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From the mid-1970s, artist Marina Abramović (born in Belgrade, 1946) has created significant works that have incorporated the use of performance in visual arts.  In her work, the body has been both subject and medium, and her exploration has focused on emotional and spiritual transformation. For Abramović the process of making art is vital, and her performance pieces challenge categories of human meaning and visual representation.
In 1988, after more than a decade of an intense relationship of love and art with German artist Ulay (b. 1943), the two decided to part by making a spiritual journey. They planned to approach each other from the two ends of the Great Wall of China.  Ulay began in the Gobi Desert and Abramović at the Yellow Sea. For a period of ninety days, each walked more than 2,000 miles, and on June 3, 1988, they met in the middle and said “good- bye” for the last time. The work was entitled “The Lovers: The Great Wall Walk.” In 2010, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, Abramović sat motionless in the museum’s atrium, confronting her viewers, one-on-one, every day for three months. She captivated the audience without words, and brought many of them to tears.
Chicago’s Lou Mallozzi (B. 1957) is a sound artist who creates sound installations, performances, drawings, visual installations, and other projects. Mallozzi is co-founder and executive director of Experimental Sound Studio, a nonprofit sonic arts organization in Chicago, and is on the faculty of the Sound Department at the School of the Art Institute. Last August, for two hours in mid-day, Mallozzi performed his work entitled “Outpost”. Perched on a balcony across the street from the Chicago Cultural Center, Mallozzi spotted individuals through a telescope, and described them in detail over a PA system that was audible in the surrounding area.  The work was created by a voice that occupied its specific site and the voice was part of the work’s architecture.
Mallozzi wrote to Chicago Life: “The amplified voice creates the architecture of surveillance and description, a redundant architecture grafted onto the existing space and context. Within earshot, I am a speaker-sniper. The telescope receives the image of the subject, but once the subject realizes she/he is a subject, it becomes a projector or a spotlight calling attention to the subject. The work starts with surveillance and the crude irony of exposing fully all the crude mechanisms of surveillance, exposing the observer, the optics and audio gear. Establishing a perch, an elevated (ad)vantage point, then being able to speak ‘from on high.’ The redundancy of the descriptive voice, nothing is said that is not already plainly in view, hair color, clothing, jewelry, bags, gestures, etc… The way one looks and presents oneself in public is largely a decision one makes, one wants to look this way in public (for the public). Thus I am only vocalizing what is already the subject’s desire. Yet it makes the subject uncomfort  able (happy, amused, irate, irritated, but always, first, uncomfortable). By speaking, sound insinuates itself, is inescapable and therefore inherently confrontational even though it is completely banal in content. No information is added to the scene, no commentary, no opinion, and no judgment, just the facts. But the language of ‘just the facts’ is not neutral and carries its own baggage (‘I was only doing my duty’), the role of data in oppression. I’m careful with the language never to say I or we, keeping the observer out of it, mechanistically scientific. Here language makes apparent that which is already with us. The Petri dish of this experiment is the shared public space, the amplified (publicized) voice is the transformative agent brought to bear on the individual. Note that the moment the subject recognizes she/he is being described, there is an immediate body language reaction, an instantaneous primp or bristle.”
Next month, on November 13, at 12-noon and 6 pm, Mallozzi’s “Peers” will happen on the first floor of the Chicago Cultural Center. The sound installation is a group recitation of the last words of Lee Harvey Oswald from the time of Kennedy’s assassination until Oswald's assassination. The text is recited by twelve people in unison, a stand-in for the jury Oswald never had, one of many gaps and absences in an event that has become so mythological that its facts may never be known.

Published: October 13, 2012
Issue: November 2012 Issue