Summary: Goldberg sees the human body in performance art as a transmitter of erotics, gender tensions, cultural norms and political deviations. While two of the notable early works of performance art featured fully clothed male artists using naked female bodies (Yves Klein’s Anthropometries of the Blue Period from 1960 and Piero Manzoni’s Living Scupture from 1961), the work of female artists like Shigeko Kubota and Yoko Ono addressed the gender imbalance soon after. Goldberg sees the recognition of the body as “prime, raw material” as one of the central accomplishments of performance art. Through numerous examples she demonstrates how this notion enabled a spectrum of physical signification – from regarding the human body as a mere lump of undifferentiated flesh to capitalizing on its biological intricacies. Because of the irreducible intimacy of shared bodily experience, all creative choices along this spectrum – from the disquietingly erotic, to the anachronistically ritualistic, to the viscerally sacrificial – have affected the way we see art and the world around us.
Comment: This historical overview of the use of the human body in early performance art can be in any class on body aesthetics or performance art, and can offer an interesting background reading on erotic art.