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You’d have a hard time convincing me that the 1960’s/1970’s female performance art and the pop performance of the Supremes are all that different in artistic value. I’m not arguing that they are all feminist in the same way, I’m not even arguing that any of them are feminist necessarily at all (though I do think they all are), but rather I think that the ways in which women stood on a stage and used their body, clothing, and hair to reshape understandings about femininity was so powerful in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and whether one person did it on a TV set to sell albums or one did it in a gallery, the point is that the 1960’s and 1970’s were reshaped by female public performance. Oprah and Madonna could not exist today as they are without the groundwork of Diana Ross and her constant media reinvention and careful attention to self-presentation, but I think those media powerhouses are equally indebted to Eleanor Antin, Yoko Ono, and Carolee Schneeman, who used body to communicate politics, as both Oprah and Madonna have done. So more traditional forms of capitalist, pop presentation meshs well with the more “radical”. This implicates the non-artist as well – girls who threw on mini-skirts, cut their hair were engaging in a sort of performance art, in my estimation. Certainly cutting your hair into a pixie or hiking up your skirt would ellicit an audience reaction, of sorts, in the mid-60’s, whether from a husband or a school or a parent.

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Written by alexgfrank

December 8, 2008 at 7:41 pm