writings (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), and Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris, ed., Poems for the Millennium, Volume One: From Fin-de-Siecle to Negritude (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995). Important forthcoming publications include Charles R. Garoian, Performance Art Anthology and Performance Art, Culture, Pedagogy (the edited proceedings of a symposium held at Penn State University in University Park, Pennsylvania, November 13-17, 1996) and Amelia Jones, Body Art: Performing the Subject (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998). In addition, there will be an important catalogue for the exhibition Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object, 1949-1979 (Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art and London: Thames and Hudson, 1998), edited by Paul Schimmel and Russell Ferguson, with essays by Guy Brett, Kellie Jones, Hubert Klocker, Shinichiro Osaki, Schimmel, and Kristine Stiles.
I am deeply grateful to John Alan Farmer, senior editor at College Art Association, for his invaluable suggestions of material, in addition to the many hours he invested in copyediting and library checking. I would also like to thank, as always, Cheryl Leonard for her meticulous assistance.
1. An example of this are the ones I selected to illustrate a range of sound/voice experiments in relationship to Dada, German theater, and Artaud: audiotapes of Alanna O'Kelly (a contemporary Irish artist who uses keening in her performances), Jerome Rothenberg ("A Glass Tube Ecstasy for Hugo Ball" and his rendering of Bali's "Karawane," Rothenberg/Turetzky Performing for Poet's Voice and Contrabass) and Artaud (a post-World War II broadcast), and videotapes of Ute Lemper (Ute Lemper Sings Kurt Weill, London, Decca Record Co.) and Diamand Galas, The Litanies of Satan, Target Video, as well as a 1993 film entitled En compagnie d'Antonin Artaud, directed by Girard Mordillat, with Sami Frey (Artaud) and Marc Barbe (J. Prevel).
2. In June 1997 I attended Suzanne Lacy's Under Construction, which consisted of around 140 teenage-girl performers in a construction site in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia. It was part of a two year public-art project, The Turning Point, in which Lacy and her collaborators worked with a large group of Vancouver teenage girls. This has inspired me to have a group of students (in my Fall 1997 repeat of this seminar) research her recent work on adolescents.
Frequently Cited Sources
Benedikt, Michael, and George E. Wellworth, eds. Modern French Theater: The Avant-Garde, Dada, and Surrealism, An Anthology of Plays. New York: Dutton, 1966.
Carr, C. On Edge: Performance at the End of the Twentieth Century. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, c. 1993.
Goldberg, RoseLee. Performance Art: From Futurism to the Present. New York: Abrams, 1988.
Hart, Lynda, and …