How Many Performance Artists Does it Take to Eat Brunch?

April 18, 2015Onsite Gallery, 230 Richmond Street, Toronto11:00 am to 1:00 pm

Join Jess Dobkin and Martha Wilson for an intimate conversation and reflection on the performance, How Many Performance Artists Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb? (For Martha Wilson) and discussion of the relationship between contemporary live performance and documentation. 

As the founder of the Franklin Furnace, a pioneering artist-run space that has led the exploration, promotion and preservation of performance art, Martha Wilson has been a trailblazer in preserving the history and documentation of live art practices. Speaking to the role of documentation in live art from the 1970s to present day, topics of interest will include the role of the archive, performing for the camera, and the ever-evolving relationship between live art and new technologies.

Post-performance Brunch + Talk with Jess Dobkin and Martha Wilson
Co-presented by Onsite Gallery at OCAD University and FADO Performance Art Centre



ABOUT THE PERFORMANCE
How Many Performance Artists Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb? (For Martha Wilson)
By Jess Dobkin and 40 volunteer documenters
Presented by The Images Festival

Made in response and as an ode to one of America’s foremost groundbreaking performance artists, Martha Wilson, performance artist Jess Dobkin’s newest work, How Many Performance Artists Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb (For Martha Wilson), is at once a question, a joke, and a reflection on the ways we see. Taking a direct cue from Wilson’s 2005 video The History of Performance Art According to Me, Martha Wilson, Dobkin takes on the complex and riddled history of performance art, defining its terms and conditions, while acknowledging the slippery temperament of her task. Wilson is also the founder and director of the renowned Franklin Furnace, a legendary artist run space in New York City that once served as a venue, and in more recent years, exists as a virtual archive with the mission of “making the world safe for avant-garde art.” 

In Wilson’s oral history of the history of performance art, she by direct address to the camera, relates the following joke: 

Q: How Many Performance Artists Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb?
A: I don’t know. I left after 4 hours.

True to the character of the light bulb joke oeuvre where deviations occur over time and regions, Dobkin adds an additional variation of this joke concerning performance artists:

Q: How Many Performance Artists Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb?
A: One to change the light bulb and 40 to document it.

As a manifestation of these jokes and as a reflection of our screen dependent culture, Dobkin has developed a four plus hour durational performance where a performance artist (Dobkin) will change a light bulb with at least forty people documenting the piece through an exhaustive list of forms. From the ever-present phone camera, social media fanfare, and GPS locator, Dobkin also turns to the generations of how performance art has been documented, revisiting the various models of photography, video recording, film formats, drawing, writing, along with treaded analogue technologies.

How Many Performance Artists Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb (For Martha Wilson) will be an attempt to overwhelm the definitions and intersections of performance, documentation, the archive and image reproduction to investigate the nature of performance itself. 

Questions at stake include: how is performance shared, transmitted, recalled, remembered? How do we understand the lifespan of a performance? How does the form and quality of the documentation impact our understanding of the original work? How have technological advances in documentation and image making changed our understanding and definition of performance art practices?


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