Clifford-Owens

Absolutely. Young artists have no sense of history. Something else is happening right now with younger artists and their sense of history. It’s as if what preceded them is of no value or never really happened. I’m always amazed when I talk to women artists in college who have no interest in feminist art. There seems to be this frightening, alarming return to the modernist notion of the self-contained, genius originator. Young artists in particular don’t want to acknowledge antecedents. I’m not really interested in recuperating history and I’m certainly not interested in romantic nostalgia for the past, but I’m very aware of the history of art that preceded me. Every artist works through history. I mean, painters are always painting against the history of painting.
—  Clifford Owens
It’s like performance art history is fascinated with the white European body or with the black minstrel, but there’s never been any kind of serious scholarship or criticism devoted to conceptual, contemporary US black artists working in performance art. But it’s been happening since the ’50s, starting with Benjamin Patterson, and through the ’70s, especially on the West Coast with Senga Nengudi, Maren Hassinger, and other artists. Then in the ’80s there were many things going on with black theater artists in terms of dance and avant-garde theater. In this particular moment, there is so much interest in performance art, but we’re still absent from the conversation.
—  Clifford Owens

SPOTLIGHT: Clifford Owens

It’s that time again… we’re continuing our Black History Month series with a profile on the always controversial, Visual Artist, Clifford Owens.

Preferring the term Visual Artist over Performance Artist; Owen’s work is never dull, usually dealing with heavy issues of race, gender relationships and auto-eroticism - often leaving you to deal with/question his purposeful lack of emotional & physical control.

Like when I found myself confronted with his video work that dealt with different forms of abjection and how we deal or don’t deal with it. That’s all well and good - I was down to explore that until I was confronted with Owens gutting, fingering and doing all sorts of things to fruit that one couldn’t imagine unless one saw. Then it gets uncomfortable, then he takes you to that zone. He’s transforming a meaning, but can you bare to watch it unfold.

Owens claims no interest in the art world, “because the art world is not interesting," his work has spurned new found interest in performance art. Here’s a link to a great ArtInfo article - 27 Questions with Clifford Owens.

Come follow us on Twitter today (@hahamag #spotlight) as we tweet links to Owens work online.

RoseLee Goldberg and Clifford Owens: History Times Two

By RoseLee Goldberg


With Anthology, his current exhibition at MoMA PS1, Clifford Owens invited 26 artists to provide him with written scores for performances. The result: twice as many works as those listed. This “two for one” model—the artist’s proposal, and Owens’s interpretation of it—in some cases  doubled the emotional content as well as the aesthetic layers of the original, making for an especially rich combination.

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There are only three days left to get  yourself over to the @studiomuseum and see Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art, curated by CAMH Senior Curator Valerie Cassel-Oliver!

Radical Presence is the first comprehensive survey of performance art by black visual artists and features works by artists including: Derrick Adams, Terry Adkins, Papo Colo, Jamal Cyrus, Jean-Ulrick Désert, Theaster Gates, Zachary Fabri, Sherman Fleming, Coco Fusco, Girl [Chitra Ganesh + Simone Leigh], David Hammons, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Lyle Ashton Harris, Maren Hassinger, Wayne Hodge, Satch Hoyt, Ulysses S. Jenkins, Shaun El C. Leonardo, Kalup Linzy, Dave McKenzie, Jayson Musson aka Hennessy Youngman, Senga Nengudi, Tameka Norris, Lorraine O’Grady, Clifford Owens, Benjamin Patterson, Adam Pendleton, Adrian Piper, Pope.L, Rammellzee, Sur Rodney (Sur), Jacolby Satterwhite, Dread Scott, Xaviera Simmons, Danny Tisdale, and Carrie Mae Weems.

Be sure to catch Senga Nengudi’s performance of RSVP at The Studio Museum on March 9 at 2PM. Admission is free!

Learn more about the exhibition before you visit by clicking here

Image: Clifford Owens. Anthology (Nsenga Knight) (detail). 2011. Performance still. 

performer Nina Ber was not topless for Marko Markovic’s Fuck the System. She wasn’t, however, wearing any underwear beneath her long, sliplike red shirt when she lifted it above her waist and her vagina became the grudging receptacle for Markovic’s tongue for nearly 20 minutes. Uncomfortably standing with her fist raised high in the air,
 as if hitting a vague protest gesture, she didn’t seem to be enjoying any of the dude’s earnest attentions as he buried his face deep in her pussy. Maybe she was too busy pondering “protest movements and powers of resistance against oppressive apparatus[es],” as Markovic’s program blurb stated. Or maybe she was just bored like the rest of us, who found little interesting about standard-fare cunnilingus.

Clifford Owens,  Anthology (Nsenga Knight) (detail), 2 c-prints, 40 by 60 inches (each), 2011.

Clifford Owens comes back to the CAMH this Saturday for a performance in conjunction with Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art. Clifford will be performing works from his Anthology series, with scores written by many artists that are featured in the “Radical Presence” exhibition.

For more details check the Facebook event page. 

As a curator, you go to an artist’s studio to look at work, but there’s a social dynamic at play. I was completely disinterested in experiencing a visitor’s engagement in a kind of disinterested contemplation of an art object. I wanted to create a social dynamic during the studio visit where the visitor becomes an active participant. It was thinking about the practice of each visitor and crafting a unique performance for that audience of one.
—  Clifford Owens (BOMBmagazine)