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Body Art Collage

Body Art

Started: 1961

Ended: 1980

Body Art Timeline

Quotes

"To diffuse self-prejudice, women must take control of and have pride in the sensuality of their own bodies and create a sensuality in their own terms, without referring to the concepts degenerated by culture."
Hannah Wilke
"The female nude is part of a revered tradition, although she is not to take authority over depictions of her nudity. She is just to be available."
Carolee Schneemann
"I have been carrying on a dialogue between the landscape and the female body (based on my own silhouette) I am overwhelmed by the feeling of having been cast from the womb (nature). Through my earth/body sculptures I become one with the earth I become an extension of nature and nature becomes an extension of my body."
Ana Mendieta
"Why should we have this mind-body male-female duality? The mind and body are one, so I tried to make art an expression of that connection."
Hannah Wilke
"It was in the body that the energy and the confirmation of what I'd seen and lived was coherent. That was an area that hadn't been colonized."
Carolee Schneemann
"To me the pain and the blood are merely means of artistic expression."
Marina Abramović
"As I hacked at the excluding vital surfaces of Abstract Expressionism, my entire body ripped through the canvas to emerge on the other side in actual time and space as an active and activating form."
Carolee Schneemann

KEY ARTISTS

Yves KleinYves Klein
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Carolee SchneemannCarolee Schneemann
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Jim DineJim Dine
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Dennis OppenheimDennis Oppenheim
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Chris BurdenChris Burden
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Yayoi KusamaYayoi Kusama
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More Top Artists

"My work became a bridge that had to be crossed by young feminists working with their bodies."

Carolee Schneemann Signature

Synopsis

If life is the greatest form of art, then it seems only natural for artists to use the physical body as a medium. This is exactly what many Performance artists did to express their distinctive views and make their voices heard in the newly liberated social, political, and sexual climate that emerged in the 1960s. It was a freeing time where artists felt empowered to make art ever more personal by dropping traditional mores of art making and opted to using themselves as living sculpture or canvas. This resulted in direct confrontation between artist and audience, producing a startlingly intimate new way to experience art.

The body artists were a loose group - mostly categorized as a group by critics and art historians - which developed early within the Performance Art movement. The larger movement's main impetus was to evolve definitions of art to include situations in which time, space, the artist's presence, and the relationship between artist and viewer constituted an artwork. To the body artists, the artist's presence translated to an artist's physicality; not only did they need to personally fulfill a role in the presentation of an artwork, their own flesh and blood would become a key figure in the work as well.

Key Ideas

Body art diffused the veil between artist and artwork by placing the body front and center as actor, medium, performance, and canvas. Lines were erased between message and messenger or creator and creation, giving new meaning to, and amplifying the idea of, authentic first person perspective.
In the post-1960s atmosphere of changing social mores and thawed attitudes toward nudity, the body became a perfect tool to make the political personal. What else could be more demonstrative of an artist's passions, opinions, and voice than a direct, literal representation of the self as the prime channel of communication in making a point? Especially in matters of the hot button issues of the time, using the body became a way for an artist to connect the individual with the universal human experience - one person asking others to resonate as a whole.
By forcing audiences to partake in oftentimes violent, jarring, shocking, or unimaginable experience, Body art asked its viewers to consider the role they were playing in the dark and uncomfortable spaces between innocent bystander and culpable voyeur.
Whether regarded as a temple and honored as a sacred vessel or treated as an object to test, wield, or destruct, the body was placed on a pedestal and became a literal (rather than just appropriated, imagined, or created by the artist's hand) collaborator in the art making process. This focus so narrowly directed toward the body, ultimately forced viewers to hone a spotlight on their own physicality and its role in their fleeting existence.
Body art can be seen as a forebear to today's general mainstream acceptance of tattooing, piercing, scarring, or otherwise adorning the body as a means to establish one's own individuality as well as connections to certain forms of community and likeminded mentality.

Beginnings

Body Art Image

Body art has its roots in the Performance art movement, which sprung up among avant-garde artists in the late 1950s when artists such as John Cage and members of the Fluxus group were staging "happenings." These were performances that accentuated a content-based meaning with a dramatic flair instead of traditional performances meant for purely entertainment purposes. An interest in performance as an alternative means of artistic expression began to spread through the US, Europe, and Asia where collectives like the Viennese Actionists and Japan's Gutai Group sprang up to produce live-action artworks that erased the need for an end product or commodity. In many of these progressive new performances, the artist's body became subject of, or object within, the overall piece, creating a literal embodiment of the artwork.

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Body Art Overview Continues

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Anna Souter

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Kimberly Nichols

" Movement Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Anna Souter
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Kimberly Nichols
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