Quotidian Displacements at Cooper Union

This semester long course on performative art practice focuses on the intersection of the artistic gesture and everyday life. What is at stake when art traverses life and their distinct codes intertwine? And, more to the point of this course, what possibilities does this encounter presents for artists who engage the performative mode?

These and other questions are addressed throughout the semester through a series of brief lectures, summarized readings and, most important, practical assignments. The focus is on performative actions that can be done quickly and with minimal means, so that participants can readily develop their ideas against the provided models and understand the building blocks needed for the formulation of their own vocabularies.

Participants Marina Baggetto, Quinci Baker, Anya Easkra, Ari Ferdman, Anton Matzke, Maria Polanco, Andrew Rubin, and Noah Spivak. Instructor: Alex Villar (Visiting Artist) invited by Prof. Sharon Hayes

September 4 – December 18, 2013
The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
30 Cooper Square, New York, NY 10003

September 4

6:00 – 7:00 pm
Introductory remarks
Personal introductions, class format, schedule, course expectations.

7:00 — 8:00 pm
Performativity Seminar
Introduction to theories of performativity, starting with its foundation in Linguistics, particularly Austin, then situating conceptual differences between the notions of performance and performativity, drawing from key texts by Judith Butler.

8:00 — 9:00 pm
Decontextualization Lecture
Understanding context and working with decontextualization strategies. Examples, pulled from architecture, urbanism and the visual arts, include the dislocation in ‘98 of the historic Empire Theatre by 168 feet from its original location, the urban control motivated reconstructions of Tompkins Square Park as described by Martha Rosler, Hélio Oiticica transposition of shantytown architecture as well as popular dance to art as seen in his Penetráveis and Parangolés, Marta Rosler’s Semiotics of the Kitchen video, Claudia Müller’s contemporary dance delivered at home, among others.

Decontextualization Assignment

September 11

6:00 — 7:00 pm
Documentation Lecture
Overview of performance documentation paradigms as posed in the work of Yves Klein, Chris Burden, Marina Abramovic, and Tino Seghal.

7:00 — 8:00 pm
Decontextualization Performance
Anya Easkra

Anya Easkra seized the situation of cats fighting for a litter box and displaced it to the context of two roommates fighting for personal space.

8:00 — 9:00 pm
Individual Meetings
Marina Baggetto, Noah Spivak, Anton Matzke, Andrew Rubin, and Anya Easkra.

September 18

6:00 — 8:00 pm
Decontextualization Performances
Quinci Baker, Anton Matzke, Noah Spivak, Marina Baggetto, and Ari Ferdman.

Quinci Baker transposed her bedroom to a corner of the Peter Cooper suite, where she calmly and completely undid her hair extensions.

Anton Matzke attempted to slow down the world by jumping and kicking the ground as one would do to a ball, in order to slow down earth’s rotation.

Noah Spivak displaced the banal act of undressing by a few meters, from his apartment to the stairwell of his building.

Marina Baggetto proposed a parallel between the current context of the Spanish crisis (evictions and exiles) and the exiles of the Spanish Civil War at the beginning of Franco’s dictatorship.

Ari Ferdman turned the classroom into a skate ring where the watchers became the watched.

8:00 — 9:00 pm
Individual Meetings
Maria Polanco, and Quinci Baker.

September 25

6:00 — 8:00 pm
Hakan Topal, Guest Speaker
His presentation provided a series of examples of tactics of decontextualization from his own work as an artist as well as from the realm of political activism. Topal is currently an Assistant Professor of New Media and Art + Design at Purchase College, SUNY. Trained as a civil engineer, he continued his studies in gender and women’s studies and sociology. He received a Ph.D. in sociology from the New School for Social Research. He was the co-founder of international art collective, xurban_collective. Topal represented Turkey in various international exhibitions including the 49th Venice Biennial Turkish Pavilion. More info.

8:00 — 9:00 pm
Disruption Lecture
This lecture focuses on a singular, disruptive gesture. Examples include Gordon Matta-Clark’s Splitting of ‘72 in which he used a power saw to section a house in two parts, Francis Alÿs’ the Green Line performed at the border of Jerusalem and his Re-enactment that involved carrying a gun in the streets of Mexico, Santiago Sierra 160 cm line tattooed on addicted prostitutes in Spain, among others.

Disruption Assignment

October 2

6:00 — 9:00 pm
Disruption Performances
Andrew Rubin, Noah Spivak, and Ari Ferdman.

Andrew Rubin performed a ceremony to a dead tree on the sidewalk.

Noah Spivak set his alarm for 4 am for 5 consecutive nights. At the moment
he woke up, he would write down the first thing that came to mind.

Ari Ferdman meditated
for 3 hours during performance class.

October 9

6:00 — 8:00 pm
Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento, Guest Speaker
His presentation provided clear conceptual examples of tactics of disruption occurring at the intersection of art and law. Sarmiento’s practice traverses the relationship between contemporary art and law, with a primary focus on copyright, moral rights, free speech, among other topics. He currently teaches contemporary art and law at Fordham Law School. He received his MFA in Art from the California Institute of the Arts. He was a Van Lier Fellow at the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Independent Study Program in Studio Art in 1997-98, and received his J.D. from Cornell Law School in 2006. He conceived and runs the Art & Law program.

8:00 — 9:00 pm
Disruption Performance

Marina Baggetto referenced, while updating, Cildo Meireles’ Insertions in Ideological Circuits in a proposal applicable to the current situation in Spain.

October 23

6:00 — 7:00 pm
Disruption Performances
Quinci Baker, Anton Matzke, and Anya Easkra.

Quinci Baker setup a portable dining table on a sidewalk, next to a restaurant, and proceeded to eating her meal.

7:00 —8:00 pm
Destabilization Lecture
This lecture also draws examples from different fields, while retaining a focused attention on the body. Some of the examples include oversleeping in public places as a result of drunkenness, Nan Goldin’s photo essay depicting languid bodies under drug influence, Artaud’s own transformed body as a result of mental illness and shock therapy, also his notion of the body-without-organs as well as Deleuze and Guatari’s own take on that idea, Shigeko Kubota’s Vagina Painting, Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece, several Bas Jan Ader’s pieces, particularly I’m too sad to tell you, Lee Lozano’s General Strike piece from ‘69, David Hammons’ Bliz-aard Ball Sale performed by Cooper Union, Francis Alÿs’ Paradox of Praxis (ice melting) and his tornado piece, among others.

Destabilization Assignment

8:00 —9:00 pm
Ari Ferdman.

October 30

6:00 — 9:00 pm
Disruption Performances
Anton Matzke, and Anya Easkra.

8:00 — 9:00 pm
Destabilization Performance
Marina Baggetto.

Marina Baggetto covered her face and invited the audience to destabilize her body at their will.

November 6

6:00 — 9:00 pm
Destabilization Performances
Ari Ferdman, Noah Spivak, Maria Polanco, and Anton Matzke.
Anton Matzke dances to classical music while using a shotgun during specific gestures in order to destabilize them.

November 13

6:00 —8:00 pm
Discrepancy Lecture
Examples, highlighting accretion or subtraction as a tactic of discrepancy, include Artur Żmijewski’s KR WP piece in which he persuaded ex-soldiers from the Polish Army’s Honour Guard unit to recreate the ceremonial drill ritual both dressed and undressed, Wafaa Bilal who implanted a digital camera in the back of his head, Neil Harbisson who was born with achromatopsia and installed on his head a cybernetic device that translates the wavelengths of different colors into audible tones, Lynn Hershman Leeson’s Roberta performance from ‘76, among others.

Discrepancy Assignment

8:00 —9:00 pm
Logistics for Public Interventions
Introduction to research for obtaining publicly available information on sites chosen for public performances, including obtaining architectural plans from the Department of Buildings.

November 20

6:00 —9:00 pm
Discrepancy Performances
Anya Easkra, Marina Baggetto, Noah Spivak, and Ari Ferdman.

Ari Ferdman re-created a concert scene and dressed as a fan

Quinci Baker called the answer machine of her mother whose health condition prevents her from speaking. Click to play.

A performance of Anya Easkra and her mother during an incident with a passerby illustrated the misunderstanding that can occur between people when the meaning of a word is replaced with another of a similar meaning.

Marina Baggetto covered the eyes of the audience and subjected each person to a different experience, which includes playing a song that she recorded, based on Kant’s sentence “All knowledge begins with experience”: click to play.

December 4

6:00 —9:00 pm
Deviation Seminar
Reading discussion of a Jokes and Innovative Action, a chapter from Paolo Virno’s Multitude: Between Innovation and Negation. Virno’s pertinence to to this course is to do with his theory of virtuosity. While he is applies his thinking to the analysis of new forms of labor and their reliance on linguistic competence, the application of these ideas to contemporary art have already been established. For Virno, virtuosic activity (or performance) is any activity that is fulfilled in itself, without necessarily resulting in an end product. Also, performance is an activity that requires the presence of others; that is, an audience, and by extension, a public sphere. In the text we read, his concern is in formulating how the conditions of a situation may be changed with the introduction of particular types of arguments. That’s why he looks at jokes, which are for him diagrams of innovative action. The joke follows the norm but applies the rules in a surprising manner, which is why he calls the action innovative. Summing up the seminar, three main conceptual premises from Virno’s piece were paired to the artistic gestures of the Yes Man’s Bhopal piece, along a pieces by the Intruders and a sampling video of Yomango.

December 11

7:00 —8:00 pm
Deviation Lecture
Tactics of deviation are most clearly at work in the practice of the Situationists, which were here introduced in two of their most lasting ideas, dérive and detournemont. Other examples included the influence of Situationists ideas in the political movement of May ‘68 in France. Finally, two examples in performance included Andrea Fraser’s Museum Highlights of ‘89 and Sharon Hayes’ the Interpreter Project of 2001.

Deviation Assignment

December 14

1:30 —4:30 pm
Deviation Performances at a computer store in Soho
Marina Baggetto, Quinci Baker, Ari Ferdman, Anton Matzke, Andrew Rubin, and Noah Spivak.

Andrew Rubin pulls a phrase out of the context of the ads for the computer store and
re-inscribes it in the architecture of the store.

Quinci Baker appropriated the store’s computers to video record (via the Soundbooth app) the interior space of the store, along with those who used those machines during the recording time.

Quinci later returned to the store to collect the videos that were recorded.

Marina Baggetto wrote variations on Alan Turing last syllogism. She then hid the notes both in and under the computers at the store in Soho.

Here’s one of Marina’s altered syllogisms. She references Alan’s homosexuality, consequent imprisonment and suicide by a poisoned apple.

Ari Ferman co-created his ‘self-portraits’ with others by asking store visitors to take his photo, he also photographed them when they were not looking. The resulting art became part of a blog he created for the project.

Noah Spivak interacted with store sales people, taking their studied friendliness as a sign of real friendships in the making. He followed up with personalized letters to each of the people he met.

Anton Matzke took the body cues for his performance from the security personal at the store. He then proceeded to act and interact with people as someone in that position would, including asking to see people’s bags.

December 18

6:00 —9:00 pm
Last Class
Review of the public performance experience, individual feedback, pending documentation, web page review, general recommendations.

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