Attention, during all the series ” The body of the artist “, it’s recommended to the sensitive souls to abstain from such a reading. Note that the images will remain visible all the same.
Previously, we studied the artists’ bodies as instruments of art, it was the body that paints. Then, we noticed that the bodies of the artists could then be more than that, they were capable of more than simply painting, it was the body which makes, which acts. Today we will see that certain artists push their body in more transgressive situations.
This new type of action on the artist’s body really began in the 60s, when artists started to leave the galleries. It was at this time that the idea that art could truly transform society if given the opportunity began to slowly make its way into more and more concrete actions, committed by more and more transgressive artists. From the beginning, we owe it to the group of Viennese actionists to have wanted to overturn the most obvious taboos (nudity, death, sex, etc.). The public is easily shocked by certain performances, and this is normal, it’s precisely the objective. In reality, the reaction of the public to these performances is precisely what the artists are looking for. The body must be used here to test not only the artist himself, but also those who will see (or live?) the work.
The way in which the artists put themselves on stage in this kind of work (because it’s not always necessarily a question of performances) aims at shaking the spectator, but also at making him leave this simple role of spectator precisely. Freedom is the watchword of these very particular artists. The real freedom is reached only with the trampling of the societal taboos. Nothing is neglected, and everything becomes susceptible to make art in this research: sex, body moods, food, etc. These works slip then slowly towards a definition a little more vague of the art. Here, the body of the artist does not make simply creative work, it forms part of a ritual intended to “initiate” the public.
In this objective of ritual, of passage of test, of initiation, the artists do not hide their multiple sources of inspirations. The works often borrow from real religious rites, when they do not imitate them completely in a pantomime sometimes pushing until the grotesque. We thus find numerous crucifixions of all types: from Nitsch’s First Action which sees him sprinkled with blood while dressed in a white robe he is tied to rings in the wall arms spread; to his 80th Action where he explicitly incites to blasphemy and profanation with forces orgies, evisceration of animals, blood and entrails; or to parodies of mass with the very famous Mass for a body of Michel Journiac during which he distributes “osties” of his own blood. But the artists are also largely inspired by cults of traditional or ancient societies, which they interpret (or reinterpret) in their own way (it’s the case of Ana Mendieta with Death of a chicken, where she is inspired by a Cuban ritual of purification during which a chicken is sacrificed, but to which she gives a whole other dimension in her work).
In this vision the body of the artist can occupy several roles, but they are always transgressive and above all, always ritualized. The body becomes the center of the ritual, whether it’s the master of the work (it’s the body of the shaman artist), or as a “victim” (it’s the body of the sacrificed artist). In all cases, one should not fear being confronted with nudity, blood (which is a form of inner nudity), death, and other such taboos. Most of the time, the artists even take advantage of the occasion to cumulate the taboos in a deluge of references, sometimes explicit, sometimes more subtle, provided that the result shocks, challenges, upsets, even totally transforms the public, and in this way, the whole society.
Thank you & see you soon !