When art was off the wall

‘The Kiss Part 3’, Anastasia Klose

The performance art or “happenings” which gathered global momentum in the 1960s and 1970s were designed to provoke, to confront or to amuse, and a new exhibition at the Flinders City Gallery captures a selection of the genre’s frequently weird and anarchic events.

Art as a Verb draws on an exhibition developed by the Monash University Museum of Art, and also incorporates examples of historical material held in the Flinders Art Museum collection.

Many early performance pieces were intended as expressions of serious artistic manifestos, and the exhibition showcases actions and performances, situational pieces, instructional works, manuscripts and interactive props, bringing together representative artworks from Australian and international practitioners.

“The works in the show are quite varied, and the themes they deal with are varied as well,” said City Gallery exhibition manager Celia Dottore.

“Some of the works have a more serious and conceptual basis, others are tongue-in-cheek and are playing with ideas of what constitutes art,” Ms Dottore said.

Photographs (and a jar of the original jam) recall a piece by Phillip Gerner, which saw the naked artist – fitted with catheter and feeding tube – become a human site for jam tasting for 36 hours at Adelaide’s Experimental Art Foundation in 1976.

While sometimes apparently devoted to causing controversy, the movement has also had significant influences.

“Video work is a popular medium now, but it really started in that era as part of the conceptual art movement,” Ms Dottore said.

While some of the exhibition is devoted to documentation of happenings and performances, the show includes a broad range of art work presented in various formats.

The exhibition is part of the visual arts program of the 2015 Adelaide Fringe, and there will be a floor talk by Monash curator Francis E Parker at 2pm on Saturday, 21 February.

Open from 14 February, Art as a Verb runs until 26 April. The gallery is open from 11am to 4pm on weekdays and from noon to 4pm on weekends. Admission is free.

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