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The Art of Living: An Oral History of Performance Art


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Across a series of twelve in-depth interviews with a diverse range of major artists, Dominic Johnson presents a new oral history of performance art. From uses of body modification and physical extremity, to the creation of all-encompassing personae, to performance pieces lasting months or years, these artists have provoked and explored the vital limits between art and life. Their discussions with Johnson give us a glimpse of their artistic motivations, preoccupations, processes, and contexts. Despite the diversity of art forms and experiences featured, common threads weave between the interviews: love, friendship, commitment, death and survival.

Each interview is preceded by an overview of the artist’s work, and the volume itself is introduced by a thoughtful critical essay on performance art and oral history. The conversational tone of the interviews renders complex ideas and theoretical propositions accessible, making this an ideal book for students of art, theatre and performance, as well as for artists, scholars and general readers.

Featuring interviews with: Ulay, Anne Bean, the Kipper Kids, BREYER P-ORRIDGE, Sheree Rose, Penny Arcade, Anne Magnuson, Joey Arias, Ron Athey, Julia Bardsley, David Hoyle, Adrian Howells.

Dominic Johnson is Senior lecturer in Drama at Queen Mary, University of London, UK. He is editor of the journal Contemporary Theatre Review, and author of Glorious Catastrophe: Jack Smith, Performance and Visual Culture and Theatre and the Visual, also having edited Pleading in the Blood: The Art and Performances of Ron Athey.

“I feel plunged into the 1980’s and 90’s New York art scene through the pages. It’s emotional to read these pages. This book chronicles the extraordinary life of one of my own favourite artists and biggest influences.”

Martin O’Brien, Artist

Palgrave, 2015. 13.7cm x 21.5cm, 320 pages, paperback with black and white photographs throughout.

ISBN 978-1-137-32220-3