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Responding to Site: The Performance Work of Marilyn Arsem


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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

ISBN 9781789380972

Published by Intellect Books, 2020. 210 x 240 mm, 316 pages.