Performance art flourished in the 1960s and 1970s as artists sought to redefine art as more than precious items in museums. Many performances involved the artists undergoing almost ritualistic self-scourging. Events can be staged in front of an audience or as a solitary production but, by its nature, performance art is temporal. Though often no more than a basic documentary device, photographs of performance art are all that remains of many events and can stand on their own as works of art in varying degrees. Jill Orr and Stelarc have worked with a number of photographers over the years.
Jill Orr ‘s Bleeding trees was performed during the Third Biennale of Sydney in 1979 and reflects environmental concerns. During the performance, Orr was strung up in a dead tree and also half buried in the earth. In this image, her mouth is a gaping wound, ‘an opening, through which fear can pass’.1 Orr becomes the mouthpiece of desecrated nature.
1Jill Orr, artist’s statement in Act 3: Ten Australian performance artists, Canberra: Canberra School of Art, 1982.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002