Archive | High Performance

Citizen Artist online


Here’s a link to the entire contents of “The Citizen Artist: 20 Years of Art in the Public Arena: An Anthology from High Performance Magazine 1978-1998.” It was edited by Steven Durland and myself, and published in May 1998 by Critical Press (New York) for their series “Thinking Publically: The New Era of Public Art.” It’s located in the archive of the Community Arts Network. The paperback book is for sale on Amazon.


Images from York Chang’s “second life”

To accompany yesterday’s post about York Chang’s “second life” project at 18th St. Arts Center, summer 2011, here are some images:

chang inst

York Chang's "second life" installation at 18th Street Arts Center, Santa Monica, Calif., summer 2011


An artist/time/history continuum


"No History"


"second life" discussion in 18th Street's Project Room, July 23, 2011


High Performance #12½: The Corrections Issue

In summer 2011, artist (and lawyer) York Chang conducted a residency at the 18th Street Arts Center in Santa Monica, Calif., titled “second life.”


York Chang's "Corrections Issue" of High Performance

Chang likes to mess with art history, and in this case he messed with High Performance magazine (1978-1998), which I founded in downtown Los Angeles and edited in tag-team with Steven Durland. For “second life,” Chang (with Fernando Sanchez) documented the activities of Artist Actualization Services (AAS), a performance art group allegedly active between 1979 and 1980. His documentation comprised an installation at 18th St. (former home of High Performance), plus a “new” issue of HP (#12½, Vol. 3, No. 5) and several public events.

Chang’s project virtually “proves” that a number of performances documented in HP during the late 1970s were not actually performed by the artists to whom they were credited, but by impostors: AAS members posing as those artists. In the “corrections issue,” AAS claims to have appropriated the artists’ identities (without – but sometimes with – the knowledge of the artists themselves) and inserted this fake information into art history through the pages of HP, specifically in the Artists Chronicle, a section of the magazine that appeared regularly during the first five years. The Chronicle featured artists documenting their own performances with a self-written description and a photo, plus date, place & time. It was crucial to me that art history include the artist’s voice.

HP #12½ looks exactly like an issue of High Performance, down to the cover stock, the typeface, the page design, the ads and the typos. It even cracks along the spine like an issue of HP. For this “new” issue AAS selects ten performances documented in HP’s Chronicle and presents them in a double-page spread. On the left is the documentary page as it appeared in HP at the time, ostensibly written by the artist; on the right is a “correction,” written by the poser, documenting how s/he chose the piece and carried it out in the persona of the artist.

The artists/victims are Ulysses Jenkins, Cheri Gaulke, Michael Berkowitz, Mike Kelley, Richard Prince, Paul McCarthy, The Waitresses, Bob & Bob, Chris Burden, and Jeffrey Mark Burdett.

Typical treatment is what happened to “Sex Is Stupid,” credited to Bob & Bob, but “actually performed by” AAS members James Norrell & Bert Conner at LAICA on June 30, 1979.

"Bob & Bob" in "Sex Is Stupid"

Norrell and Conner claim to have used subversive techniques (aided by John Duncan and Marc Pally) to literally steal all the paintings from Bob & Bob’s studio that were scheduled for a show at LACE in July, installed them at LAICA in June and sold them all during a performance  at $25 each. The performance component of the event was Bob & Bob “crucified” live to an oversize canvas and hung on the gallery wall, wearing masks of their own faces. But they weren’t Bob & Bob (who are, in truth, fake personae of artists Paul Velick & Francis Shishim); they were actually Norrell & Conner.

I found out about Chang’s project completely by accident. My friend Jerri Allyn was also conducting a residency at 18th Street at the same time as Chang, so she knew what was up. She e-mailed Chang that she would love to attend an upcoming Saturday project event. She suggested Chang invite me and Durland to take part in the project, and she copied the e-mail to me. I happened to be in L.A. at the time, babysitting my grandchildren in Topanga Canyon. I went immediately to Chang’s page on the 18th Street website and read about “second life.” I was at first appalled that he hadn’t told us anything about it, then deeply amused at the concept. I e-mailed Chang and told him I could come to the event. He called me and we got acquainted, then started plotting how I could conspire with him to convince Saturday’s audience that I was outraged and would be suing him ASAP.

When I got to the project gallery early on Saturday, I spent time with the installation and the magazine, which had me rolling on the floor. When it came time for the event, so few people showed up that we abandoned the fake outrage and simply discussed the project for a podcast. I was delighted to tell Chang and the others that there actually were several instances of people faking performances to get them documented in High Performance!

The moment was delicious for me. Much has been made about the artist’s voice in HP and the extensive documentation provided by the magazine. HP’s archive is at the Getty Research Institute and is playing a part in Pacific Standard Time, the Getty’s citywide project this fall about L.A. art history 1940-1980. Curator Jenni Sorkin recently did a thesis about the first five years of HP and curated an accompanying exhibition when she was at Bard College, and the show traveled to LACE a few years ago. It used a lot of the memorabilia in the Getty archive. It is especially delightful, even poignant, to see all this ephemeral performance going down in art history, considering I started the magazine on a $2,000 personal loan in my loft on Broadway in downtown L.A. Back then it was essentially a ‘zine and, come to think of it, an experiment in crowd-sourcing. It warms my heart to think that Paul McCarthy, Hermann Nitsch, Bob & Bob, The Waitresses and the Church of the SubGenius are tucked away in a major archive and in 300 art libraries all over the world. I can hardly wait to see if Issue #12½ winds up in some of those collections. ROF to the L.


The resourceful York Chang

If you want a copy of this “new issue” of High Performance, you’ll have to pry it away from York Chang. Try Chang’s website or contact 18th St. (There’s a Culture Monster review of the project in the L.A. Times.)





Downtown Blues

Downtown Blues

lb young turks

photo by Monique Safford from "Young Turks," a film by Stephen Seemayer

This is a song I wrote and recorded in 1983 for Issue #23 of High Performance, a vinyl LP called “Artists Doing Songs.” Guitar is by the late Jimmy Townes.

The lyrics refer to the downsides of living in an artist loft. I lived for 8 years in a furniture warehouse at 240 S. Broadway in downtown Los Angeles. The plumbing, and everything else, was rudimentary, but we had a lot of fun in that place and that’s where High Performance was born. All concrete, no heat.

I actually loved living like this.



Downtown Blues

I’m hungry but there’s nothing open. The kerosene’s all gone.
I woke up this morning and the lights were all still on.
You came in about 4 a.m. with some guys from a leather bar
And now my stereo is broken and I can’t find my car.
You promised me I’d be happy if I moved up here with you.
Now I got the downtown wintertime Sunday morning blues.

The pipes are full of Fixall. The water heater’s broke.
Your grant came in last weekend and you spent it all on coke.
My parents were here on Sunday and my daddy like to died.
My mama sat down on that smelly old couch and she cried & cried & cried.
I promised them they’d be happy if I moved up here with you.
Now they got the downtown wintertime Sunday morning blues.

We’re living off a hot plate. We got roaches we got rats.
It’s so damn cold we watch TV in our mittens and our hats.
The ceiling’s leaking something and I don’t know what it is
But it’s dripping on your brother in that sleeping bag of his.
The elevator’s down again and there won’t be no repairs.
Now you want me to carry drywall up seven flights of stairs.

You know my daddy told me, You need a car if you’re downtown.
I put a Ford in the parking lot: They stripped it to the ground.
I came down here to this local joint just to try to stay alive.
Some guy comes up, puts his hand up my skirt and says, How about 25?
You know I lost everything I ever had. Nothing left to lose
But them downtown wintertime Sunday morning blues.


240 S. Broadway

240 S. Broadway, Downtown Los Angeles, where I lived 1976-1982, fifth floor. "Bride and Groom" mural by Kent Twitchell


Anthony Quinn mural

The other side of the 240 S. Broadway building. "The Pope of Broadway" mural by Eloy Torrez



My First Mardi Gras

I first attended Mardi Gras in New Orleans in 1984, with Steven Durland and assorted members of the High Performance Travel Club. The club was open to anybody who wanted to go on a trip with us. We drove from L.A. to NOLA, bringing along San Francisco performance artist Michael Peppe and writer Marian Kester.

Mardi Gras-bound: Peppe, Kester, Burnham & Durland, Ft. Stockton, Tex., with Paisano Pete, world's largest roadrunner

[Tangent: Michael Peppe is highly talented at manipulating torrents of words in performance. He won Steve Durland’s Five-Minute Performance Olympics, a true cut-throat competition. Here’s a sample of Peppe’s work from High Performance: The Record. Once you’ve heard that, you’ll realize that Peppe was and probably still is very peppy and a bit of a challenge on a long car trip. On the way home we left him in the middle of the desert because he was the only one who wanted to go to the Grand Canyon and he wouldn’t shut up about it.]

We met other members of the Travel Club in NOLA and we all stayed in the loft of an obliging performance artist, making forays into the parade and bar scene. It was very cold, so in between parades we would dash into a bar and drink gin and eat oysters.

During one parade we hooked up with some members of the Church of the SubGenius from Dallas and Little Rock. They were on acid and into some High Weirdness. We were all sitting in a bar on the parade route, viewing a parade through the window, but we could only see the middle third of each float. Arms went by throwing beads. Parts of enormous animals made of papier mache. Naked bulbous tummies, filling the window with an inexplicable voodoo dread. The Subgenii were bugeyed with astonishment. What?!! they wanted to know. Here’s a recent picture of the Rev. Ivan Stang, Church cult leader, still at least as weird as he was then.

Ivan Stang Official Portrait

One of our Travel Club companions stands out as unforgettable, and I will call him Dr. Fred. He was a sex fiend and easily the strangest looking one in the U.S. at that time. He complained constantly that he hadn’t brought his wife, with whom he had sex four times a day. One afternoon in the loft we were being subjected to one of Peppe’s tirades about the accommodations and the entire Mardi Gras scene when Dr. Fred arrived beaming. He announced he had just witnessed an event in front of a bar on Bourbon Street and it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen: a man [insert sexual euphemism] with a dog. After that, he informed Steve that he was in love with me and warned him that he would steal me away at the earliest opportunity. Steve and I excused ourselves and went out for lots more drinks.

The rest is pretty much of a blur, except for the part where I ate four servings of crawfish right before we left for L.A. and we had to stop at every restroom we passed.

LB & gorilla

Self with Mardi Gras gorilla, NOLA, 1984



Linda and Steve preparing to hit the street in NOLA



Linda and Michael Peppe with proof of actual visit.

Website by Steven Durland