Phenomenology, some experiential art pioneers


Thanks again for continuing to build this online community.  I hope this new site of your becomes used by this community that you are building, and continues long after the MOOC we are part of is completed. That truly would be proof that the course was worthwhile and effective.

It occurred to me after listening to Kozel’s talk, how much of the contributions of underground artists, and thinkers has been, in shaping contemporary art theory and discourse. Some of these were already notable in academic circles, but many other key people are only now beginning (often very late in life) to achieve the recognition that they always should have enjoyed.

One of the few advantages of being an older person, like myself, is that I’ve had the privilege to have crossed paths with some of these experiential pioneers.

One of those who achieve notoriety (and in many circles infamy) during his most productive years, but then became less well known after his death almost 20 years ago, was Dr. Timothy Leary. Tim was vilified by the likes of Richard Nixon (who called him America’s most dangerous man) to immortalized by 1960’s rock bands such as the Who (who mention him along with the Beatles and Bob Dylan in their song “The Seeker”) and the Moody Blues, who produced and entire song in his honor. Tim was true experiential pioneer, and his works were part performance art, part scientific inquiry, and part spiritual journey. He was among the first to write a book using a word processor,and said that the personal computer was the folk guitar of the 1990’s. He certainly anticipated the Avatar=based world that you, Vanessa, inhabit, and would have been right there with you had he lived to see today’s digital tools.  Although technologically crude by today’s standards, here’s a brief excerpt of one of many videos we collaborated on, along with a number of other animators, performers and thinkers:

Another pioneer,who  at age 81 is beginning to become better known internationally, is Los Angeles feminist performance artist Barbara T. Smith. Here’s a clip of her final live performance piece, before retiring a few years ago. It  was a benefit for an organization who deals with battered women and other survivors of trauma and violence, and conveys Smith’s own personnel narrative of  marriage, motherhood, home and property:

Finally, the great poet and co-founder of the Beatnik movement, Alan Ginsberg, who also occasionally performed songs ( here in 1988 with Grammy-award winning producer/musician Don Was):

These three, and many others, navigated their careers outside the traditional academic realms, and relied on alternative spaces, and practices for their sustenance as well as their communities.

Kozel’s thesis also reflects the contributions, whether credited or not, to these and many others who stand outside the canon of conventional contemporary art history, and only through expansion of those arbitrary canonical boundaries, can any true conveyance of modern culture be seen.