History Lesson, Install-action - Gunagzhou Live, 2010

Research output: Non-textual formPerformance


History Lesson - Guangzhou took the form of a durational ‘Install-action’ on the opening night and subsequent day of the international Performance Art Festival, which occurred over seven days in the 53 Art Museum, in Guangzhou, Southern China. This was a major event in the calendar of Art events within Guangzhou and a significant Performance Art Event within China. It involved internationally significant & respected Performance Artists from all over the world and was supported by a wide range of sponsors and funders and as a result received a wide range of press attention, reviews, etc. - (Refer to the Website pages & PDF Media Documentation File, listed below for further details)This artwork is a type of durational Performance/Installation, known as ‘Install-action’ *1, which grew in visual and spatial complexity over the first two evenings of the program. The artwork was a unique Install-action work which grew out of a pre-existing form of practice, but which was researched & developed through ‘fieldwork’ for the China context and utilised imagery derived from both Irish & Chinese history and also contained a censored version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights*2. The artwork made subtle but direct reference to contemporary socio-political issues in relation to China’s ongoing difficulties with national and international human rights issues, highlighting the unique nature of the artwork both in relation to time and context.The physical work took the form of an elaborate matrix of white threads slowly spun between the gallery architecture and two trees within a darkened space. Ultraviolet lights illuminated the whole space as well as the threads and other white objects such as paper/texts and images. A sequence of Jam-jars, each of which contained an historic image and single candle, were suspended at the either end of each of the white threads. The censored text fragments were also suspended on the threads all of which travelled through and held aloft an illuminated Atlas at the centre of the space.The historic imagery within the jam-jars was illuminated by the small candles and sequentially slung on the end of the threads and hung in the opposing trees at either end of the gallery space. In time these chronological images burned out and became invisible as new ones were lit, referring to the passage and fading of history.Over time gravity acted on the growing matrix of white threads and they became visually rich and grew in tension. This tension was further articulated by the addition of a variety of stones slung on the threads within the production of the Install-action. The whole network of threads shifted and strained with the addition of more and more stones. At the end of the ‘live-performance’ element of the Install-action artwork, the space was left open for the public to view the resulting installation. This installation was secretly dismantled by the 53 Museum staff at night, without any consultation with the artist or curator and prior to it’s official closing date which was scheduled for the end of the Festival. (It is suspected that this was due to the political content of the artwork as the museum director was unable to give a reasonable explanation for its early removal. This outcome is evidence of the immediate impact of the artwork.)(*1 The term ‘Installaction’ or ‘Install-action’ is a description or title for a new area of Performance Art developed and named by Brian Connolly in the mid 1990’s. Since it’s development as a new genre of Performance Art Practice it has now become a distinct and significant branch of Performance Art utilised by other contemporary practitioners. It therefore constitutes a significant innovation as the term “Installaction or Install-action is used by contemporary artists to describe or name the nature of their own artwork which is a distinct field of Visual Art Practice within the Performance Art Canon.)( *2My Copy of the Charter of Human Rights was translated into Chinese in Gunagzhou at the 53 Museum, but was then actively censored by the Museum Staff who insisted that the text be blacked out. I agreed to use this blacked out text within the artwork, but insisted that the headings of each of the Human Rights Article’s be left visible. The fact that all the text except the headings of the ‘Articles’ had been blacked out lead to many questions as to the nature of the text and why it had been blacked out! I had expected this to be the case and this is why I insisted that the Article headings be left.)http://www.guangzhoulive.org/archive/artists/brian-connolly-northern-ireland.htmlhttp://www.guangzhoulive.org/archive/guangzhoulive-artists.htmlhttp://www.guangzhoulive.org/archive/program/wednesday-december-8-2010.htmlhttp://www.guangzhoulive.org/archive/program/thursday-december-9-2010.htmlhttp://www.guangzhoulive.org/index.html
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 8 Dec 2010

Bibliographical note

Performance type: art


  • Install-action
  • Durational Performance Art
  • Performance Art
  • Brian Connolly
  • History Lesson
  • Gunagzhou Live 2010
  • Ultraviolet Light in Performance Art
  • Censored Art in China
  • Charter of Human Rights in China.


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