More Of A Performance Than A Lecture

While an audience question that is more of a comment is a curse, a lecture that’s more of a performance is a blessing. Mindy Seu writes in Outland about artists who work in the medium of the lecture.

Lecture-as-performance calls assumptions of authority and credibility into question, Seu argues. It also opens the process and tools of lecture—such as podiums, Powerpoint, and Zoom grids—for critical examination or reworking.

One intriguing example Seu cites is Gordon Hall’s 2014 work, Read me that part a-gain, where I disin-herit everybody. Through the course of talking, Hall registers the implications of power, precarity, tension, and chill as he engages an array of prop-, screen- and podium-like objects.

Seu’s article was a reminder to look again for one of the most spectacular artist lecture/performance works, Suzanne Bocanegra’s Honor, which took place at The Met in February 2022. And wow, finally, it is on YouTube. Honor, as The Met describes it, was “a stage work that masqueraded as an artist lecture about one of The Met’s most important 16th-century tapestries.” If the theatrical link wasn’t strong enough, Bocanegra had actress Lili Taylor present the lecture while she, the artist, sat at a table on the edge of the stage, apparently feeding Taylor her text.

Which, in turn, makes me think way back to an artist talk I attended at the New School, by Maurizio Cattelan. Except, at the end of the lecture, the speaker revealed that he was not actually Cattelan, but a friend of the artist named Massimiliano Gioni, who was then an editor for Flash Art. Carol Vogel wrote about it months later, but I have not yet found this recording online.

Claire Bishop wrote about the lecture-performance as a form and namechecked some more classics of the genre, including Andrea Fraser and John Cage, in her review of Honor for Artforum’s Best of 2022 roundup in December.

Performing Lectures, by Mindy Seu []
Best of 2022 | Claire Bishop on Suzanne Bocanegra’s Honor [artforum]