Responding to Site (Book)

The Performance Work of Marilyn Arsem

An edited volume that explores the work of the innovative, experimental and internationally acclaimed performance artist Marilyn Arsem, with 200 images. She is an important contributor to the international performance community through her site-specific, one-to-one performances in alternative spaces which carry a political or feminist message.

 

 

Edition

This book focuses on the performance art of Marilyn Arsem, an internationally acclaimed performance artist known for her innovative and experimental work. Arsem’s work addresses women’s history and myth-making capacities, the potency of site and geography, the idea of the audience as witnesses and the intimacy of one-to-one works.

 

One of the most prolific performance artists working in the United States today, Arsem performs carefully choreographed durational actions that are developed site-responsively and range from deceptively simple interventions to elaborately orchestrated actions. This edited volume seeks to extend Arsem’s legacy beyond the audiences of her live performances and enter her work into the lexicon of the art world. Accompanied by 200 images, this book will be of interest to scholars and students of performance studies, feminist performance, feminist art history and performance history. It will also contribute to the history of alternative spaces and galleries, which is only now being written.

I have had the privilege of knowing Marilyn for over 30 years. Her work has given me so many epiphanies about live art, time-based art practice and durational performance practice. How and why do you choose a single action and enact it over an extended period of time? How do you respond to site and create a sacred meditational zone; a reflexive space about the human condition? And most importantly, how do you teach future generations about the importance of living while making art as a spiritual and philosophical practice? This book is yet another example of Arsem’s legacy. Fundamental, I’d say.

  • Guillermo Gómez-Peña

 

Watching Marilyn Arsem perform can be a slow, careful, vulnerable and heart-stoppingly profound experience. To see her is to know better the complex, intermingling particularities of body, space, time, being and action. Reading this comprehensive, lucidly written and deeply insightful book – the first significant publication on Arsem’s practice as a performance artist – will enable new perspectives on a major artist’s work. It also sheds vivid light upon enduring themes for the critical encounter with art: duration and doing, materiality and nothingness, truth and representation, commitment and experiment, togetherness and solitude, experience and endurance.

  • Dominic Johnson, Queen Mary University of London

Jennie Klein is professor of art history at Ohio University and writes about performance, feminism and gender.

Natalie Loveless is associate professor of the history of art, design and visual culture at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.

 

Acknowledgments

Introduction: Responding to Site  Jennie Klein

 

Performance Photographs 1987-1999

 

SECTION ONE: DURATION AND ACTION

On Time at the Museum – Lucian O’Connor

Salt, Stones, and Stars – Jeffery Byrd

With the Others – Sandrine Schaefer

The Lightness and Darkness of Becoming-Marilyn – Paul Couillard

 

Performance Photographs 2003-2009 

 

SECTION TWO: SITE AND HISTORY

“Lux Balcanica est umbra Orientis” Marilyn Arsem’s Balkan Performances – Kristine Stiles

Impossible Totalities: Political Performance as Palimpsest – El Putnam

Dropping the Frame: Orpheus to Red in Woods – David P. Miller

Performance as/of Shamanism and Mediumship: Writing Ada – John Dennis Anderson

 

Performance Photographs 2010-2013

 

SECTION THREE: PERFORMANCE AND PEDAGOGY

Some Thoughts on Teaching Performance Art, in Five Parts – Marilyn Arsem

Dialogues with Absence: Reflections on Time and If to Drift – Sandra Johnston

Documenting Arsem – Michael Woolley

“Reminding Me Always that Nothing Remains”—Marilyn Arsem’s Performance and Pedagogy – Kathy O’Dell

 

Performance Photographs 2013-2015

 

Afterword: Durational Forms and Pedagogical Encounters – Natalie Loveless

Performance Photographs 2015-2019

 

Appendix: Arsem’s Performances 1967-2019

Author Biographies

Further Reading

Index

 

Austere, demanding, rigorous, pedagogical while also rich, generous, kind, and companionable, the work of Marilyn Arsem has long been respected within a branch of performance art that has resisted commodification. This book extends knowledge of her work to those who have not been able to see it first hand. Extensive illustrations complement essays by academics, curators and fellow artists. Contextualising and analysing her practices from distinct viewpoints, each essay focuses upon particular works or bodies of work, building into a comprehensive offering. This is essential reading for an understanding of Arsem’s oeuvre.

—    Hilary Robinson, Loughborough University

I have had the privilege of knowing Marilyn for over 30 years. Her work has given me so many epiphanies about live art, time-based art practice and durational performance practice. How and why do you choose a single action and enact it over an extended period of time? How do you respond to site and create a sacred meditational zone; a reflexive space about the human condition? And most importantly, how do you teach future generations about the importance of living while making art as a spiritual and philosophical practice? This book is yet another example of Arsem’s legacy. Fundamental, I’d say.

-       Guillermo Gómez-Peña

 

Watching Marilyn Arsem perform can be a slow, careful, vulnerable and heart-stoppingly profound experience. To see her is to know better the complex, intermingling particularities of body, space, time, being and action. Reading this comprehensive, lucidly written and deeply insightful book – the first significant publication on Arsem’s practice as a performance artist – will enable new perspectives on a major artist’s work. It also sheds vivid light upon enduring themes for the critical encounter with art: duration and doing, materiality and nothingness, truth and representation, commitment and experiment, togetherness and solitude, experience and endurance.

-       Dominic Johnson, Queen Mary University of London

 

The performance work of Marilyn Arsem is always generous, stubborn, anxious, smarty-pants and beautiful as hell. Finally we have a book that equals this amazing and affective career that even now continues to grow, influence and surprise!

-   Pope.L

 

I am one of the lucky people to have participated in a workshop led by Marilyn Arsem. It changed my perspectives on seeing, thinking, making and teaching. This long-overdue encounter with Arsem's remarkable site responsive performance work opens with a Manifesto for Performance Art. We are told that performance art cannot be held, saved, reproduced; it is experienced. I believe that is true. But this carefully curated publication of photographs, accounts and essays, like Arsem's work, holds open the space for renewed attentiveness, allowing for a different but no less profound experience. This is a book that calls for your time.

- Dee Heddon, University of Glasgow

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