History of Disappearance
Live Art from New York 1975-Present
Work selected from the Archives of Franklin Furnace


History of Disappearance examines how institutions can play a role in relation to the practice of live or performance art, and the importance of recording and preserving this art form. The exhibition offers a rare opportunity to view documentation of a diverse collection of live art works from the fertile time in avant-garde art history during the 1970s, the politically volatile time of the 1980s, through to artists’ use of the Internet as a platform in the new millennium.

The exhibition draws on the wealth of experience of Franklin Furnace, a New York-based arts organisation established in 1976, devoted to temporary or ‘time-based’ art forms such as artists’ books, installation, live art and performance art. The organisation’s mission is ‘To make the world safe for avant-garde art’ and it deals solely with work that differs from traditional art forms in an original or experimental way. Franklin Furnace supports American artists’ fight for freedom of expression and was particularly active during the late 1980s and early 1990s. During this period US Government funding for the arts became subject to standards of ‘decency’ – sparking the ‘Culture Wars’ between the authorities and communities of artists who refused to censor their practice.

In 1996 Franklin Furnace closed its physical exhibition space and transformed into a ‘virtual institution’ to bring Internet-based art to audiences across the world. Franklin Furnace today continues its mission to make the world a safer place for avant-garde art by funding innovative artists and archiving their work.

History of Disappearance includes works by major international artists including Eleanor Antin, the Blue Man Group, Patty Chang, Karen Finley, Coco Fusco, Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Ana Mendieta, Linda Montano, Matt Mullican, Claes Oldenburg, Reverend Billy and William Wegman.

The show comprises video footage, artists’ books, on-line works, artefacts from the archive and a newly commissioned wall painting.

Highlights of the exhibition include video works such as Swimming the Mississippi (1987-1997), by Billy X. Curmano, which documents the artist’s ten year quest to swim from the source of the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico, footage one of William Pope.L’s famous street crawls from The Crawl Project and Reverend Billy’s peaceful protests against Starbucks and The Disney Store. Andrea Fraser offers an incisive and humorous guided tour through the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Museum Highlights: A Gallery Talk (1989) and Tehching Hsieh’s One Year Performance (1980–1981) shows the artist punching in at a time clock, every hour on the hour, twenty-four hours a day, for an entire year.

History of Disappearance forms part of BALTIC’s on-going progressive live and performance art programme.

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