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Art & Art History

Endurance: The Information

Monday, November 04, 1996–Saturday, December 21, 1996
Gallery 400
400 South Peoria Street, Chicago, IL 60607

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Marina Abramovic, Vito Acconci, Bas Jan Ader, Eleanor Antin, Skip Arnold, Judith Barry, Joseph Beuys, Chris Burden, Papo Colo, Arthur Cravan, Valie Export, Bob Flanagan and Sherree Rose, Sherman Fleming, Terry Fox, Gilbert and George, Geoffrey Hendricks, Tehching Hsieh, Kim Jones, Yves Klein, Barry Le Va, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Tom Marioni, Paul McCarthy, Linda Montano, Charlotte Moorman, Yoko Ono, Dennis Oppenheim, Orlan, Gina Pane, Rachel Rosenthal, Carolee Schneeman, Jill Scott, Bonnie Sherk, Barbara Smith, Stelarc, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, and T. R. Uthco (Doug Hall and Jody Proctor)

Endurance: The Information is an international survey exhibition tracing the work of thirty-eight visual and performance artists who, individually and collectively, tested the physical, mental, and spiritual endurance of the body. Included are works derived from performances, body art actions, and conceptual pieces from 1916 to the present, with a concentration on art from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. The show focuses on selected photographic documentation from key works that exemplify acts of endurance done in real time. Endurance: The Information is curated by Jeanette Ingberman and Papo Colo, directors of EXIT ART/ The First World, and is presented in chronological order and shown in two segments.

At the turn of the century, artists’ desire to transcend traditional art forms led to a re-thinking of the modes of presentation. Performance, sometimes known as body art, has since taken innumerable forms, drawing from dance, theater, music, poetry, cinema, painting, sculpture, and the advancement of new communications technology. Influences have included the European avant-garde (the Futurists, Dadaists, and Surrealists), Theater of the Absurd, Abstract Expressionism, vaudeville, cabaret, athletic events, parades, the circus, and numerous other forms of public spectacle. During the 20th century, many styles and modes of performance have evolved from private, introspective, and autobiographical investigations to include social actions, site-specific or environmental works, and large-scale, multimedia productions.

The theme of endurance in performance lends itself well to both aesthetic experimentation and social and cultural criticism. The artists used performance to focus on issues of identity and the body, temporality, ritual, spectacle, site, and institutional critique, among other criteria. Some of the artists in the exhibition took an adversarial posture, where their confrontational acts or auto-destructive performances were intended to shock, using “their own bodies to explore the outer limits of physical and psychic experience, expanding the parameters of art to include therapeutic, obsessive, and transgressive acts,” and often exploiting the idea of pain in a masochistic tradition as well as acknowledging pain as a precondition of humanity. Other artists focused on issues of power and control, cooperation and compassion. Certain artists used the body as both the subject and object of actions, emblematic of the idea that the artist and the artwork are one and the same. Many of the artists were interested in experiencing a task that was outside the accepted norms of behavior.

The works included in this exhibition have played a significant role in how art is made, presented, and received. Endurance: The Information asks us to confront questions about the nature of artistic inquiry, the relationship of art to society, and the role of innovation in the human enterprise.