Serena Giordano

The framing of transgression. Body and staging in Body Art

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Keywords: Body; Body Art; Frame; Performance; Rite; Self-Harm; Settings; Wiener Aktionismus.

Since the Sixties, the phenomenon of artistic performance has become common in museums and art galleries. In some of these performances a special role is played by acts in which artists work on their body and not simply with their body (as actors or dancers usually do when acting a part or dancing). The explicit goal of body artists is to challenge the audience by using techniques of extreme self-harm (even mutilation), masturbation and orgiastic rites. However, the artists' relationship with the audience is conditioned by two main features of the performance: the setting, that is, art galleries and museums, and the theoretical frame, i.e. the discourse of art. The latter is able to transform a person cutting him/herself with a knife into an artist staging a performance, thus weakening any emotional participation by the audience. This essay explores the ways a body act becomes artistic and, accordingly, produces artistic responses from the audience. This analysis could be useful in the field of general studies on the spectacle of suffering in contemporary society.

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