The Performing Body as Sculptural Object

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In 1969, Gilbert & George covered their heads and hands in metallic powder and sang Flanagan and Allen’s vaudeville number “Underneath the Arches.” Declaring themselves living sculpture, they assumed the status of an artwork, a role they used photography to express. In the radicalized climate of the 1970s, artists such as Eleanor Antin, valie export, Ana Mendieta, Dennis Oppenheim, Charles Ray, and Hannah Wilke engaged with the “rhetoric of the pose,” underscoring the key role of photography in the intersection of performance and sculpture. Other artists as diverse at Robert Morris, Claes Oldenburg, Otto Muehl, and Bas Jan Ader experimented with the body as sculptural material. Several of Bruce Nauman’s pictures from his portfolio Eleven Color Photographs (1966–67/1970) spoof the classic tradition of sculpture, and Erwin Wurm’s series of One Minute Sculptures (1997–98) are gestural articulations in which the body is turned into a sculptural form. Wurm, like the other artists presented in this exhibition, has enlisted the camera not to document actions that precede the impulse to record them but as an agent that generates actions through its own presence and that is a constitutive element of the work.