Monday, November 4, 2013

Victory Against Time: Demonstrative Urgency of Performance in the State of Resistance


"I don't have many new works to show you, since we were having a revolution and were out on the streets," explains an Egyptian artist friend of mine, Ahmed El Shaer, when we finally meet in his studio at Art Omi International Artists Residency. As I watch him play his video game, Nekh, I think about all the artists I know animating the crowds in Istanbul, Cairo, Damascus, Tehran. ... 

I picture them leaving their studios—with would-be spectators following them, streaming out of exhibition halls like workers leaving a factory—until everyone assembles in the square in a mass action that swells up and subsides. Then it repeats in a different square, in another country, splashing unexpectedly onto the screens of political analysts and curators who follow the action around the world.

"No more art!" declared Henry Flynt in 1963, in a proto-conceptualist Fluxus lecture at Walter De Maria's loft in New York, standing slightly stooped under the authoritarian gaze of Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky. Did Flynt include his art and his revolutionary (or even reformist) artist pals in this rebuttal? The search for an exit continues, and it has been recently demarcated by Suhail Malik in his Artists Space lectures "On the Necessity of Art's Exit from Contemporary Art. "Where is art to go? 

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