Coinciding with the annual meeting of the College Art Association in Los Angeles, The Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley is hosting the offsite working session “Making Time at Human Resources” on February 22, 2012. Participants have been invited to post some brief thoughts on the topic in advance of the event. This guest posting is by UCLA student and artist, EJ Hill.
Sometimes (most times), I act on irrational impulses. Several nights ago as I was driving home from my studio in Culver City to my apartment in Koreatown, I realized that I had never counted out loud to 1,000. As soon as the thought occurred, I began counting: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 . . . 246, 247, 248, 249 . . . I had parked my car somewhere between 487 and 518. It was then that I decided I would either continue counting until I reached 1,000 or until I lost count. I ended up losing count around 860-something. I got out of my car, locked the doors, and crossed the street into my apartment building. The action had come and gone with no one around to witness or document. The very act of counting is measuring time as it passes, examining moment by moment, the fleeting nature of all things earthly. Did I just make a new performance or am I simply losing my mind?
As a performer, my natural/conditioned inclination is to document everything—each and every temporary moment to ensure that there’s evidence of an artistic gesture’s occurrence. But where is the line drawn between the raw, impulsive, and unrehearsed actions performed for oneself and the deliberate efforts to make an “art thing” for an attentive audience? How thick is that line? And who (the individual? other artists? an art institution?) determines the exact position of that line? Is it even necessary to make these delineations?
If a performance artist falls in the forest and there’s no one else around to witness or document it, is it still art?