A: I am a graduate from Utah Valley University and I am writing a dissertation for the university's biannual Art History Symposium. The topic of discussion this year is Maximalism. I am particularly focusing on performance art as the contemporary medium that is reinventing museum spaces and engaging audiences by stimulating the senses more through music, dance, film, and painting combined. That is where your exhibit Animal Maximalism came to my attention. I am completely intrigued and enthralled by your performance art pieces and projects you have created. For this paper, I would love to have your view on performance art and Maximalism. I am interested in hearing some of your methods about performance art and Maximalism. It is rare in art history to be able to have contact with the artist, hence my excitement. If you do not mind sharing your opinion, I would like to know how you feel performance art engages audiences and pushes them to connect on a higher level to art? Also, why are we seeing a shift towards more performance art pieces in museums and galleries? I feel that audiences want to have a full sensory experience. How does Maximalist performance art achieve this better than other medium of art?
N: I practice a process of allowance where I let myself do what I want. This approach results in maximum data and action. By letting myself engage with an array of modalities I can generate multiple outcomes and possibilities. Because I'm not limited to any single mode of involvement, I'm free to use painting, performance, photography, or video or a mixture of modalities as I find necessary depending on my agenda and instinct. This suits my athletic, resourceful, and determined nature.
I approach performance art in the same way I would approach any other art modality- by paying close attention to gut instincts and psychic impressions in a process designed to override cerebral programming. The aim is always to align action with intention, and make note of the findings and outcome along the way. Performance art is a good choice when the concept I'm grappling with calls for a human body, action, or a narrative to actuate the outcome, especially literal concepts like worshiping the golden calf or using blood to cleanse things. My body can become a tool, a stand-in, or effigy of or for the viewer, creating a point of commonality to facilitate access. Aligning action with intention is also a way to re-frame ritual and an attempt to validate the effectiveness of approaches historically relegated to realms of religious structures and beliefs.
I was recently invited to teach an art theory class for kids at The Hudson Valley Sudbury School. Through our discussions it emerged that the students felt most drawn to art practices and outcomes that suited the nature, mentality, and necessity of the individual artist. For instance they could relate to how Chuck Close became successful at painting faces as a result of his lifelong struggle with a facial recognition disorder.
In reflecting on my personal method it occurs to me that my mode of operation is dictated by my nature, I didn't choose to function within the Maximalism approach and philosophy, it's just that the philosophy happens to align with my nature. I'm a serial over-doer of all things who relishes the opportunity to push things too far. My work is reactionary because I'm a reactionary person. For instance the first time I encountered minimalism I was ready to explode in a thousand directions. And, as an art student I couldn't help but challenge typical art professor's slogans such as "You have to know when to stop." Of course I could recognized the academically dictated stopping point but I would never in a million years stop there. I've always felt that learning how to challenge, push, or destroy something is a valid study when handled respectfully and with intention.
Performance art is an another mode of operating for artists to use in order to find or generate new information, to experiment with creating new experiences, or to try to express something they otherwise couldn't. It can engage the viewer in an intimate way offering the potential to build powerful experiences as it facilitates a space that can involve and include the viewer in a novel physical or psychic way.
It's possible that since performance art inhabits walking space where gallery-goers would otherwise be moving about, a psychic connection is created by sharing the same space. As viewers, we know less about what it would be like to hang motionless on a wall.
Performance art offers a platform for artists to practice aligning action with intention, a way to possibly re-frame ritual and to build experimental new models for of control or power to replace outmoded religious structures and beliefs.
But also, It's possible the performance art trend might be a way for artists to backhandedly confront consumerism and elitism simultaneously, or at least to create the illusion of doing so. Commercial galleries and academic environments can be market driven or exclusive, but performance art has the ability to dissolve those traditional notions and to expand viewership by engaging broader mentalities in a way that would be difficult for strictly visual work focused on heady concepts or dollar amounts. And since we live in a culture of visual bombardment, where viewer's digitally conditioned eyes and minds are increasingly savvy, and in conjunction with consumer programming, we need something that can function both inside of and outside of commercial gallery and academic paradigms. There is a literal dissolution of boundaries. Since performance art is impervious to ownership and commodification, it pushes against market-driven capitalist structures and challenges a system where finances determine success. Issues of marketability, ownership, or commodity all come into play because its difficult to financially capitalize off of performance art. So, maybe it's like most trends- timely and culturally necessity.
I developed the Animal Maximalism exhibition concept as a way to bombard the human sensory input manifold with the intention of revealing cloaked information. I use the word "Animal" as an homage to instinct. For me academia operated through reversal, fueling my defiance more than refining me the way school is supposed to, so part of my mission has always been to build legitimate framework for us animals, one that is less cage-like, and Maximalism is a good framework for that agenda. I try to work within and build upon systems that already exist that might reflect and support my authentic nature, and to allow my work to reflect and be a response to the full spectrum of my body's biologic manifestation of its own history within its cultural environment. Maximalism feels like science-fiction, in that it offers the potential for system building where the inward personal landscape can travel all the way outward through the giant jumbled experience of collective household, community, country, and planetary psychic connections.
Maybe performance offers an easier access point to the viewer in that we can all relate to each other as humans who are human shaped and have human form. We all share common ways of moving our human forms through space. It's possible that performance could function to create a portal, like a way out or a way in.