What is Live Art? by Julian Sofaer – Art Review

By Callum Devlin

28 August, 2002

In the video a man steps swiftly from the side of the frame directly into a close-up.

“What is live art?” he says. The camera zooms out slowly, revealing a crowded footpath of pedestrians floating by. The man speaks directly into the camera, with the articulate air of a broadcast journalist. “Well,” he continues, “at its most fundamental, Live Art is when an artist chooses to make work directly in front of the audience in space and time. So instead of making an object, or an environment and leaving it for the audience to encounter in their own time, Live Art comes into being at the actual moment of encounter between artist and spectator.”

He is speaking to the camera, to the audience, but he is performing for the crowd around him. People stop, stare at the camera and at the man. He is a spectacle, a curiosity, but not un unfamiliar one. The image of a journalist performing their to-camera monologue in the public is a well-worn trope. It instantly connects the content of the story directly to the city, to the people they are speaking about, and that their story seems to be affecting. But the curiosity of the crowd around him is electric, overly so. The content of his monologue directly matches the form that it is taking. Moreover, the content is echoed in the reaction of the crowd around him, creating a feedback loop that builds between the two.

The punchline is the hole in his pants, revealed as he turns on his heel at the end of his speech. A perfect circle exposing his ass to the world, visible for a moment before he disappears into the crowd. Instantly the speech is recontextualised, and a second viewing is called for, as you are now “in” on the joke.

The video is a curious statement. Initially it serves as a clear description of an art movement, it’s history and priorities. The text itself is cohesive, entertaining, and informative, while the performance slick and assertive. However, in it’s form as a video, it seems to initially contradict the art movement that it seems to be a part of. Live Art is defined as taking place in the moment of creation, between the viewer and the audience. The video acts as a permanent ghost of the initial performance.




By Laura Duffy

Short film – alongside exhibition at MOMA

This short film by MOMA goes along side Isa’s Retrospective show in New York. I found this video with a quick Google search after being referred to her work by a Tutor. The film doesn’t do too much explaining of itself, instead re-directs to the MOMA website where you can and read more about the artist and her work as well as purchase the retrospective publication in the form of a hearty book.

The German artist is said to be one of the most influential of the past couple of decades, explained to be always ahead of the times. Colleagues, mates and strangers talk about her with an accompanying rock’n’roll-esque soundtrack that set a funky vibe. Rather than reading the book, the video feels like having a conversation with various people who know with the artist, it’s much more relaxed and much more fun. It’s also great that no-one is speaking in pseudo-academic-foreign-language-poetry, I found everything to be easily understood. Yay. Although it’s obviously edited it’s refreshing to hear people speak unscripted and genuinely – rather than reading something laboriously worked upon, they’re speaking therefore their opinions are closer to the surface and more true. It’s great seeing a New Zealand artist getting amongst in this, Simon Denny features briefly talking about how he first came across her work. Which was in an art journal where the photos were black and white. I’m grateful to be privileged with easy accessibility to this film from the comforts of my computer screen.

I’m unsure of if this resonates with other humans aside from myself but I often get this frustrated feeling when I find something I really love that I want to soak it up as quick as possible, that I want to look at it, read it, eat it and inhale all simultaneously. This succeeded at satisfying my need of eating my computer screen but giving me all of it quickly, photos music and words. Boom. My main critique is I would enjoy hearing from the artist, I assume she wants the work to speak for itself. I’ll forgive her. Without the artist being interviewed and the absence of someone speaking in first person it has a tiny tickle of feeling like the artist has died, although Isa Genzken is very much alive.