Research: Video Lecture 3

Following the ideas that the neo-avant garde inscribe new ideas in their art, whether through subject matter of through the implementation of innovative techniques, I am curious to know more about the artists who make work that is socially critical, but are complicit within the realm of capitalism. This seems to be an issue that most of the artists I know grapple with. How can you make a living in the arts, without actively participating in the art market and capitalism? Is it ok? Is there a line that is not meant to be crossed, and how do you know where it lies? What do you sacrifice to live outside the realms of capitalism but within a per-existing art world?

I think even today, for the general public there is a an intimidation factor upon entering most galleries, especially commercial or private. The act of getting buzzed in, or having to purchase tickets in advance for some shows, is totally exclusionary and a daunting task, even for someone immersed in the arts proffessionaly.

Its seems one means of escaping the typical capitalist trappings is to make work that exists outside of the gallery. This goes directly against Greenburg’s ideas that art should be gallery based, and allows opportunities for anyone to be involved in art. The idea of someone stumbling across art on the street and being challenged by it is an exciting domain, but there are still many limitations to consider.

Through books, posters, and the internet, it is becoming easier to share work, but these mediums also still favour certain media – print, design, certain types of drawing. These types of objects through less fetishized than single original works, can still be commodified and sold through the market, or censored by internet providers. Essentially everything is still mediated by those in control of the systems of disseminating information.

In the lecture we are asked to consier; how has the neo-avant guard informed the art that has been created since?

There were many influential artists discussed in the lecture, but Yoko Ono has had, and continues to have a profound impact on performance art which directly implicates the audience. Her performances have created a legacy for themselves, and continue to be performed. Her combination of quiet acts, with the presence of violence, captured in text, instruction and performance, test the human mind. Her work aims to create a better, more peaceful world, and that is still (unfortunately) a pretty radical idea.  I think her influence of combining discomfort and intimacy can be seen in her contemporaries including artists like Marina Ambromovik, Valie Export, Hannah Wilke and in terms of turning private life into public spectacle, Tracy Emin’s My Bed (1998) seems a direct reference.

Yoko Ono, Cleaning Piece III, 1996
Yoko Ono, Collecting Piece II / III, 1963

Ono also seems to directly address the commodification of art and plays with that idea. Many of her instructional pieces can be bought as a book, prints and T-shirts, I even have an Imagine Peace tote bag.

In other works, she plays with our, the audience’s ideas of value. In Morning Piece, 1964-65, she sells the sky and the experience/moments of time, specifically relating to  mornings. What she is really selling is an instruction taped to a piece of glass, which can be performed by anyone, as Ono states “You can see the sky through it.”.

Can anyone really sell a moment of time? No, but Ono did as a vehicle for meditation and contemplation of sunrise which she describes as “an intangible, universally shared, and infinitely repeating feature of human life”. (

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Yoko Ono, Morning Piece, 1964-65

Through these happenings and the work of the neo-avant guard, public practice/social practice and relational aesthetics/relational art, has established itself as one of the media focused on removing commercialism from art. In these works, there are less final products being made (or at least the final product not being the focus or is ephemeral in nature) and more events and experiences being created. rirkrit tiravanija, Jeremy Deller and Thomas Hirschhorn are some of the most notable artists working in this contemporary field, and have all been criticized for the ‘spectacle’ of their work.

Many artists working within this realm, have created something, experience or object, that still exists outside of capitalism, or are at least trying to…

Diane Barsato’s projects often involve working closely with various other practitioners including artists, dancers, and amateur naturalists. In the work Terrestrial / Celestial, She “coordinated an exchange of terrestrial knowledge for celestial knowledge between amateur mycologists and astronomers. First the mushroomers hosted the astronomers on an afternoon foray to collect and identify fungus species. In the evening, the astronomers hosted the mushroomers to look through telescopes at the sun, stars, planets, and satellites. The exchange took place first at a personal scale in Toronto in 2009, and then as a major event in Maple Ridge BC, with the participation of the Vancouver Mycological Society and the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (Vancouver Centre) in May 2010.” ( Both mycology and astronomy are concerned with the ephemeral and looking closely at what appears to be small, but at differing scales, and are mediated through different senses, and times.

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Images from Terrestrial / Celestial

Barsato’s work focuses on experiencing the world and objects in an engaged manner, and about ways of knowing that are experiential. Her projects, which touch on a wide range of social issues and themes, are about the ways in which humans relate to places, one another and objects, in passive and active ways. Her works come about as events, and are not easily commodifiable, often outside of the gallery, but are tangible and memorable to those involved in the experience.

Tonia Di Risio’s project Sackville Preserves, 2014, was an event I was actively able to participate in. Much of Di Risio’s work address food preparation and the collective nature of those acts, consumption, and sustainability. This event took form as a series of canning sessions, which were open to the public to participate in and learn from. The goal of the project was to use seasonal and local produce to produce jams and preserves that would make their way back to the community. All of the preserves made were then given away at the Doncaster Farm Field Day (a part of the town’s fall fair) as a way to engage with the community. Each jar was editioned like a print, and all of the donations for preserves were donated to Sackville Food Bank.

Though this project culminated in a table of goods which operated in a market setting, this project was made outside of traditional commercial means. All of the supplies and produce were purchased ethically or donated, and all of the donations went back to the community which created the project, in a beautiful cyclical fashion.

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Sackville Preserves Table at Farm Day, 2014

William Pope.L, who has described himself as the “Friendliest Black Artists in America ©” works to engage his audience in topics of class, identity, stereotypes and race, through performance, installation and participatory events. Black Factory project is composed of multiple parts, including a blow up tent containing “select donated black objects. A black object is anything, anything! a person believes represents blackness to him or her.” Such as altered items like canned foods, shirts, water, American flags. These objects are used to challenge viewers to confront their biases, while performers enact skits and interact with the public. He describes these performances as harvesting confusions, questions and conundrums to transform them into “the greatest gift of all: possibility!”. Analysing these divisions to create a sense of unity in a public way. The website states: “ALL Twice Sold monies go DIRECTLY to neighborhood food pantries, half-way houses, shelters, etc. to buy whatever they deem fit.” The project also includes this website: .

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The Black Factory Truck

With the tools of the Neo-Avant Guard in the hands of contemporary multidisciplinary artists who engage in social practice and performance, there are exciting opportunities for art to work within capitalism, but against its purely commercial structure. Though these means for art making are becoming more an more conventional, the desire to create social change prevails in hopes of creating a more peaceful, tolerant, understanding world.


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