Curating Performance within the White Cube

This assignment offers a critical examination of issues faced by artists and curators and the politics of display within the gallery environment, and of how the viewer engages with an artwork within this space; specifically when the body is used as a medium.
I have developed a prevailing interest in the body and performance and these joint interests influenced the presentation of my work at the end of my first year on the MA course. During the year, I produced a video which recorded my performance in a bath and this was displayed as a video within the gallery space. I also installed a bathtub in the space and re-enacted the performance that could be seen in the video. I experienced an uncertainty regarding whether the live performance was necessary in light of the video and whether the video was more or less effective as a medium to convey meaning within the work when displayed within the gallery space. I was also conscious of the impact the environment of the gallery had upon the work.
Consequently, I am directing this study to explore these issues in order to make more informed decisions regarding the mode of display, the medium I choose to express my ideas within the space and to develop an understanding of effectively managing the space in which work is displayed.
In the first part of my study I will seek to develop understanding of the politics of the gallery space as a means of display as this is the area most relevant to my own interest and practice. Through critical examination I intend to discover the influence this environment has upon the experience of the viewer as they engage with artwork within the space. I will situate the contemporary gallery space in historical context in order to understand how the characteristics of the current mode of display have developed, and consider the social and political impact the environment has. I will refer to examples of performance and representation of performance which are relevant to my study holistically but serve to reveal the nature of the gallery space within this part of the study.
In the second half of my study I intend to explore conceptions of authenticity or ‘value’ in the presentation of both live performance and documentation of a performance, and how the audience engages with such work within the gallery environment. I will consider at what point creative activity gains validity and becomes an artwork in itself. Due to limitations within this assignment, rather than providing a chronological account of the history of performance and video in the context of the gallery, I will select two of the most appropriate examples to examine and compare; one which uses live performance and the other which displays performance through video. Through critical analysis of these case studies I hope to reveal whether or not the authenticity of a performance is compromised through display as video or documentation. Through my analysis I will also address the complexities of the relationship between the artist, the curator and the viewer and explore how necessary this relationship is to the effective display of artwork which involves the viewer in a meaningful engagement within the environment they encounter the work.

Mode of Display.
RoseLee Goldberg states that; “Performance became accepted as a medium of artistic expression in its own right in the 1970s.” (Goldberg 1979: 7) Both of the artists I will be looking at in my case studies are clearly identifiable as artists who would use their bodies performatively from around this period to the present. While both artists have experimented with live performance, video and installation within the gallery, Marina Abramovic is more associated with live performance and McCarthy with video as a means of representation to the viewer. Live performance combined art and life and owes much to the philosophy of Allan Kaprow who advocated that everyone is an artist. In Kaprow’s ‘Happenings’, audience and performers participated equally in artistic experiences which were unique and could not be replicated. Around 1970, some artists renounced this coalition and Vito Acconci said “The art context hasn’t the rules real life has.” (Acconci in Martin 2006: 13) The medium of video gave the artist more control to the experience as the eye of the viewer was guided by the camera and the camera also functioned as a separate eye on reality and video became a medium to critique television and media. Much video art around this time examined the body and developed from the medium of performance art.
Within this assignment the two case studies I will examine are both displayed in the ‘white cube’ space – the format associated with the typical modern gallery environment. Brian O’Doherty examines the ideology of this space and describes its appearance and characteristics;
“A gallery is constructed along laws as rigorous as those for building a medieval church. The outside world must not come in, so windows are usually sealed off. Walls are painted white. The ceiling becomes the source of light. The wooden floor is polished so that you click along clinically, or carpeted so that you pad soundlessly, resting the feet while the eyes have at the wall. The art is free, as the saying used to go, “to take on its own life.” The discrete desk may be the only piece of furniture. In this context a standing ashtray becomes almost a sacred object, just as the firehose in a modern museum looks not like a firehose but an esthetic conundrum.” (O’Doherty 1976: 15)
The same principles can be applied to the black space within a gallery where works are presented. In the case of a projected film, the walls of the room may be painted black with the only light source coming from the work itself. The work becomes similarly detached from the world around it and the influence of surrounding works.
The modern gallery space was preceded by the format of the Paris Salons, where a variety of periods and styles occupied every available space between the floor and ceiling of its walls.
This format “mimicked the domestic space of the grand country house” (Blazwick 2006: 121) and represented a display of wealth, a vast and diverse collection of masterpieces presented for public admiration. The Salon style of display could be seen at the Louvre, the Royal Academy and influenced the Whitechapel Art Gallery on its opening in 1901. The exhibition space at the Whitechapel “conceived of pictures as providing a gateway to God, to the realm of the spiritual.” (Blazwick 2006: 119) This spiritual space was also a political space as although it intended to better the lives of the viewing public and encourage social cohesion through an engagement with art and contact with culture, it is recognised to have diverted attention from the reality of everyday life and presented a “passive, private and nonconflictual solution” to “economic misery.” (Blazwick 2006: 121)
The lack of curatorial congruency in the variety of periods and styles of paintings crowded together on the walls of the Salon display seems naive in comparison to modern curatorial practice, yet at the time “each picture was seen as a self-contained entity, totally isolated from its slum-close neighbour by a heavy frame around and a complete perspective system within.” (O’Doherty 1976: 16) Paintings were seen to provide access to the sacred and were viewed “not a real object but as an illusion, a window onto another world.” (Blazwick 2006: 121) There was some structure of curation that was based upon the hierarchy of the work and it took into account the presence of the viewer and their movements within the space. Larger pictures would be hung higher as they could be seen and contemplated from a distance while smaller pictures would be hung lower and accessed from a closer distance while what were considered to be the ‘best’ paintings were hung in the middle of the wall around eye level. O’Doherty sardonically exposes the format of the Salon as “upsetting to the modern eye: masterpieces as wallpaper, each one not yet separated out and isolated in space like a throne.” His criticism is directed toward the white cube space, as he suggests the reverential aspect of the Salon is amplified in the modern gallery where individual artworks occupy vast spaces giving them an even greater sense of value and importance. In this environment, the larger an area devoted to an single artwork the greater importance can be attached to it.
A reverential attitude towards the art object was challenged “At that revolutionary moment in 1917 when Marcel Duchamp took a urinal, signed it, and displayed it as an art object.” (Madra 2006: 529) This challenged traditional attitudes toward the art object as a masterpiece to be glorified within the gallery environment. In German philosopher Martin Heidegger’s writings on art he compares potatoes kept in a cellar to a stored work of art in order to explore what it is that gives art its special value and at what point art becomes art and not just an ordinary object. My analysis also seeks to examine how the viewer engages with an artwork within the gallery environment, specifically where the body is used as a medium, and explore conceptions of authenticity or ‘value’ in the presentation of both live performance and documentation of a performance. I have always found the process in which Jackson Pollock’s paintings were made equally as interesting as the paintings as art objects. Michael Rush states it is a commonly held belief that Hans Namuth’s photographs and films of Jackson Pollock painting in his studio in the 1950s, showing the artist dripping and pouring paint onto the canvas “helped place the body at the centre of the work of art.” (Rush 2003: 63) Namuth was fascinated by the passion in the act of painting “like a great drama…the flame of explosion when the paint hit the canvas; the dance-like movement; the eyes tormented before knowing where to strike next; the tension, then the explosion again.” (Rush 2003: 63)The act of painting becomes a performance which the films and photographs document and the paintings also record the tensions and movements of the artist.
Documentation of a performance through photography, film or text can often be seen in the contemporary art gallery. Carolee Schneeman’s performance of Interior Scroll in which she used her own body as a medium as she stood on a table, removed a scroll from her vagina and read from it, took place in Colorado and New York in 1975 and has been represented as an artwork in Tate Liverpool through photographs taken during the performance and accompanying text relating to the work.
I strongly suspect this documentation of the performance has less impact than if the viewer were to witness the visceral performance in question firsthand, but it serves to create an impression of the performance and offer contemplation of the original experience. The work is hung at eye level, at a distance from other works which, when close enough to observe it clearly, allow sole engagement with the piece. It is situated within a white space, designed to appear untouched by time and “isolated from everything that would detract from its own evaluation of itself.” (O’Doherty 1976: 14) This mode of representation encourages the viewer to contemplate the work directly but also directs us to revere the work and identify the experience as sacred. Benjamin Ives Gilman declares that, “aesthetic contemplation is a profoundly transforming experience, an imaginative act of identification between viewer and artist. To achieve it, the viewer “must make himself over in the image of the artist, penetrate his intention, think with his thoughts, feel with his feelings.” (Gilman 1918: 56)Carol Duncan states that the end result of this encounter “is an intense and joyous emotion, an overwhelming and “absolutely serious” pleasure that contains a profound spiritual revelation.” (Duncan 1995: 16) This attitude can be attributed to any artistic engagement but all sources studied strongly indicate that both the art museum and gallery environment have been designed to facilitate this sacred relationship with the work.
O’Doherty is highly critical of the sterile nature of the white cube space which “is like Plato’s vision of a higher metaphysical realm where form, shiningly attenuated and abstract like mathematics, is utterly disconnected from the life of human experience here below,” (O’Doherty 1976: 11) and goes as far to state that “life of the self” is bleached out by entering the white cube space. It is worth noting that O’Doherty is reacting to the myth of the white cube as a neutral space. There is logical value in isolating work from the interference of distracting elements outside of the work in question, but I can also recognise the concerns which he highlights. The space is politically charged as it represents work as beyond time, thereby implying it “already belongs to posterity.” (O’Doherty 1976:7) This allows a ruling class or group to promote “a sense of the sole reality of its own point of view and, consequently, its endurance or eternal rightness.” (O’Doherty 1976: 9) Through this power structure the perspective of those outside of the dominant group may be excluded. As Marsha Meskimmon states;
“Simply, the authoritive ‘I’ who authored texts, the intellectual subject capable of rational thought and the genius who created high art, was not a neutral subject, but masculine, heterosexual, white, Euro-ethnic, middle-class and able-bodied – the normative subject of western epistemology and ontology.” (Meskimmon 2003: 71)
Art in recent decades can be seen to be more inclusive and pluralistic, giving voice to those outside of the dominant western hegemony, but we can see how the language of the gallery space can facilitate one perspective to be accepted as ‘gospel truth.’ Chantal Mouffe states in ‘Art and Democracy’ that;
“What is at a given moment considered to be the ‘natural’ order – together with the ‘common sense’ that accompanies it – is the result of sedimented hegemonic practices; it is never the manifestation of a deeper objectivity outside the practices that bring it into being. Every order is therefore political and based on some sort of exclusion.” (Mouffe 2008: 9)
This is particularly relevant to my practice, in which I have been exploring the ‘abject;’ that which is cast out of the natural order as it does not fit with the dominant perspective and set of cultural values. My work last year explored the abject in relation to the body and the performance Body Soup challenged where the acceptable cultural boundaries are in relation to body modification and mutilation.
Hegemonies may shift as societies change and reconfigure themselves and confronting what is comfortable within the framework of society at a given time can be seen as antagonistic and political, but also necessary.
During the recent Biennial in Liverpool, a room within the FACT gallery was devoted to Tehching Hsieh’s One Year Performance 1980 – 1981 (Time Clock Piece). The artist punched a worker’s time clock in his studio on the hour every day for a year – it would be impossible for the viewer to experience this performance firsthand, and the work is presented within the white cube space as an installation; each of the four walls are filled with photographs taken during the process, the time clock is attached to one of the walls and a display cabinet contains statements from the artist and a witness to verify the performance was genuine. The environment is curated to reproduce the experience of the artist to the viewer as authentically as possible. The viewer engages with the work through the ritual of the art museum and becomes a participant in a performance of their own. Carol Duncan states that ritual “involves an element of performance. A ritual site of any kind is a place programmed for the enactment of something” and that “In art museums, it is the visitors who enact the ritual. The museums sequenced spaces and arrangements of objects, its lighting and architectural details provide both the stage set and the script…the movement of the visitor as he enters a museum and as he goes or is led from object to object – is a present element in any installation.” (Duncan 1995: 12-13) O’Doherty argues that as the viewer engages with the gallery space, “the presence of that odd piece of furniture, your own body, seems superfluous, an intrusion. The space offers the thought that while eyes and minds are welcome, space occupying bodies are not.” (O’Doherty 1976: 15) There is a degree of subjectivity in the way we respond to the environment, either wilfully avoiding or misreading cues as we engage with the space, but we are likely to feel more self-conscious as we negotiate the white cube; we are aware of our footsteps as we move around this serene and minimal setting and feel compelled to speak quietly so as not to disturb others in this church-like environment. We experience a sense of duality and detachment; the disembodied eye representing the mind, and the awkward body of the spectator. This sense of fragmentation of the self and consciousness of our own bodies within the space has been criticised strongly by O’Doherty, however I would argue that this unsettled state of perception in the gallery space can and has been identified and adapted purposefully by many artists and curators, allowing us to examine ourselves and our society through our engagement with the gallery space. The presence of the viewer’s body in the gallery is central to Dan Graham’s video installation Present Continuous Pasts (1974) where a white cube space was installed with a camera, monitor and mirrors allowing viewers to see themselves reflected repeatedly in the monitor through the mirrored walls of the space, encouraging them consider themselves and their bodies from unfamiliar perspectives. I feel that if a reflexive artist understands the characteristics of the white cube, the nature of this space can be manipulated and self-conscious experience can be turned into valuable self-analysis and detachment from the self can encourage more objective thought processes.
In the Hseih installation, the viewer moves around the space, examining the time clock, the photographs on the walls and the documents in the display cabinet; piecing together all of the elements in order to understand the performance in which the artist was engaged. While Hseih’s installation and Schneemann’s Interior Scroll both reproduce a performance through documentation, I experienced a greater impression of authenticity whilst engaging with the Hseih installation, which I attribute to the viewer’s greater interaction with the work and the importance of their experience as they move around the space. The ritual of the viewer activates meaning within the work and can be seen as an integral part in the formation of an installation artwork with its own identity. Julie Reiss states that attempts to define Installation consistently identify a key characteristic being that “the spectator is in some way regarded as integral to the completion of the work.” (Reiss 1999: 13) Claire Bishop states that “’Installation art’ is a term that loosely refers to the type of art into which the viewer physically enters, and which is often described as ‘theatrical’, ‘immersive’ or ‘experiential’.” (Bishop 2005: 6) She also argues that “An installation of art is secondary in importance to the individual works it contains, while in a work of installation art, the space, and the ensemble of elements within it, are regarded in their entirety as a single entity.” (Bishop 2005: 6) However, as we have identified with the white cube space, even artwork which seeks to detach itself from the environment in which it is presented is loaded with meaning. Therefore, once an artwork is displayed it can be recognised as installation art in that it is always experienced in the context of the space and our perception of the work cannot be separated from the influence of the space. In reference to Heidegger’s potatoes in a cellar, if we suppose that an item of art exists as art if it is stored away, then it may also come into being as an artwork through an encounter with the viewer in the space it appears. Some argue that art exists only through a state of encounter and consequently does not exist without the presence of the viewer, but this is an issue I cannot explore further within the limitations of this assignment. From an early stage within the art making process, if an artist recognises the characteristics and nature of a space in which an artwork may be displayed and considers how elements may be arranged within it, the environment can be harmonious with and even (as in the example of my case studies) extend meaning within the work rather than cause interference with it. I believe therefore that all artwork, from large scale work consisting of many elements (either inside or outside of the gallery) to a painting hung on a gallery wall should be site-specific to the extent that the artist should consider the location in which where their work may appear when planning and creating the work. I accept that the importance of the site varies greatly between works but does relate to all work to some degree. There is a difference however, between what is recognised as site-specific art and work which may consider the potential location of display, as site-specific work is created solely to exist in a certain place and is so intrinsic to the unique characteristics of a particular site it could not function separately from it. As Robert Barry stated in an interview in 1969 about his wire installations, they “were made to suit the place in which it was installed. They cannot be moved without being destroyed.” (Barry 1969: 22) While artwork presented in the modern gallery often (but not always) remains within the white cube space, they can be moved around and displayed in different contexts based upon chronology, medium, or ideology amongst other themes, which also affects how the viewer relates to the work. In an exhibition in the white cube, work may be isolated within the space by a physical distance between artwork, yet we are still likely to make associations between works within the same exhibition and the theme of the exhibition is likely to inform our judgement of individual work. This can enable us to identify characteristics or a theme within the work which was less apparent, but can also mean work can lose the context in which it was made and lose the power it has or is able to produce in a more suitable context. Yahya Madra identifies the Venice Biennial as an example where radical art practices were inappropriately gathered “into a spectacle that has no relation to their broader context – to the social formation within which they are inserted.” (Madra 2006: 536) As I have identified, the gallery space has an influence upon the viewer’s engagement with artwork and in order for work to function effectively within the gallery space collaboration between artist and curator is vital. As Iwona Blazwick states;
“To be relevant in the twenty-first century, the gallery must be at once a permeable web, a black box, a white cube, a temple, a laboratory, a situation. It must take the form of a creative partnership, between a curator and the producer, object or idea of art.” (Blazwick 2006: 133)

Case Studies
Analysis of Paul McCarthy’s Pinocchio Pipenose Householddilemma reveals a reflexive understanding of the importance of curating the work. McCarthy considers how the work should be shown after the video of the performance is produced which blurs the boundaries between artist and curator and has the potential to facilitate a fluid relationship between the work of art, meaning within the work and how it is curated within the gallery space. Pinocchio Pipenose Householddilemma can be seen as video art, documentation of a performance, video installation, performance installation or a hybrid of these areas, and this is also dependent upon how it is displayed. The piece which was made in 1994 certainly derives from performance and the body is used as a medium to create a narrative and focus within the work. The artist is dressed in an outfit we recognise as Pinocchio through the Walt Disney version of the character. Pinocchio is filmed in a constructed room which has a pitched roof but is otherwise an almost perfect cube. The Pinocchio character performs within this space and interacts with props which including a table and chairs in the room, a white fur snake and a stuffed effigy wearing the same Pinocchio mask and costume. As the artist’s features are heavily obscured by the costume there are moments when there is little to differentiate between the two figures, creating an uncanny quality. The exaggerated behaviour displayed within the piece can be identified as both humorous and repulsive in equal measure. Pinocchio repeatedly thrusts his extended red tube nose into a jar of mayonnaise on the table, dips the fur snake into chocolate sauce and stuffs it into his pants and also thrusts his head into the crotch of the dummy Pinocchio until it is forced out of one of the circular holes in the wall of the room. These actions are of a ridiculous nature but the sexual connotations are unmistakable. The viewer may feel disturbed or amused, or even unsettled by experiencing a combination of both against their better wishes which may even heighten the sense of repulsion they experience. I am fascinated by the subjectivity of the audience and I have been exploring the boundary between humour and repulsion in my own work, and in Body Soup, I exaggerated movements and enacted gestures (such as looking at the viewer/camera open mouthed) to create an element of humour as a contrast to the disturbing act of self mutilation I was imitating within the performance.
Unlike my other case study, Pinocchio Pipenose Householddilemma is not presented as a live performance within the gallery space but appears as a recording of the performance. The events described above appear in a video which runs for 43 minutes 58 seconds. The purpose of this assignment is not only to develop a deeper understanding of the gallery as a space for exhibiting work, but also to explore the concept of authenticity and ‘value’ in engaging with the representation of a performance in the gallery space in contrast to live performance. Through doing so, I hope to identify features within both methods and use this knowledge to inform the development of my own work with mind to curating my work at the end of the year. Walter Benjamin argues in The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction that “Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be.” (Benjamin 1936: 4) He describes an original work of art as having an ‘aura’ which diminishes through reproduction and explains that the concept of authenticity is dependant upon the presence of the original. I agree with Benjamin’s argument and in light of this, accept that Pinocchio Pipenose Householddilemma loses some of the ‘aura’ of the artist’s original performance through its reproduction. This may not be as important if the artist seeks to create meaning through the medium they use and not to solely imitate the reality of the original performance. During the filming of Body Soup I was aware that I wanted the resulting video to reflect the meaning I was trying to express through the performance and would edit the footage and sound to best convey this. Video as a medium has its own characteristics separate from the experience of live performance and can therefore be authentic as an artwork with its own ‘aura’. Benjamin states that process reproduction, which would include photography and film, is more independent from the original source than manual reproduction:
“Process reproduction can bring out those aspects of the original that are unattainable to the naked eye yet accessible to the lens, which is adjustable and chooses its angle at will. And photographic reproduction, with the aid of certain processes, such as enlargement or slow motion, can capture images which escape natural vision.” (Benjamin 1936: 4)
He goes on to state that;
“With close up, space expands; with slow motion, movement is extended. The enlargement of a snapshot does not simply render more precise what in any case was visible, though unclear: it reveals entirely new structural formations of the subject…a different nature opens itself to the camera than opens to the naked eye – if only because an unconsciously penetrated space is substituted for a space consciously explored by man.” (Benjamin (1936: 19)
In Pinocchio Pipenose Householddilemma the video is divided into several sections by cutting scenes, the room is tipped onto its side between scenes and the camera changes position. The use of video as a medium is very appropriate as the camera can be seen as the eye of the viewer, and through the camera we are put into places we may not choose to go. If we were experiencing a live performance we may choose to turn away, but the camera fixes upon events in close up allowing the audience to voyeuristically participate in McCarthy’s fantasies “which could never be believed or permitted in normal life” and “not only rendered a dormant, dark and repressed part of human culture perceivable, but gave it life.” (Schroder 2003: 35) It is also fitting to the nature of the piece that McCarthy chooses to represent the performance through film as his work is widely recognised to critique sanitised public narratives generated by Hollywood and Disney films. Elizabeth Bronfen states that “Movies produce alternative realities, by turning the complexities and incoherencies of real and political situations into coherent protective fictions.” (Bronfen 2005: 224) The sanitised versions of reality presented in Hollywood and Disney films use stereotypes and clichés that reflect and sustain cultural hegemony. McCarthy uses the medium of film and icons found within mainstream cinema to challenge the banal structure of reality it circulates. McCarthy produces an alternative reality with transgressive behaviour and fragmented narrative structures with no morally defined structure or predictable happy ending. Bronfen identifies that “his ultimate aim is to make all neat ordering of the world collapse.” (Bronfen 2005: 226)
We have identified that the authenticity of McCarthy’s Pinocchio Pipenose Householddilemma is diminished as a performance through reproduction, but that it has its own unique nature and authenticity as a video artwork which contains performance as a key element. However, when considering how the work is displayed in the gallery McCarthy did not see his video as an autonomous object and as with other videos he made during the 1990s, he “often employed installations within an exhibition in order to maximise the effect a video could have upon the viewer.” (Schroder 2003: 39) McCarthy intended the videotape to be displayed in the gallery within the structure where the performance was made, and for viewers to be provided with a Pinocchio costume and mask which they must wear as they watch the video.
Although viewers experienced the video as the artist intended while on display in Rotterdam, when the video was shown in Tate Liverpool as part of a retrospective of McCarthy’s work in 2001, it was not presented within the constructed room in which it was filmed and there were no Pinocchio costumes for viewers to wear as they watch the video. The exhibition did include a large stage set of another video Bossy Burger as an installation, however I believe that it would be better to choose to fully represent a piece as the artist intended rather than a version that is not fully formed, and feel this was a missed opportunity for the viewer to engage with the work as completely as the artist intended. This reveals the importance of the relationship between artist and curator in faithfully representing the work in the most appropriate context. When Pinocchio Pipenose Householddilemma is shown within the room it was filmed in, the experience extends beyond the screen and becomes an interactive environment. The installation may be seen as the scene of a crime where events depicted in the video occurred. I also find the idea of putting Pinocchio costumes on particularly interesting and creative for several reasons. As identified earlier, the viewer may be acutely aware of the physical presence of their own bodies in the white cube space yet this quality is used to create a relationship between the character on the screen and the viewer dressed in the same costume. By donning the costume we become like the Pinocchio character in the video and a co-conspirator in the events that occur on screen, making it more difficult to detach ourselves from the video and, if predisposed to do so, assume a moral position against the content the work which we feel a part of. Our sense of perception also becomes distorted in this interactive environment – the video lens is like a peephole into the artists world and the viewers also engage with the experience through the peepholes of the Pinocchio mask they wear. The ritual of the viewer as they move around the white cube makes us conscious of our own bodies and also of others interacting with the space, yet as other viewers are dressed in Pinocchio costumes, our bodies no longer represent a distraction from the work but contribute to meaning within the video which becomes extended beyond its boundaries. The ritual of the gallery space becomes a performance and the potentially sterile and reverential nature of the white cube is broken by an engagement with the space which is humorous and playful, yet meaningful. By incorporating the set where the performance was made and through viewers wearing costumes to watch the video in the gallery space, viewers participate in an artwork which utilises the space to create a unique experience.
The House with the Ocean View by Marina Abramovic also created a unique and interactive experience within the white cube gallery space, but through live performance as opposed to video representation of a performance. This performance took place over twelve days in 2002 at the Sean Kelly Gallery in New York and the artist lived in the gallery space during this time within a constructed installation. The installation consisted of three room structures side by side elevated six feet from the floor.
The rooms represented a bedroom, a bathroom and a sitting room and contained basic furniture designed by the artist. Throughout the performance, the artist did not eat or speak and only drank water. She had no privacy at all as the rooms were open and spectators were free to observe the artist through a telescope set in front of the installation at any time throughout the performance.
While the white room structures resembled the home environment outside of the gallery, they were extremely minimal and very much an extension of the white cube gallery space. As Chrissie Iles states; “In this space of exchange, the private domestic space was collapsed into the public white cube of the gallery.” (Iles 2008: 101) The artist performed within the installation in a manner befitting the private domestic space as she carried out bodily functions such as showering, urinating and sleeping which could be observed by the viewer. In this performance, the ritualised actions of everyday life were exposed and connected directly with the ritual of the gallery space. Abramovic extended the serious contemplative tone set by the white cube space as she performed a series of slow gestures and movements which became sombre ceremonies. The only sound present in the environment was the ticking of a metronome which would only seem to heighten the intensity of the silence and emphasise the passing of time within the space.
Although the direction the performance would take was unstructured to a degree, there was a script of sorts as the artists instructions that there should be no talking, no food, no reading and no writing were posted on the wall at the entrance to the gallery. These requirements were a curatorial extension of meaning within the performance as Abramovic was engaged in intense meditative contemplation and it encouraged others to engage with her experience, yet it also demanded that viewers modify their natural behaviour upon entering the space and assume the ritual of the gallery space to an even more oppressive degree. This is a stark contrast to the piece by McCarthy where viewers put a costume on to enter the installation space which dissipates the serious and reverential nature inherent within the white cube gallery.
Each of the three room structures appeared to have a means of access and escape from the installation by ladder, yet every rung of the ladders were large butcher’s knives with the blades facing upwards.
We may wince by imagining Abramovic attempting to make the impossible descent on these ladders in her bare feet. The ladders served to create a sense of drama within the performance and provide a loose narrative and structure to the performance as there were moments of quiet reflection or inactivity and moments of tension and danger which were controlled by Abramovic as she moved around the space. As Chrissie Iles states:
“The three ladders of gleaming knives, which she approached at various moments during the day, sometimes closely enough to trigger alarm among viewers, suggested another, darker space, full of the danger and suffering expressed in past performances.” (Iles 2008: 105)
We are more exposed to the sense of danger in a live performance, and through a situation of this kind, our awareness of the performance taking place in the reality we share with the artist is increased. We know it is possible that the artist may accidentally fall as she stands balanced on the edge of the structure with the knives below her feet and we are aware there is no predetermined and safe conclusion guaranteed. McCarthy uses his body to engage in acts of abuse and mutilation within his video performances and although these acts may have a significant impact upon us they cannot produce the same impact as they would if they were carried out by the artist in the physical presence of the viewer. In his analysis of the uncanny, Freud states that it is more difficult to create an uncanny impression in a fictional story because reality is left behind at the start. Similarly, when we see events taking place on screen we are aware of a detachment between the world it depicts on screen and the reality we exist in. On screen, storytelling and special effects are familiar and we may be desensitised to dramatic or potentially disturbing content which we know will not extend beyond the screen and influence the environment our bodies exist in. While the authenticity of live experience may be diminished through reproduction and display through video, as indicated previously, the characteristics of video provide their own creative potential and authenticity as a work of art. In Pinocchio Pipenose Householddilemma McCarthy goes further however and does challenge this boundary between the screen and the space beyond, and through installation and curation of the space the work becomes an interactive experience where the distinction between viewer, performer and environment become blurred.
In The House with the Ocean View the white, pristine room structures are raised to make the viewer look up almost in worship towards the artist as she moves around the space which we can compare to an altar. This further emphasises the reverential and spiritual experience the viewer encounters through the dynamics of the white cube space. Within the restrictions of the performance, viewers do interact with the environment and their behaviour also affects the content of the work. Peering through the telescope becomes a performative element connected to the installation and while some viewers arrived to observe and departed after a few minutes, others stayed for hours at a time and became a familiar presence within a particular part of the performance. Abramovic would at times engage in eye contact with viewers for long periods of time and these improvised exchanges were an important feature of the performance. I would argue however, that these exchanges did not reflect an equal relationship and the performance was more about Abramovic’s experience than that of the viewer. The silent, meditative countenance of the artist infers an austere and serious demeanour fitting to the gallery space as she gazes down upon the viewers, and an intense intimacy through her gaze ironically reveals her psychological detachment from the viewer and their contribution to the experience as individuals. Also, as the performance took place over several days, the viewer was unable to experience the work holistically. As Iles states, “The accumulated collective experience of, and contribution to, the performance was witnessed in its entirety only by Abramovic herself.” (Iles 2008: 108) In one visit we could not comprehend the artist’s experience of hunger, and a viewer may have a totally different experience of the performance if they encounter it at one point instead of another. This does however, more faithfully reflect real life as we have shared experiences which meet and overlap at different points, making the experience of one viewer no more or less valid as a contributing factor to the overall experience, but we cannot access its totality. I feel that in Pinocchio Pipenose Householddilemma the artist places more emphasis upon the experience of the viewer as the purpose of the work. Although the medium of video separates us from the authenticity of live performance, the viewer experiences the work in its entirety and the curation of the space in which it is presented experiments with our perception. It directs us to become a character identical to the performer in the video and our sense of judgement becomes impaired, making it harder to disassociate ourselves from the acts performed within the video.

Summary statements.
Through this assignment I feel I have effectively addressed issues which are relevant to the development of my own practice and which will allow me to make more informed decisions when presenting and curating my work within the gallery environment.
Through critical analysis of the white cube, I feel I have identified that despite its initial appearance, the space is far from neutral and is a highly charged ritual space with social and political implications which unavoidably contribute to the relationship between the viewer and the work of art. The influence of the environment has to be considered during development of an artwork in order to enhance meaning within the work rather than to detract from it when it is displayed. I have learnt that this requires good communication between the artist, the work of art and the curator, and even the effective role of artist as curator.
Although I have identified potential strengths and weakness associated with the white cube space, through analysis of examples I have been able to identify that some characteristics of the space which have been criticised can be subverted by the artist or curator to enhance meaning within their work and the experience of the viewer within the space. I feel the humour and playfulness with which McCarthy challenges the reverential nature of the white cube is a quality I have within my own work and I can see potential in extending this beyond the screen and into the gallery space.
I feel I have examined relevant examples of work in order to explore how performance is represented through different mediums within the gallery space. Confronting issues regarding authenticity and analysis of the nature of separate mediums has enabled me to draw personal conclusions which will guide me to choose the most appropriate form of representation to the purpose of my work.
I believe I have identified that the authenticity and full emotional impact of a live performance diminishes through reproduction by means of video, photography or documentation. The viewer has a greater freedom of perception in a live performance as their eye is free to follow their own train of thought during engagement with the work, yet within a video representation of a performance, the eye of the viewer is guided by the artist to reveal an experience the artist wishes you to share. The ‘aura’ that is lost through reproduction is replaced by the production of a video artwork with unique characteristics inherent within the medium. As my examples demonstrate, an artistic experience with its own sense of authenticity can exist in the performance of producing a painting, or in the case of video artwork; a unique encounter can occur by extending the experience beyond the screen into an interactive environment using intelligent curation of the space.
I feel that documentation of a performance, purely as a means to represent an original performance for contemplation detaches the viewer from an authentic experience in the environment they are situated in and helps to reinforce the characteristics of the white cube space as a sterile place of worship.
As an informed response to this study, I will consider using live performance within the gallery space again if a creating a direct and affecting emotional impact is important to the meaning within my work. This is likely to be the case, as I have developed a deep interest in performance using the body as a medium and my study of the abject and exploration of cultural boundaries within a particular hegemony seems most appropriate to this art form. The understanding I have developed of video as a medium, both through practice and research, has enabled me to appreciate its unique characteristics which allow us to reveal what cannot be expressed through other media. Although a video can be seen as an autonomous artwork, the experience of the viewer as they encounter art within the space it is presented is extremely important to me and I feel that if I choose to display video work in the gallery (if the nature of its content is most appropriate to this medium), I will definitely seek to extend the experience beyond the screen and create an authentic experience through an awareness of the politics of the gallery space and an understanding of creative installation and curation techniques as I have reviewed within this study.

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