Performa 09: three horses run around a discussion at the performa hub one afternoon

by Biba Bell

<horse #1. she says she cannot ride a horse. it is an issue of control. she does not want, can not, control the horse in the ways needed in order to ride. some of us have ridden, some not. patrick swayze had a horse ranch, said he.>

how does conceptualism engage with performance art? this is a big question, with no single answer. what does the concept do to mobilize, how can it proliferate faster or more fluidly or with greater surface area distance than the object? or the body? is it ever removed from materiality?

what does conceptualism offer performance? a way in or out? is it an escape route from “the tyranny of formalism” (francis colpitt)? are conceptual artists “esthetic dropouts” (ross neher)? Is it simply about fetishizing ideas (robert smithson)? … these ephemeral concepts…

here I’m discussing concept as a limit, a movement, a force, an historical moment and dilemma.

… a stage is transformed into a broad surface of adjoined conference tables, wobbly and volatile. is it a conference or a banquet? the performance begins. the audience surrounds. this configuration does something. there are microphones and objects. I did not see the piece. for me it remains as concept, anecdotes, narrations, imaginings… an interview in Timeout, a review in the NYT. What about forsythe’s dances made from algorithms, simone forti’s Face Tunes, or trisha brown’s Locust? how do concepts operate to construct the fleshy depths of these works, weaving choreographic scores, processes and structures? a concept is a proposition.

<horse #2. a man, old or young, student or artist, we cannot say, is outside the hub, standing on an island in the middle of cooper square. he wears a billowy gown of light pink and white, its hem is soiled where it brushes along the asphalt. he is dancing, running, gesturing towards traffic, wind, buildings, the cold wind of dusk. He carries a plastic horse. or is it a reindeer? Periodically, throughout the course of the two hours we are sitting and talking I turn around to look out the window. he is still there, prancing circles around a roadblock divider cast up against the curb. he must be cold. he keeps dancing, maybe he’s hot by now.>

I think about the role of concept in relationship to visual art and the object, its objects. concepts that mobilize a particular dematerializing of the centrality of this object, its author, or the necessity of art world real estate in the production, presentation and consumption of work. here, it is a mo(ve)ment that suggests a certain resistance. do concepts operate within the scheme of the copyright kingdom? of course. and, while gathered, accounted for, inventoried, they set a sort of machinery in motion to create situations, experiences, sensations, images… reasons to stay or to leave the building, an impulse to remember, a desire to forget.

and yet, what is the role of craft? of sweat? of duration? how do the limbs of this conceptual trunk move, where do they go, what do they do? concepts are always mediated and proliferated through performance. they change, build up edges, texture, wear, residue. they bore and abbreviate. they expand.

<horse #3. we will respond to this discussion like moves on a chess board. this writing can move across squares of thought and ideas… what’s that piece that can move up one across two? oh yes, the knight.>

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