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Article

Vanina Costa

(b Sauve, Gard, Jan 17, 1926; d les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil, nr Périgueux, Dec 2, 1987).

French performance artist, conceptual artist and writer. He studied economics and science at the University of California at Los Angeles from 1948 to 1951, but he was self-taught as an artist. Having first worked as a playwright during the second half of the 1950s, in 1960 he presented the first of his performances incorporating poetry. By 1962 he was involved with the Fluxus movement; sharing his fellow artists’ distaste for marketable art objects, he not only continued to create performances and other ephemeral works but also involved himself in conceptual gestures such as the foundation of a ‘République Géniale’. He made films and videos, sent enigmatic objects through the post as a form of correspondence art and worked against traditional ideas about the individuality of the artist by working collaboratively with others: in 1964 he and Joachim Pfeufer created the Poïpoïdrome, a group researching ‘permanent creation’ and the ‘principle of equivalence’, and in ...

Article

Marco Livingstone

(b Nashville, TN, June 1, 1937).

American painter, sculptor, installation artist, draughtsman, performance artist and film maker. He studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1955), at the New School for Social Research in New York (1956) and under Hans Hofmann in Provincetown, MA (1957). Together with Allan Kaprow, Claes Oldenburg, Jim Dine, Robert Whitman (b 1935) and others, he was briefly an instrumental figure in the history of performance art in New York during the late 1950s with the Happenings he presented as early as 1957, most famously The Burning Building (1959), which took place in his loft at 148 Delancey Street (designated the Delancey Street Museum). With their narrative flow and elements of comedy, Grooms’s highly engaging performances were closer to the ‘painter’s theatre’ of Dine than to the events created by Kaprow or the Fluxus artists. The energy that went into these performances was soon redeployed into films, beginning with ...

Article

Julia Robinson

(b New York, Oct 5, 1927; d Cologne, June 22, 1995).

American composer and collagist. Hansen was a New York-based artist and a key figure in the founding of Happenings. He served in the US Air Force between 1946 and 1948, and studied under the GI Bill at the Art Students’ League, Tulane University, and at Hans Hofmann’s Art School. In the 1950s, Hansen joined John Cage’s Experimental Composition class at the New School for Social Research in New York (1957–9) where he met fellow poets and artists crucial to the development of Concrete poetry, Happenings, and Fluxus (Jackson Mac Low (1922–2004), Allan Kaprow, George Brecht, Dick Higgins (1938–98), and Larry Poons). A classic Hansen score written in Cage’s class—and performed there, and later at the Living Theater—was his Alice Denham in 48 Seconds. Using a Cagean system where letters (e.g., of a name) could be replaced by numbers that would define limits for the piece—which sound, how loud, and for how long—Hansen replaced the letters of “Alice Denham” with numbers. Handing out toy noise-makers to the class, he placed the score (comprised of large numbers) on the classroom blackboard, to cue the sound. In ...

Article

John R. Neeson

Installation art is a hybrid of visual art practices including photography, film, video, digital imagery, sound, light, performance, happenings, sculpture, architecture, and painted and drawn surfaces. An installation is essentially site specific, three-dimensional, and completed by the interaction of the observer/participant in real time and space. The point of contention with any definition concerns the site specificity, ephemerality, and consequently ‘collectability’ of the work itself. One view has it that the category installation is presupposed on the transitory and impermanent, the second that an installation can be collected and re-exhibited as a conventional work of art.

In either case installation had its genesis in the environments and happenings devised by artists in the 1950s in New York and Europe (Nouveau Réalisme in France, Arte Povera in Italy). These in turn had antecedents in the architectural/sculptural inventions such as the various Proun rooms of El Lissitzky and the Merzbau of Kurt Schwitters...

Article

Julia Robinson

American artists’ space located at 239 Thompson Street at the south edge of Washington Square in New York City. Beginning in the late 1950s the Judson Church hosted experimental avant-garde activities—art installations, Happenings, the beginnings of postmodern dance—launching a now celebrated group of artists, dancers, poets and composers, and fueling the radical downtown art scene. The platform of free expression Judson provided for the untested work of the 1960s generation, at a time when these artists were far from established, was a critical contribution to the invention, originality and ultimate international renown of these preeminent American artists.

Built in 1890 and designed by the renowned architect Stanford White (of McKim, Mead & White), the church’s original mission was to serve the immigrant population of Lower Manhattan with health and recreational programs as well as religious services. In the 1950s Reverend Bob Spike (1949–55) asked his seminary intern, Budd Scott, to go into the neighborhood and spend time with the locals—including a significant contingent of struggling artists—to discover their needs. Scott found out that the artists urgently needed a place to present their work. Judson’s national reputation for fostering radical artistic practice came under the tenure of Reverend Howard Moody (...

Article

Klaus Ottmann

(b San Rafael, CA, Jan 11, 1955).

American sculptor, installation artist and musician. Marclay studied at the Ecole Supérieure d’Art Visuel in Geneva and at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. Influenced by Fluxus, the interdisciplinary art movement of the 1960s, the experimental music of John Cage, and the punk and art bands of the late 1970s, Marclay started to perform in clubs in New York, playing his own record collages, which he had made by cutting up vinyl records and gluing them back together in different configurations.

For Marclay, making objects is about altering objects in order to extract new meaning, as with his stitched-together record covers or his Record without a Cover (Recycled Records, 1985) that was distributed without a sleeve or cover to allow it to accumulate dust and scratches. In 1989 he created Footsteps, an installation at the Shedhalle in Zurich, by covering the floor of one of its galleries with 3500 vinyl records. Visitors had to step on the records to reach the other galleries. The scratched and stepped-on records, which featured the sounds of a tap dancer, were sold afterwards....

Article

(b Groningen, July 1, 1942).

Dutch conceptual artist, film maker and television actor. He started to experiment with different coloured smoke in 1957. From the 1960s he was active as a Fluxus composer. In 1961 with Ger van Elk and the photographer Bob Wesdorp he founded the Adynamische Groep, which primarily reacted against post-war Expressionism. In 1962 he was given an exhibition at the Fodor Museum, Amsterdam, for which he covered the floor of a room with a 100 mm layer of salt and another with a few tonnes of broken glass. In pursuit of performance art, in 1963 he instigated a happening: he emptied a bottle of lemonade in the sea outside Petten, an action broadcast by Dutch television. In the same year he made a television programme about contemporary art (e.g. Fluxus, Pop art, Zero). Also in 1963 the fire brigade banned the performance of his Economic Concert (1958), which consisted of one single explosion on stage. Two years later he displayed a 5 m high purple chair in the Vondelpark in Amsterdam and organized an exhibition called ...

Article

Grischka Petri

(b Leverkusen, nr Cologne, Oct 14, 1932; d Berlin, April 3, 1998).

German painter, sculptor, décollagist, composer, video artist, and performance artist. He was one of the fathers of the European Happening movement. Vostell studied typography, lithography, and painting in Cologne, Wuppertal, Paris, and Düsseldorf (1950–58). In 1959 he married Mercedes Guardado Olivenza in Cáceres, Spain. Early in his career he discovered Décollage , a technique of cutting, tearing away or otherwise removing pieces of an image. His spelling of the term, dé-coll/age, underlined the term’s dialectical implications of destruction and creation. In the 1960s he worked with chemicals to transfer the process to photography, video, and film, turning it into an all-encompassing strategy of image deconstruction, often within the iconographic framework of violence and sexuality as communicated by mass media.

Vostell’s combined décollage with car parts and television sets, being one of the first artists using such a device as part of a sculpture in 1958. In 1962 he joined the ...