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Themesicon: navigation pathOverview of Media Articon: navigation pathPerformance
 
Un chien andalou (Der andalusische Hund) (Bu˝uel, Luis/Dali, Salvador), 1928Tapp- und Tastkino (Export, Valie (H÷llinger, Waltraud)), 1968
 
 
 

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emotions, too. There is probably no greater second of cinematic horror than watching an eye apparently being sliced with a razor blade in the Surrealist film «Un chien andalou» by Luis Buñuel. The undiminished shock effect is due to the radical physical attack made upon the organ of sight. Buñuel shows the very act of seeing to be in danger. Here, for the first time (at least in the history of visions), both the symbolic and real struggles against putting up taboos are confronted with their own limits. Borderline experiences are therefore part of the cinematic experience. And yet how soothing to remember, once the shock wears off, that it was ‹only› a film. What a relief to know that the theater of cruelty involves only the actors, and when next we see our theatrically destroyed object of desire (on TV, in a magazine or film), all trace of injury or imperfection will have vanished. But what if this border between art and life no longer exists? How do we conceive of a notion of art that so radically forces real life-time into an artistic performance concept that the duration and stubborn persistence of the result surpass our powers of imagination? Even in the present apparently tabooless media age, the symbolic or real infliction of bodily harm remains a central moving force of action and performance art.

 

Private / Public

Borderline experiences that tested artists and audience alike were tackled fundamentally in the 1960s and 1970s. Yet although these experiences now possess the special historical status elaborated below, their impact on the eyes, ears and senses is undiminished today. From the contemporary perspective, the act of crossing borders no longer needs to be top-heavy with utopian or ideological justifications such as the cause of sexual liberation: In the meantime, we have come to understand that since the body is simultaneously re-coded, such liberation is not to be had value-free, let alone free from power structures. Valie Export's «Tapp- und Tastkino,» a street action staged in collaboration with Peter Weibel as market-crier («Leap over the boundaries!») in 1968, illustrates the enduring power of such direct-action ‹cinema› even outside the historical context of politically and artistically avant-garde action art and expanded cinema.

While we continue to distinguish between private and public space, however blurred the boundaries may appear in specific cases, the immediate reality of the body and specific location as a collective space is subject to manifold displacements. Let us take as a

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