Performance art

Stock Project

js3.jpg. Stock Project was conceived and performed by Rebecca Iren, a talented and courageous American artist. Rebecca and her colleague, Courtney, were publicly pilloried for some hours as part of the Portland Art Walk. Rebecca explains the concept of her Stock Project:

"Stock Project was initially born from my fascination with our internal desire to judge and condemn. Public humiliation used to be a given of "civilized" society. Public squares always had a pillory built as their central focus. Although most of us are now private and secretive with our accusations, it is still so easy for us to enjoy thinking we are better... As I began to research stocks and pillories, I also realized how many women were placed in them for the vaguest of reasons. Courtney and I emotionally imagined the effects verbal/physical torture would have and tried to convey some of the ways in which invisible stocks immobilize us all."

Here are two video clips of Rebecca and Courtney's performance: Stock Project 1 and Stock Project 2. The latter clip was taken later in the evening. Rebecca comments "we were definitely feeling more fatigued while simultaneously experiencing greater comfort with our surroundings and dialogue".

Here are some more photos from Stock Project:

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Stock Project was conceived as a series of tableaux. The next instalment, Stock Project Men, features two businessmen in the pillory.

Medico della Peste

Medico della Peste is a band specialising in experimental music. The band's name is Italian for "plague doctor", hence the masks. As can be seen from the following photos, one of their experimental instruments incorporates a pillory. So the person in the pillory actually forms part of the instrument.

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Pillory for Market Place Mall

This work is by a performance artist, Paul Shortt, which features the intriguing concept of a reflective pillory. Paul says: "this is a mirrored pillory that I made and installed for an evening in Market Place Mall in Champaign, Illinois. When viewing someone in the pillory the watcher is confronted with their own image being reflected back at them".

You can see more of Paul's work on his website.

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Curriculum Adulterate

Elayne Harrington uses various items of furniture from IKEA to explore the narrative of restraint, oppression, public denunciation and punishment.

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Loves You So Much It Hurts

hurts1 The sight of someone locked in a pillory often brings out the worst in human nature, but this is not always so. Professor Sharon Alward-Sakowski used the powerful imagery of the pillory to evoke empathy and compassion in her performance art you see portrayed here. But I should let Sharon explain in her own words:

“After receiving a Manitoba Arts Council Project Grant in 1989 I completed a Performance/Installation at the Winnipeg Art Gallery called "Loves You So Much It Hurts" where I locked myself in a pillory for nine days. The tableau consisted of 3 Plexiglas panels in front of the pillory with text and definitions to the terms CRUCIFIXION, RESURRECTION, ERECTION, PILLORY. Behind the pillory was a blinking neon work called Jesus loves you so much it hurts.

This performance exemplifies for me all of the aspects that are important to my work. There is suffering and redemption as well as a sharing of collective pain. Many people were distressed by the sight of me in the pillory as an object of ridicule or scorn and tried to offer me sips of water. Gifts were laid at my feet throughout the 9 days and people came in and read me poetry, told me stories and talked about intimate spiritual matters. It was a very moving experience for me.”

My thanks to Sharon for allowing me to reproduce her picture and words on this page.

Medieval punishment

The following pictures are from a series of tableaux from an eastern European performance theatre group, on the theme of medieval punishment. If anyone has any information about this performance, please get in touch with me.

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Cady Noland

Cady Noland is an American Conceptual artist, known for her interest in the failed ethos of “the American Dream” and how it manifests itself in celebrity culture and everyday life. Her work is often based on personal traumas, which the artist harnesses for the purpose of larger cultural critiques. Through a mixture of sculpture, painting, and installation, Noland attempts to recreate a sense of immobility and fear for the viewer.

The following pictures show two of Noland's interactive installations: "Kinetics of Violence" and "Tower of Terror".

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The pictures below depict Guatemalan perfomance artist Regina Jose Galindo sitting in the stocks in Rome in 2007. Regina was left in the stocks for 12 hours. Her performance is simply called "Cepo", which is Spanish for stocks.

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Consumerism - The American Dream

An interactive piece satirising capitalism, by American artist Lisa Bjornstad.

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Village Green

Village Green 2007, by Rebecca Herman and Mark Shoffner, is a large-scale sculpture in wood inspired by the public pillory. Rebecca and Mark explain: "Village Green refers to American desires for an idealised yet restrained “village” community, both today and in centuries past, as seen in the architecture and landscapes of our cities and towns. The sculpture is simple and geometric: an octagonal structure with three circles cut out of each side for the insertion of a person’s head and hands. Unlike actual pillories, there is no means to lock a person in place. The sculpture creates a kind of self-policing panopticon where eight people can voluntarily face each other. It will suggest a reflective group activity, a makeshift self-imposed jail, public shaming, and surveillance of one’s fellow citizens. Village Green projects a new urban environment that is designed to alter social behavior through architecture. Village Green invites viewers to “enter” the sculpture, creating a shared experience in the center of the octagonal pillory."


Eric Madeleine

A piece called "Furniture Action" by the French artist, Eric Madeleine. This took place in 2012 in the Hotel Particulier, Monmartre, Paris.

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Shopping Mall

A Swedish performance artist sits in the stocks she has set up inside a shopping mall.

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Colección Whitney

Colección Whitney is a work by New York-based artist Trong Nguyen. Trong encourages visitors to spend time in his pillory "for the purposes of regaining control of the act of looking and to question the power relationships between the viewer and the object of art".


Literature Straitjacket of the Body

An early work (from 1976) of a French conceptual artist known as ORLAN. You can see more of ORLAN’s performance art at her website.

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Last modified 23 December 2020.
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