Action Sculpture: The Body/Object Problem in the Performances of Skip Arnold, Dominic Johnson

  • 5:15pm

  • Hunter Building, Hunter Lecture Theatre (017)
    74 Lauriston Place
    EH3 9DF

Skip Arnold is clamped between boards and propped against a wall; or contained for two weeks in a museum display case; or rides naked and pillion as a human hood ornament on the front of an 18-wheeler truck. He is shipped as freight; lives in a bank vault; or tempts paranormal death in the Bermuda Triangle.

He jumps, crashes, rolls, hangs, or falls; is walked on, wrapped and bound to awnings, lampposts, or trees. In these and other actions of the 1980s and 1990s, Arnold disturbs the fraught border between performance and sculpture, or between being in a living, breathing body and miming the apparent non-life of an insensate thing. What happens when we approach bodies as objects in performance? By reading his performances as ‘action sculptures’, I seek to account for some of the challenges Arnold poses in his work, including the political problems that occur along the seemingly fraught borders between performance and sculpture, body and object, person and thing.

Dominic Johnson is a Reader in Performance and Visual Culture at Queen Mary University of London. He is the author of four monographs including Unlimited Action: The Performance of Extremity in the 1970s (2018); and The Art of Living: An Oral History of Performance Art (2015). His edited books include Pleading in the Blood: The Art and Performances of Ron Athey (2013); and (with Deirdre Heddon) It’s All Allowed: The Performances of Adrian Howells (2016).


Part of the History of Art Research Seminar Series 2018/19.