Friday, March 23, 2012

Mike Parr

Mike Parr is a renowned Australian performance artist and printmaker whose works have been displayed in America, Europe and Asia. He began performing in the 1970s, showing a desire to confront and challenge his audiences while exploring the boundaries of the human body and mind. He is generally considered one of the most talented living Australian artists, not only for his performances but also for his many works in which he masterfully uses a wide variety of different artistic techniques (e.g. drawing, etching, photography, printmaking, sculpting, video,…).

Solar Winds, 1990
Mike Parr was born in 1945 in Queensland, Australia. After moving from Queensland (where he spent his childhood) to Sydney in 1968, he joined the National Art School for painting. 
In his work, Mike endeavours to explore physical limits, memory and subjectivity by showing extreme physical feats or acts of self-mutilation. For example, in one of his earlier performances, he began chopping up his arm with an axe while talking to his audience. He did this to get a reaction from the spectators who, at the time, were not aware that he was born with a deformed arm and was wearing a prosthetic one filled with meat and fake blood.
Besides his profoundly disturbing performance work, Parr is a gifted printmaker of landscapes and self-portraits. In his artwork, he uses striking combinations of drawing and etching to depict his observation of and responses to distorted memories. 

For Water from the Mouth (2002)

“For Water from the Mouth” has been his most challenging performance so far.  For 10 days, Mike was isolated in a steel cube within a room with only water to keep him alive. During his whole performance, he didn’t have any human contact but his every action was recorded and broadcast live on the web.

The idea of the “experiment” was that he would try to voice his every thought out loud, all the while experiencing hunger, discomfort and sleep deprivation. Throughout the confinement, his mind became more and more disturbed. 

Malevich  (A Political Arm) (2003)

“Malevich” is another of his physically gruelling performances. It was designed as an attack against the political racism of Australia and the country’s ruthless treatment of refugees and asylum seekers. 

Mike Parr had his only arm nailed to a wall, sitting in the gallery for 30 hours on end. The recording was also broadcast live on the internet.

The work is entitled “Malevich” because Mike adopts the visual language of the Russian artist Kazimir Malevich by cultivating a certain alienation from his public to convey his strong disapproval of socio-political situations. Just like Malevich’s paintings, Parr’s work is not easily understood by the audience, which helps create the desired distance. 

Whatever the medium, Mike Parr strives to explore his own mind and body and their limitations. He tries to push the very limits of his own endurance by experimenting with trauma and torture and willingly subjecting his body to extreme physical discomfort; he is therefore often seen as a masochist. In addition to this, Parr tries to render his perception of distorted memories, not only in his performance work but also in his landscapes and self-portraits. Because of his mastery of so many different artistic techniques, he is regarded as one of the most outstanding Australian artists of his generation.

Mélanie De Bock & Sarah Vandamme

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