Writing Bodies, Performing With Word and Body


A poem by artist EJ Hill, written on the wall of the EFA Project Space during his “Decade” performance at Writing Bodies
Photo: Provided by the EFA Project Space.

By David LaGaccia

Words affect the way we identify ourselves, they affect how we interpret the world around us, and they create the building blocks of language of self-expression. Writing Bodies, a performance series now running at Manhattan’s EFA Project Center, is presenting work that explores the relationship between the body, language and text.

Writing Bodies began September 9th, and will continue with performances until October 10th with times starting around 7 P.M. Participating artists in the series include Dylan Mira, Dean Daderko, Jess Arndt, robbinschilds (Sonya Robbins and Layla Childs), EJ Hill, Katherine Hubbard, Simone White, Michelle Boulé, and keyon gaskin. gaskin will be presenting workshops during day hours beginning October 10th with a performance later that week on October 10th.

The series is the first performance centered exhibition held at the EFA Project Space, and is being described by program director Michelle Levy as “entirely event based” with venue hours only being open during scheduled events. She explained that part of the development of Writing Bodies includes the accumulation of performance ephemera that will populate the gallery space.

“The interesting thing is that each performance that takes place, leaves behind artifacts that may be seen as art objects,” wrote Levy in an email. “The artifacts are definitely charged with the aura of the performance. Some are left up for the rest of the series (like EJ’ HIll’s beautiful poem inscribed on the wall), some taken down. But when the actions are all over, we will bring all of the artifacts out, placing them in the same spot as the original performance they reference, and for a few days (during the time of EFA’s open studios), the remains of the performances will be on display as an exhibition.”

Further, program manager Meghana Karnik in an email described the series as “…a roving exploration of the relationship between bodies and language, gathering a group of writers concerned with the representation of bodies with performance/performing artists who use their bodies as tools for critical inquiry.”


Dean Daderko, “Untitled” being performed on Thursday, September 17th.
Photo: Provided by the EFA Project Space.

Writing Bodies is curated by Litia Perta. Perta is a writer and assistant professor of art writing and critical curatorial studies at the University of California, Irvine. She has contributed essays to museum exhibition catalogs for Double Life: Haegue Yang, Wu Tsang and Jérôme Bel for the Contemporary Art Museum, Houston, and Dear Nemesis: Nicole Eisenman 1993–2013 for the Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis, both in 2014.

Written in a long-form prose poem in the press release, Perta describes the programming as “…a shifting constellation of art actions that generates questions, revelations, risks, fissures, sutures, slips around the practices, problems, pleasures, politics of being bodies––of being bodies written, of being bodies written out, of being bodies writing, of being bodies writing bodies, of being bodies that are unread, read, of being bodies yet unwritten.”

Writing Bodies continues today at the EFA Project Space with a performance by Michelle Boulé from 12 to 5 P.M., and later this Friday and Saturday at 7, with a performance titled “cyclops and slashes” by Katherine Hubbard. Located in Midtown, Manhattan, the EFA Project Space started in 2008 as a venue for The Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts. For a complete listing of scheduling and events, refer to the EFA Project Space website.

Update: Meghana Karnik was incorrectly identified as the program director, she is the program manager. Also, it should be clarified that keyon gaskin will begin workshops on October 5th and will perform on October 10th.




by Dolanbay

Dolanbay, Untitled Act - Berlin 2011. Photo by Teena Lange

Dolanbay, Untitled Act – Berlin 2011. Photo by Teena Lange

“Purge the world of bourgeois sickness. ‘Intellectual’, professionals, commercialized culture PURGE the world of death art, imitation, artificial art, abstract art, illusionistic art, and mathematical art, PURGE THE WORLD OF “EUROPANISM”! PROMOTE A REVOLUTANARY FLOOD AND TIDE IN ART. Promote living art, anti art. Promote NON ART REALITY to be grasped by all people, not only critics, dilettantes and professionals. FUSE the cadres of cultural, social & political revolutionaries into united front & Action.” Fluxus Manifesto, 1963

George Maciunas has thrown the copies of the manifesto into the audience at the ‘Festum Fluxorum Fluxus’ in Düsseldorf, 1963. Joseph Beuys has retained a copy and some years later, in 1970, he has removed the “EUROPANISM” from the manifesto and wrote “AMERICANACA” instead. He has kept rest of the text as Maciunas’s original handwriting…

Fluxus has opposed to the whole belief in modernism, their oppositional acts was determined of the historically developed artistic flow in critique to objective life. Beuys and his followers’ endeavours was registered as healing of modernism and unification of Europe, which has mainly taken shape within the context of common subjectivity towards regaining of the national identity and the modernity with better democracy. However, Maciunas’ opposing of conventions and the concept of generality and Beuys’ concept -everyone is an artist, every being is a social being and a social sculpture, art is evolutionary and revolutionary potential to transform the society- had suggested further implications on the progressing of the flow towards performativity in coherent to the artistic interventions were originated within transformative potential of singularity.

Dolanbay, Untitled - London 2013. Photo by Teena Lange

Dolanbay, Untitled – London 2013. Photo by Teena Lange

The engagement in bridging the gap between art and life was earlier manifested by Italian Futurists and Russian Constructivists. However the inner frame of these manifestations was contextualized as the avant-garde invention of the new movements; offered new methods and approaches within the stylistic interconnections that have led to the various conventional art forms. Fluxus was not a movement for a new kind stylistic art, it has manifested as continuity of the universal flow, an extensive synonymic practice in art&life inherited from Dadaism, “Rationalism” and “Freudian Unconscious” which flowingly led to the search of an inner need, a non materialistic world that was noted as Surrealism.

While the First World War has left modernism dazed and confused, Dadaist act was an intellectualized response against the conventional values in art and culture and politics of the war. Dada has practiced anti-art methods in order to devastate the credibility of the conventional art and culture making. Continuously, Surrealism was born into a ruin of the modern life and its culture. It manifested that reality could not be understood through rationalism alone, but together with liberating and exploring the creative power of the unconscious mind, that was to reveal the unconscious and reconcile it with rational life.

The continuity of art&life practices has enabled artists to discover the reality of the world they live in and the self-realization within the world.  In our present time artists work in awareness of objective reality gained by interconnectivity of the ideas and experiences, which have taken shape towards the end of the 20th Century. Artists have developed diverse strategies in respond the cultural, social and political characteristics of the modernity, defined as  “western in its orientation, capitalist in its economic tendency, bourgeois in its overpowering class character, white in its racial complexion, and masculine in its dominant gender”[1]

Dolanbay, Untitled Singular Act - New York 2013. Photo by Teena Lange

Dolanbay, Untitled Singular Act – New York 2013. Photo by Teena Lange

Dadaists, Surrealists, Situationist International, Fluxus …together with the explosion of new approaches within the following decades, international art overcame the stylistic proliferation of the modernity. Artists have rejected any kind of formal uniformity and refused to accept any predetermined constrain in the use of media. In the absence of any conformity of style artwork has become to be evaluated not with technical skills but within the terms and artistic interventions; in condition that artwork was to be emerged within ‘subject’, ‘object’ and ‘mind’ interaction. And these elements had to be in correspondence during the course of the practice; forms were created through associations towards non-subjective representations.

Artistic interventions of art&life practices have been indispensable since Post-Impressionism, which was seen as the turning point from nature-bound reality. However, it has begun in the 50s, artistic intervention was treated as a subject matter. This new approach in art, primarily painting has overturned the aesthetics certainties of earlier modernist painting.  For the American critic Harold Rosenberg, “action painting indicated how painting became an arena in which to act for the artist. He continued, what was to go on the canvas was not a picture but an event.”[2] In Europe and America a new approach “For Greenberg these paintings represent experience and make it actual, for Rosenberg the revelation is contained in the act.”[3]

Dolanbay, Mıxed Media on Paper - MPA- Berlin 2014. Photo by Teena Lange

Dolanbay, Mıxed Media on Paper – MPA- Berlin 2014. Photo by Teena Lange

In reference to Socrates, if we do not understand ourselves we cannot understand the world and it is to be achieved by rational thought.

In reference to Descartes, knowledge can be gained rationally ‘without any sensory experience’ but truths can be attained by our intuition through a deductive process by breaking down the knowledge into elements.

For Kant, knowledge can be gained with the both, reason and experience.

The above complementary assumptions together with the artistic and the philosophical developments throughout and after the modern period have enabled contemporary artists into a journey of self-realization; it was not any longer as in the course of modernist dream of searching universal truth but in a reflexive journey that, the search is “I” within the space, time and mind continuum, which the search is “act” and it sets relations from “I” to life.

Here, in order to avoid confusions, we should differ the indications of the words act, acting, action in reference to the semiotic studies. The lectures given by John L. Austin, “How to do things with words” in 1955, was published by Harvard University in 1962. In his lectures, Austin differs the utterances as being “performative” and “constative”: A “performative” utterance is non-referential ‘act’ and not a ‘representation’, a state of being within the condition, in a process of performing something. A “constative” utterance is an assertion, preserves ambiguity and makes us believe something either true or false. The “constative” assertions take form of  ‘Acting’ which is mode of being in passivity; something that one becomes another, by moulding into characteristics of another so to represent the other. ‘Action’ manifests in the mode of acting, as doing something in correspondence to preliminary conditions. ‘Act’ can be understood in reference to Latin word ‘entelecheia’, which is a condition of actual power – energy and ‘intellectus’ that means of “correspondence of mind and reality”[4]. ‘Intellectus’ is derived of ‘intellect’, by means of someone’s own mind. Consequently, ‘act’ is manifestation of someone’s own mind power and the performance of the mind in correspondence to reality – energia!

Dolanbay, Untitled Singular Act - Stockholm 2014. Photo by Teena Lange

Dolanbay, Untitled Singular Act – Stockholm 2014. Photo by Teena Lange

Appropriating the term “constative” as a method for artistic practices, it has been central to the underlying principles of 20th century’s art and any other area of the creative industries. Within this historical journey, despite of the repetitive conventional and revising interventions, the progressive artists have always tackled on prerequisite of art and its essential connection to reality/life. In this manner the artists has discoursed on subjectivity and objectivity in the mode of perception and representation, which the effort has enable the historical flow towards the non-representational form of artistic interventions, which was termed as performativity.

Although the term has been widely pronounced in the field of ‘performance art’, in our time, it is to be understood as a mode of artistic intervention and a way of life in distinction to constative. The constative method in all the disciplines is passive mode of intervention via acting/action through art to life. The method results as a form of representation by imitating, modelling, describing, and story telling or an implication. That is to contemplate art production as the repetition of existing forms with in the world of generality as the subjective mode of assumption, suggestion or interpretation.

Dolanbay, Untitled Singular Act - Berlin 2013. Photo by Teena Lange

Dolanbay, Untitled Singular Act – Berlin 2013. Photo by Teena Lange

The performative on the other hand is not a representation. It does not interpret reality and it does not seek for an interpretation. It leaves out all the tenets of the constative. It is a walk of life, an active mode of artistic intervention. It is the manifestation of act -the performance of mind power – singularity indifference to generality in a form of energia that generates real effect in the world. It is activated within self-awareness, in full presence – a self within actual moment, in non-measurable significant time – timeless in the space… Act is not referential to knowledge and it does not seek for knowledge. It seeks for unknown and reveals unknown in a form of experience occurs throughout in a dramatic process, in an alienated situation, which is engendering transformative actual power that manifesting in the world.

At the age of globalisation, the new era in art has begun with “Performative”, which goes beyond post modernism.

This text is written in an act.

Dolanbay – 2011 Berlin

[1] Christopher L.C.E. Witcombe, Modernism and Politics, 1997, Department of Art History, Sweet Briar College, Virginia, USA

[2] The Tate Britain, gallery publication, London

[3] Pam Meecham and Julie Sheldon (2000) Modern Art: a Critical Introduction, Routledge, London

[4] Robert Cavalier, Department of Philosophy / Carnegie Mellon University, CAAE/80254/Heideger/SZHomePage.html

Two Shots of Whiskey, or Dealing with the After Effects of a Performance

By Amber Lee

Being an organizer and a performer, my position at shows and festivals is almost always behind the scenes. It’s a position I like because there’s an element of performance that transcends the time spent in front of the audience. I’m not saying that the preparation, or more notably here, the after effects are more important than the performance themselves. What I mean is that these moments have a quality to them that I enjoy more than the show. In the after effects of a performance, especially a physical or body-based performance, there is a quality of truth that comes from a revelation of yourself. This revelation comes in two parts, or should I say two shots.

1. Bartender, what the hell am I doing?

Inevitably, the first revelation a performer has after the adrenaline of the audience wears off will be something to the effect of “Ouch. Ow. Ow. Dear God, get this fish hook out of my thigh”. During performances I personally have been cut with barbed wire, burned by candle wax, sloughed my skin with sandpaper until it bled, and been branded. Twice. All of these, during the performance seemed hardly painful at all, but when my time was up, and the audiences focus somewhere else, I was left bleeding, bruised or burned. That’s something you have to think about—and not only on a physical level, although, let me tell you, there’s no magical performance salve that makes the scars go away. Your performance doesn’t end when you leave the space. In addition to the scarring or pain, there’s a mental mind fuck that comes from purposely harming yourself. While you were planning the performance, and during it, this was an art piece, a message, a statement you wanted to make. But, when you’re on the train and you see people’s eyes avoiding the cuts on your arms and legs and you feel the urge to cover yourself or lower your eyes, you start to question yourself. And rightly so. You start to ask yourself why you chose this as the best way to convey your message. What distinguishes you from the teenager cutting her arms for attention? The big question is, if it’s done in the name of art, does that cancel out the self-destruction? And bartender, make mine a double.

Don’t be fooled, though. Those whiskey shots you see us knocking back after the show aren’t just numbing agents. Oh, no. We’re not just drowning dark thoughts, we’re celebrating. Because, after we realize our questionable morals, we realize something else.


Amber Lee performing precariously with barbed wire. Photo by Jill McDermid

2. Tonight we drink among the GODS!

Oh yes. We are invincible. The thing about doing a physically tasking performance is that when you’re finished, you are still alive. Not only that, you’re more alive. Most people avoid pain or discomfort of any sort, and that’s a big reason that most people are happy in static lives. They would rather stay safely in place than venture out where they could be hurt. But, during our performances where we test the limits of our bodies, or simply play on the edges of physical distress, we are taking our lives into our own hands. We’re proving ourselves. To make this less metaphorical, there’s an adrenaline rush that comes when we survive a traumatic event. This happens on a smaller scale after a hard performance. And mentally, you feel as if you’ve accomplished something.

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Here INCIDENT’s editors and team of writers will post short, quick updates on the magazine and other news/events in Performance.