Visiting Artist Lecture (Janine Antoni)

Katerina Kapodistrias

ARTH 3539

Visiting Artist Lecture

Artist: Janine Antoni


Janine Antoni was born in 1964 in Freeport, Bahamas and currently lives and works in New York. Her work is pretty extreme, as I see it, but amazing contemporary performance art, sculptures and installations. She got her BA from Sarah Lawrence College in New York and received her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1989. She often transforms everyday happenings and objects in her own unique way and uses her whole body, and specific parts of her body, such as her mouth, hair, eyelashes, and brain as a device and uses it in ways such as eating, bathing, and sleeping in combination with those everyday materials with a result of that being the way she performs her artwork. Some of the key modules that her work focuses on are process, identity, balance, challenge, always interested in training and learning how to use or perform with a new materials, but also she is very interested in being involved in the viewer’s experience and embody desire for the viewer, but then again also often opposes issues such as cultural perceptions of femininity and sexuality.

One of the pieces that she talked about that I know and love was Gnaw, a piece that she did in 1992. This sculpture performance piece included 600 lbs. of chocolate and 600 lbs. of lard that she was gnawed by her, but also a display case with 45 heart-shaped packages for chocolate for chocolate made from the chewed chocolate that she removed from the huge chocolate cube and 400 lipsticks made with color or dye, beeswax and the chewed lard that she again removed from the large lard cube. I think that this piece is disgustingly brilliant. As she does with most of her pieces and performances, with this one she again uses her body as the tool and has an intimate contact with her body and the material and what is left behind is the trace of the material, for the viewer to experience the memory of where the chewed and where the recasts came from. She says that she chewed on that chocolate cube for about a month and a half, which sounds pretty painful considering how big that chunk of chocolate was. This piece can also be considered as a ‘minimal’ piece of art, since the material is the most important aspect, but also equally important is the process of it in which is the performance feature of it. I really very much admire her patience and dedication in this piece, whereas I believe that no one would have been able to do this same piece and succeed the way Janine Antoni did.

Another piece that she talked about was the performance Loving care that was done also in 1992. In this piece Janine Antoni uses her hair again as a tool and in this case as a paintbrush and hair dye as her paint. What she does in this performance is that she dips her hair in a bucket of hair dye and she begins to mop the gallery floor on her hands and knees, while in the process of this the viewers are pushed out of the space.  I consider this one of the very powerful pieces that Janine Antoni has done and this is another piece that is about the importance of process and the meaning of making in an everyday activity, but also holds issues of the power of femininity that are brought up in the piece. Eureka (1993) is another piece of Janine Antoni that she uses her body, where she places herself in a bathtub filled with lard, and when she’s lifted out, we can see the formation of her body. The 2038 photograph (2000), another of her work, is one of her nurturing theme and the role of women pieces. Janine Antoni is placed in a bathtub filled with water, where we see this cow that has reached towards her breast and it appears that Antoni is nursing the cow. This piece is titled 2038 because of the metal tag on the cow’s ear.

Janine Antoni is a very wonderful and admirable artist in my eyes, very extreme and disgusting in a genius way, very patient and hardworking with strong passion in what she does. The issues she is interested about are powerfully shown in her pieces and performances, however I hope she continues to take more challenges in her hands, and keep her interest in the involvement of the viewer’s experience, which was shown in her lightening presence.

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