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Body Art/Performing the Subject

1998
Author:

Amelia Jones

Body Art/Performing the Subject

An examination of the social and cultural significance of body art by a major new voice.

In this definitive book, Amelia Jones explores body art projects from the 1960s and 1970s and relates their impact to the work of body artists active today, providing a new conceptual framework for defining postmodernism in the visual arts.

“This is a deeply moving and important study-not only the best book on the subject but one of the most brilliant books in any area of art history to appear in some time. Body Art/Performing the Subject continues to confirm the opinion of many that Jones is the most perceptive and original voice in contemporary art history, theory, and criticism to have emerged in a generation.” --Donald Preziosi, University of California at Los Angeles

This is a deeply moving and important study-not only the best book on the subject but one of the most brilliant books in any area of art history to appear in some time. Body Art/Performing the Subject continues to confirm the opinion of many that Jones is the most perceptive and original voice in contemporary art history, theory, and criticism to have emerged in a generation.

Donald Preziosi, University of California at Los Angeles

The past few years have seen an explosion of interest in body art, in which the artist’s body is integral to the work of art. With the revoking of NEA funding for such artists as Karen Finley, Tim Miller, and others, public awareness and media coverage of body-oriented performances have increased. Yet the roots of body art extend to the 1960s and before. In this definitive book, Amelia Jones explores body art projects from the 1960s and 1970s and relates their impact to the work of body artists active today, providing a new conceptual framework for defining postmodernism in the visual arts.

Jones begins with a discussion of the shifting intellectual terrain of the 1950s and 1960s, focusing on the work of Ana Mendieta. Moving to an examination of the reception of Jackson Pollock’s “performative” acts of painting, she argues that Pollock is a pivotal figure between modernism and postmodernism. The book continues with explorations of Vito Acconci and Hannah Wilke, whose practices exemplify a new kind of performance that arose in the late 1960s, one that represents a dramatic shift in the conception of the artistic subject. Jones then surveys the work of a younger generation of artists—including Laurie Anderson, Orlan, Maureen Connor, Lyle Ashton Harris, Laura Aguilar, and Bob Flanagan—whose recent work integrates technology and issues of identity to continue to expand the critique begun in earlier body art projects.

Embracing an exhilarating mix of methodologies and perspectives (including feminism, queer theory, philosophy, psychoanalysis, and literary theory), this rigorous and elegant examination of body art provides rich historical insight and essential context that rethinks the parameters of postmodern culture.

Body Art/Performing the Subject

Amelia Jones is associate professor of art history at the University of California at Riverside. She is the author of Postmodernism and the En-Gendering of Marcel Duchamp (1994) and has curated several exhibitions.

Body Art/Performing the Subject

This is a deeply moving and important study-not only the best book on the subject but one of the most brilliant books in any area of art history to appear in some time. Body Art/Performing the Subject continues to confirm the opinion of many that Jones is the most perceptive and original voice in contemporary art history, theory, and criticism to have emerged in a generation.

Donald Preziosi, University of California at Los Angeles

Body Art/Performing the Subject is a timely and immediately necessary book, of interest to students of performance art and to painters alike. Jones’s rigorous analysis of 70s and 90s body art is grounded in a feminist and phenomenological reevaluation of modernist and postmodern criticism. Jones writes the engaged, engendered, embodied, ‘intersubjective’ criticism she calls for.

Mira Schor, painter and author of Wet: On Painting, Feminism, and Art Culture

Amelia Jones’s important book engages body art through a self-consciously performative approach to interpretation. It marks a critical moment in the reception of body art and will be essential reading for anyone concerned with contemporary art.

Christine Poggi, University of Pennsylvania

With great originality and scholarship, Amelia Jones maps out an extraordinary history of body art over the last three decades and embeds it in the theoretical terrain of postmodernism. The result is a wonderful and permissive space in which the viewer/reader can wander, guided not only by her or his own will and desire but also by Jones’s brilliant cartography.

Moira Roth, Trefethen Professor of Art History, Mills College, and editor of Rachel Rosenthal and the Amazing Decade: Women and Performance Art in America, 1970-1980

“The significance of Amelia Jones’s Body Art: Performing the Subject cannot be overstated. Body Art is a book that is long overdue, and one that I suspect will drastically change the field of feminist art history, particularly as it concerns the performative art production of seventies artists.” Performing Arts Journal

“If art history traditionally has been a male-dominated enterprise, O’Dell and Jones renegotiate its gender. The stories these two writers tell, and the images they reproduce, suggest that their revisionary critical practices are not justified but revelatory.”

“Jones’s chapter on Wilke is deeply moving and brilliantly argued.” Henry Sayre in Art Journal

“Insightfully self-reflexive and critical re-reading of modernism and postmodernism.” Saul Ostrow, Bomb

“In her latest book, Body Art/Performing the Subject, Amelia Jones locates her critical project with particular reference to the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Simone de Beauvoir and Judith Butler, and thus joins the increasing number of feminist philosophers, film theorists and art historians exploring notions of performativity, embodied subjectivity, situated knowledges and the phenemenological intersubjectivity of the interpretive act. Jones’s book represents a particularly powerful enunciation of the reconception of the subjectivity of the artist and the historian calling into question both the production and interpretation of art as moments of active negotiation of ‘body/self’ boundaries and limits.” Art History

Jones’ book provides valuable and original insights for thinking about and through the politics of the body in art.

RAC/CAR