DRAWN by Stuart Brisley at DRAF, London
Influential artist Stuart Brisley presents DRAWN (2016), a new live work for DRAF Studio presented alongside a selected film programme. Over four days, the octogenarian artist will perform solo in the space as his recurrent persona R Y Sirb (Curator of the Museum of Ordure) for a total of 24 hours, a feat of endurance during which he enters a trance-like state. Sirb responds to the environment, viewers and a selection of domestic furniture props, chairs, tables, a mirror and wrapping materials are subjected to improvised precarious balancing acts and destruction, referencing the violent myth of Procrustes. As in his legendary performances since the 1960s, Brisley engages the audience and establishes a dialogue of action and reaction that induces a release from conventions of social behaviour.
DRAWN as in hanged drawn and quartered and as in drawing. Drawing as to draw out, to make a drawing, to describe, to express through drawing. Hanged drawn and quartered: to hang, cut down while still alive, disembowel and cut in pieces for exposure in different places.
Stuart Brisley, 2016.
Often hailed as the “godfather of British performance art,” Brisley’s radical practice has since the 1960s played a fundamental role in the development of installation and performance art as well as layering mediums. As the Head of Media Fine Art at Slade School his diverse students included Mona Hatoum, Douglas Gordon, Hayley Newman, Zarina Bhimji, Catherine Yass and Marcia Farquhar; Richard Gott wrote in the catalogue introduction for Brisley’s 1996 exhibition Black at the South London Gallery “homage to Brisley’s performances and installations and references to his work, can be found in many unexpected places and in the work of other artists.” He is included in the current historical survey exhibition at Tate Modern, Performing for the Camera (2016).
His seminal practice extends to painting, sculpture, community projects, pseudo-curatorial installations, sound, video, films and teaching. At the centre of this diverse work lies his exploration of the essential qualities of what it means to be human. He has challenged the human body in physical, psychological and emotional ways.
Arbeit Macht Frei (1972-3) is a film evolved from Brisley’s iconic performance And For Today Nothing at Gallery House, London, in 1972. The words ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ (“work makes one free”) were wrought in iron above the entrance gates to Nazi Concentration Camps. The film is conceived as a representation of the objection to genocide, and begins with a long sequence of vomiting shot in a formal frontal manner, as a bodily rejection of the idea.
In Being and Doing (1984), Brisley collaborated with filmmaker Ken McMullen to search out the origins of performance art, connecting it not to modernism but to ancient folk rituals in England and Europe. In these rituals, the division between performer and audience has not been institutionalised, and they testify to powerful behavioural traditions which have survived the transition from an agricultural to an industrial society. The recordings of the performances have been extensively manipulated: the images slowed down, fragmented, details isolated to construct a filmic memory of the events.
Stuart Brisley, DRAWN, 2016 is curated by DRAF in collaboration with Joao Laia.
David Roberts Art Foundation – DRAF Symes Mews London NW1 7JE
2-5 March 2016