Live Art in LA : Performance in Southern California, 1970 - 1983 book cover
1st Edition

Live Art in LA
Performance in Southern California, 1970 - 1983

Edited By

Peggy Phelan

ISBN 9780415684231
Published July 12, 2012 by Routledge
256 Pages

USD $46.95

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Book Description

Live Art in LA: Performance Art in Southern California , 1970-1983 documents and critically examines one of the most fecund periods in the history of live art. The book forms part of the Getty Institute’s Pacific Standard Time initiative – a series of exhibitions, performance re-enactments and research projects focused on the greater Los Angeles area. This extraordinary volume, beautifully edited by one of the leading scholars in the field, makes vivid the compelling drama of performance history on the west coast.

Live Art in LA:

  • moves lucidly between discussions of legendary figures such as Judy Chicago and Chris Burden, and the crucial work of less-celebrated solo artists and collectives;

  • examines the influence of key institutions, particularly Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions and the California Institute of the Arts – and the Feminist Art Programme established at the latter;

  • features original and incisive essays by Peggy Phelan and Amelia Jones, and eloquent contributions by Michael Ned Holte, Suzanne Lacy and Jennifer Flores Sternad.

Combining cutting-edge research with over 100 challenging and provocative photographs and video stills, Live Art in LA represents a major re-evaluation of a crucial moment in performance history. And, as performance studies becomes ever more relevant to the history of art, promises to become a vital and enduring resource for students, academics and artists alike.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Violence and Rupture: Misfires of the Ephemeral

Peggy Phelan


Happening Again: Reinventing Allan Kaprow

Michael Ned Holte


Voices, Variations and Deviations: From the LACE Archive of Southern California Performance Art

Suzanne Lacy and Jennifer Flores Sternad


Lost Bodies: Early 1970s Los Angeles Performance Art in Art History

Amelia Jones

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Peggy Phelan is the author of Unmarked: The Politics of Performance (Routledge, 1993); Mourning Sex: Performing Public Memories (Routledge, 1997); the survey essay for Art and Feminism, ed. Helena Reckitt (Phaidon, 2001); the survey essay for Pipilotti Rist (Phaidon, 2001); and the catalog essay for Intus: Helena Almeida (Lisbon, 2004). She is co-editor, with the late Lynda Hart, of Acting Out: Feminist Performances (University of Michigan Press, 1993); and co-editor with Jill Lane of The Ends of Performance (New York University Press, 1997). She has published more than 60 articles and essays in scholarly, artistic, and commercial magazines ranging from Artforum to Signs; these essays have been cited in the fields of architecture, art history, psychoanalytic criticism, visual culture, performance studies, theatre studies, and film and video studies.


‘Vital documents and testimonies from the LA art and performance scenes combine with astute critical writing that will reorient established histories of American art and culture. Through diverse revisions of the archival life of performance the authors have finely traced the aesthetic and political fault lines of one of today's most forceful and revealing forms of cultural expression.’ – Adrian Heathfield, Professor of Performance and Visual Culture, University of Roehampton, London, UK

Peggy Phelan’s keen editorial eye and astute introductory essay brings together an important, literate collection of inquiries into Los Angeles as a generative and often over-looked site for foundational performance art during a crucial period of the form’s history. But these lucid, incisive essays also address key contemporary issues in art historical and live performance: Should classic Happenings and performance art pieces be re-enacted? By whom? How and where? What’s the relationship between live performance and its documentation? Each contributor takes up these questions and more, offering lively, cogent, and fluid mash-ups of history, testimony, memoir, criticism, theory, and first-hand accounts of live performance and re-enactments that communicate the excitement of creating art work on the edge, in a historical and cultural milieu to which it responds and shapes. Live Art in Los Angeles pays close attention to race and gender as an ordinary rather than exceptional part of this history, detailing contributions by Marina Abramović, Yvonne Rainer, Suzanne Lacy, Judy Chicago, Rachel Rosenthal, Linda Montano, Senga Nengudi, Faith Wilding, Guillermo Gómez-Peña and many others alongside those by Chris Burden and Allan Kaprow. Deeply concerned with the afterlife of performance and with writing as a practice of tribute; with historical remainders and reminders; with contesting the binary between live performance and its archive; with the relationship between the photograph (in all its analog and digital differences) and performance; and with violence and creation, this vibrant collection addresses the market for live art and its documentation, inquiring into its ontological and commodity status. I’m eager to share this book with colleagues and students.’Jill Dolan, Director, Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies, Princeton University, USA

'Notably, there is a balance of better- and lesser- known artists and groups, often using now-legendary performances as jumping-off points for exploring marginalised histories...This publication clearly sets the stage for further research into any of the multiple histories it uncovers, and provides an essential critical and reflective framework in which we might begin to do so.' Harriet Curtis, Contemporary Theatre Review

'Phelan examines the status of artworks whose fragility challenges preservation, calling for performative, live “refabrications” (14) and rejecting the fetishization of material permanence. It is a pleasure to witness Phelan, a major figure in the field, revise and wrestle with new material to articulate it with precision and elegance.' - Marie Pecorari, Theatre Journal