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Posts Tagged ‘performance art

“No great artist ever sees things as they really are”*…

Tom Miller in front of his 2016 artwork, Nothing

Indeed, sometimes they see nothing at all…

Earlier this month, an Italian artist named Salvatore Garau went viral when his “immaterial sculpture”—that is, a work of art made of literally nothing—sold for €15,000 ($18,300) at auction.

Articles about the sale was shared widely, often accompanied by captions of the “I could have done that” variety. Users posted pictures of blank spaces—their own invisible sculptures which could surely be had for a fraction of Garau’s price. Many bemoaned the fact that they didn’t think of it first. 

Then there was Tom Miller, a performance artist from Gainesville, Florida, who says he actually did do it first—and now he’s filing a lawsuit against Garau to prove it.

The Florida artist says that, in 2016, he installed his own invisible sculpture in Gainesville’s Bo Diddley Community Plaza, an outdoor event space. He titled it Nothing and erected it over the course of five days with a team of workers who moved blocks of air like mimes building the Great Pyramid of Giza. Tens of people were on hand to see the opus unveiled that June. 

Miller even made a short film about the work, a mockumentary that features fake artists and curators as talking heads. He compares his respective take on nothingness to John Cage’s “4′33″ and Seinfeld

“All I can say personally is that Nothing is very important to me,” Miller told Artnet News in an email. “I should be credited with Nothing (specifically the idea of Nothing fashioned into sculpture form), and Gainesville, Florida—not Italy—is where Nothing happened first.”

It’s worth pointing out, of course, that immaterial art has a long history stretching back to the 20th century. Yves Klein exhibited an empty gallery space in 1958 and envisioned an “architecture of air” a couple of years later. Tom Friedman installed an invisible object atop a plinth in 1992—and it sold for £22,325 nine years later.

Miller may have even more competition than he realizes. Since Artnet News first published an article about Garau’s work, numerous other artists have written to me about their own invisible sculpture practices. It turns out it’s hard to get noticed when you’re an artist who makes… nothing.

Tom Miller, who says he made an invisible sculpture in 2016, is demanding visibility: “A Florida Man Is Threatening to Sue an Artist Whose Invisible Sculpture Sold for $18,000, Saying He Came Up With the Idea First”; from Taylor Dafoe (@tddafoe) in @artnet

* Oscar Wilde


As we muse on the missing, we might might recall that it was on this date in 1989 that Northrop Grumman did its best to make something all-too-tangible disappear: it first flew what became the B-2 Spirit— better known as the Stealth Bomber.


“Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast”*…



… or not.

Consider the Portsmouth Sinfonia…

an English orchestra founded by a group of students at the Portsmouth School of Art in 1970. The Sinfonia was generally open to anyone and ended up drawing players who were either people without musical training or, if they were musicians, ones that chose to play an instrument that was entirely new to them. Among the founding members was one of their teachers, English composer Gavin Bryars. The orchestra started as a one-off, tongue-in-cheek performance art ensemble but became a cultural phenomenon over the following 10 years, with concerts, record albums, a film and a hit single. [source]

For your corespondent’s money, the apex (nadir) of their work was their performance of “Also sprach Zarathustra” by Richard Strauss:


And then there’s the performance pictured above: “the Piano Concerto in A,” by Tchaikovsky, at Royal Albert Hall– a run to which thousands of tickets were sold:


The best of the worst: The Portsmouth Sinfonia.

* William Congreve, The Mourning Bride (often misquoted as “music hath charms to soothe the savage beast”).  The same play gave us “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned / Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned,” often misquoted as “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”


As we embrace enthusiasm, we might send more melodic birthday greetings to Constant Lambert; he was born on this date in 1905.  A composer, conductor, and author, he was the founding Music Director of the Royal Ballet, and (alongside Ninette de Valois and Frederick Ashton) he was a major figure in the establishment of the English ballet as a significant artistic movement.

Lambert is also remembered as the inspiration and model for the character Hugh Moreland in his close friend Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time (especially in the fifth volume, Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant, in which Moreland is a central character).  Lambert’s son, Kit Lambert, was one of the managers of The Who.


Christopher Wood‘s portrait of Lambert (1926)



“Bosch is great because what he imagines in color can be translated into justice”*…


Detail from the left panel of The Garden of Earthly Delights depicting the paradise of the Garden of Eden

Further to a relatively recent post on Hieronymous Bosch:

I recently traveled to the small Dutch town of Den Bosch to The Noordbrabants Museum to see the largest assembly of work by Hieronymus Bosch ever assembled,Jheronimus Bosch: Visions of Genius. This town was where Bosch spent his entire life—he lived on one side of the square and worked in his studio on the other. I took a guided tour of the Museum (big thanks to Heidi Vandamme and Tamsin Aarts-Pickard at the museum and to Sander Knol at Xander Uitgevers, my book publisher in Holland!), and afterward I wrote down what I remembered. Needless to say the show is hugely popular—The Guardian called it “one of the most important exhibitions of our time”—and I think it’s fantastic…it’s a window into another world and another time…

From David Byrne, “11 Things I Learned from the Hieronymous Bosch Show.”

* Edward Dahlberg


As we tend our gardens, we might send edgy birthday greetings to Christopher Lee “Chris” Burden; he was born on this date in 1946.  An artist working in performance, sculpture and installation art, his work is collected in the LACMA and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Tate Gallery, London; the Middelheimmuseum, Antwerp, Belgium; the Inhotim Centro de Arte Contemporanea, Brazil; the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, among others. And he has been celebrated in the lyrics of songs by David Bowie (“Joe the Lion”) and Laurie Anderson (“It’s Not the Bullet that Kills You – It’s the Hole [for Chris Burden]”).

Metropolis II (2011) kinetic art project by Chris Burden. At LACMA, filmed March 16, 2013.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

April 11, 2016 at 1:01 am

“A laborer over the course of an 8-hour day can sustain an average output of 75 watts”*…


In 75 Watt, a new project by London-based studio Cohen Van Balen, workers on a nondescript Far East assembly line are shown assembling an existential MacGuffin of a gadget: a nonsensical object that does absolutely nothing. But that is not to say it is purposeless; as Tuur Van Balen explains, “the only function of the object being built is to choreograph its own assembly.  All of its dimensions, components, and materials are designed to create specific movements when they are put together.”

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Read more about this exercise in industrial design as choreography at “A Gadget Designed To Make Assembly Line Workers Dance.”

* Marks’ Standard Handbook for Mechanical Engineers


As we tip our hats to Terpsichore, we might recall that it was on this date in 1973 that Roger English of La Jolla, California stopped dancing the Twist after a record 102 hours and 39 minutes.



Written by (Roughly) Daily

July 16, 2013 at 1:01 am

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