In Other Los Angeleses: Multicentric Performance Art

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University of California Press, Mar 20, 2002 - History - 407 pages
Performance art and Los Angeles, two subjects spectacularly resistant to definitions, illuminate each other in this searching study by Meiling Cheng. A marginal artistic pursuit by choice as well as necessity, performance art has flourished in and about "multicentric" Los Angeles for nearly four decades, finding its own centers of activity, moving and changing as the margins have reconstituted themselves. The notion of multicentricity serves, somewhat paradoxically, as the unifying motif in Cheng's imaginative views of center and periphery, self and other, and "mainstream" and "marginal" cultures. She analyzes individual artists and performances in detail, bringing her own "center" gracefully and unmistakably into contact with all those others. Without suggesting that her approach is definitive, she offers a way of thinking and talking coherently about particularly elusive, ephemeral artwork.

Cheng describes performance art as "an intermedia visual art form that uses theatrical elements in presentation." Performance art, which uses the living body as its central medium, occurs only "here" and only "now." Because it is intentionally volatile, highly adaptable, and often site-specific, with emphasis on audience interaction, context is inseparable from the work itself. When Cheng writes about Suzanne Lacy or Tim Miller, Johanna Went or Oguri and Renzoku, Sacred Naked Nature Girls or osseus labyrint, she is conscious of her role in extending their creative expression.

As members of the "virtual audience," readers and viewers of other documentation concerning performance art are arrayed outside the center represented by a given artist and the circle represented by the immediate witnesses to a performance, but all may entertain what Cheng calls a conceptual ownership of the work. A person who reads about a performance, she says, may feel more affected by this virtual encounter than a person who has seen it live, and may reimagine it as a "prosthetic performance." Cheng's writing draws us into the many centers where a vibrant contemporary art phenomenon and a fascinating urban environment interact.

Published in association with the Southern California Studies Center at the University of Southern California

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List of Illustrations xi
Toti M OBrien John OBrien and Steve Roden
Acknowledgments xxxi
Sam Francis Untitled Edge Painting 1966 2
Anna Homler Breadwoman 26
Rachel Rosenthal The Death Show 40
Eleanor Antin as The King 42
Tim Miller poster for My Queer Body 202
Joan Hotchkis Tearsheets 210
Danielle Brazell Tales from a Bitch Girl formerly Exorcising My Mythologies 215
Dan Kwong Monkhood in Three Easy Lessons 219
The Tale of Family and a Grandmothers Suicide by Fire 223
Shishir Kurup Assimilation 227
The double birth of Sacred Naked Nature Girls 234
Whats in a Name?

Judy Chicago Suzanne Lacy Sandy Orgel and Aviva Rahmani Ablution 43
Chris Burden White Light White Heat 57
Out of Order
Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirror Room 81
Judy Chicago The Dinner Party 83
Engendering OtherSelves
Suzanne Lacy Car Renovation 94
A TrueLife Story 106
Swimming 107
Suzanne Lacy Inevitable Associations 110
Suzanne Lacy She Who Would Fly 119
Suzanne Lacy The Dark Madonna 126
Elia Arce preperformance installation
Elia Arce
Elia Arce Blessed by the Contradictions 144
Elia Arce Lip Sync 150
Elia Arce Grandma Helia segment in Stretching My Skin Until It Rips Whole 168
Elia Arce chicken incantation scene from Stretching My Skin Until It Rips Whole 169
Elia Arce Grandma Carmen monologue in Stretching My Skin Until It Rips Whole 170
A Heterolocus in Process
Guillermo GómezPeña The Loneliness of the Immigrant 175
Sacred Naked Nature Girls Untitled Flesh 244
Pablo Picasso Les Demoiselles dAvignon 257
Promotional photograph of Sacred Naked Nature Girls 259
Kinesthetic Transmutation of Theatricality
Johanna Went Alchemy of Monsters 291
Johanna Went Twin Travel Terror 293
Johanna Went complete script for Passion Container 298
Johanna Went Monkey Womans Inferno 302
Linglot terrace version 311
Toti M OBrien John OBrien and Steve Roden Linglot terrace version too 311
Husk 317
Toti M OBrien John OBrien and Steve Roden Somnia 317
Oguri and Renzoku Fu Ru I sift2
Oguri and Renzoku A Flame in the Distance 323
Oguri and Renzoku thestreamofconsciousness 325
Oguri and Renzoku In Between the Heartbeat 328
osseus labyrint Gordiannot 334
osseus labyrint THEM 340
osseus labyrint The Tragedy of Macbeth 347
osseus labyrint Liquor Cotunnii 348

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About the author (2002)

Meiling Cheng is Associate Professor and Director of Critical Studies at School of Theatre, University of Southern California

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