Antony Gormley, One & Other, 2009
I hate to bring out the old fogey in me, but I’ve always felt conflicted by the concept of life as performance art. Sure, if that’s what you want to call it, that’s what it is, but the job of explaining why Paris Hilton’s life is not performance art is tedious enough without adding Sacha Baron Cohen and Michael Jackson to the list.
Thanks to Time Magazine art critic Richard Lacayo, I expect I’ll be spending a lot more time discussing such things. Lacayo employs the broad definition of a performance as “behavior that’s been framed in some way to make us bestow meanings on the behavior” (although he acknowledges it’s one of many) to build his argument that Baron Cohen and Jackson are performance artists. Also blurring the definition of performance of late is Antony Gormley’s piece One and Other, which invites real people to stand on a plinth in Trafalgar Square. The plinth features a different person every hour, and allows them to do anything (legal) they please for their 60 minutes of prominence. Gormley’s piece began on July 6, and after its 100-day duration, it will have featured 2400 participants. According to Lacayo’s reading, these cultural events combine to demonstrate the notion that anything can be art with the right framing.
I’ll admit I find checking in with Gormley’s One and Other rather amusing—as I’m typing, there’s a guy working on his laptop in the square—but I have yet to read an argument that convinces me there’s any significant meaning to this reframing. As a conceptual exercise, once we establish the already-known fact that anyone can adopt the “experience-as-art” stance forged by Gilbert and George and Chris Burden (amongst others), the point is made. Personally, I’m looking forward to whatever comes after these endless “the lives of regular people and celebrities are art” performances. Almost anything else will more meaningful.