Ketchup and Blood: Documents, Institutions and Effects in the Performances of Paul McCarthy 1974-2013
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Since the 1970s, the work of Los Angeles-based artist Paul McCarthy (b. 1945) has included live performance, video, sculpture, kinetic tableaux, and installation. Tracing the development of McCarthy’s work between 1974 and 2013, I undertake a critical discussion of the development of performance in relation to visual art practices. Using one artist’s work as a guide through a number of key discussions in the history of performance art, I argue that performance has influenced every aspect of McCarthy’s artistic practice, and continues to inform critical readings of his work. My thesis follows the trajectory of McCarthy’s performance practice as it has developed through different contexts. I begin with the early documentation and dissemination of performance in the Los Angeles-based magazine High Performance (1978-83), which established a context for the reception of performance art, and for McCarthy’s early work. I then examine specific examples of McCarthy’s practice in relation to his critical reception: live performances and videos from the 1970s are discussed alongside critical readings of his work influenced by psychoanalysis; and the wider public recognition of McCarthy’s object-based art in the 1980s and early 1990s. I then look more broadly at the recent trend of re-enacting historical performances in the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time project (2011-12), as a mode of engaging with performance history and exploring how histories of ephemeral art are re-iterated over time. Finally, I discuss a number of McCarthy’s recent exhibitions and installations that mobilises a wider consideration of the histories of performance and ephemeral practices in art institutions. McCarthy’s work is firmly established in the art world, and I argue that his work also provides a significant touchstone for histories of performance. I look historically at how McCarthy’s work has been documented, disseminated, curated, and re-performed, and open wider discussions about ways of engaging with performance history. In turn, I complicate the relationship between performance and the art world; between ephemeral art and object-based art practices; and between scholarly engagements with performance history, and the public presentation of performance in curatorial practices and institutional contexts.
- Theses