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Stuart Brisley (born in 1933 in Haslemere, Surrey, England) is
widely regarded as the seminal figure of British performance art.
Over a career of half a century Stuart Brisley has come to the
conclusion, as stated in his recent novel "Beyond Reason: Ordure"
(2003) that 'what goes down comes up'. Although often hailed as the
'godfather of British performance art', Brisley is a more complex
figure, whose practice extends to painting, community projects and
pseudo-curatorial installations. Brisley has been at the forefront
of experimentation and political debate within the visual arts –
performance artist, painter, sculptor, writer, sound artist, film
and video maker, uniting all these working methods is a concern for
things that have fallen down (detritus on the streets, human
excrement), or have been otherwise marginalised (miners, bin men).
He has been an enduring influence on many of the present
generation of Young British Artists and his radical practice has
been an important contribution to British art, playing a fundamental
role in the development of installation and performance art.
As Richard Gott wrote in the introduction to the catalogue for
Brisley's exhibition Black at the South London Gallery in 1996,
'Homage to Brisley's performances and installations and references
to his work, can be found in many unexpected places and in the work
of other artists'.
His work examines the actuality and context of art within Western
capitalism. At the centre of this diverse work lies his exploration
of the essential qualities of what it means to be human, he has
challenged the human body in physical, psychological and emotional
ways. Vulnerable, exposed, Brisley's 'body in struggle' dramatized
the conflict between human autonomy and the instrumental forces of
bureaucratic and state power.
Influenced by Marxist counter-cultural politics in the 1960s, he
adopted performance as the democratic basis for a new relationship
between artist and audience. Brisley first achieved notoriety in the
1960s and '70s and is perhaps best-known for his disturbing physical
performances. His work as an artist extends over five decades,
embracing projects that are socially centred including Hille Project
1970, Peterlee Project - History Within Living Memory (1976-77),The
Cenotaph Project with Maya Balcioglu (1987- 1991), Museum of Ordure
2004 – . On his return from Peterlee, Brisley created his own
imaginary institution and between 1979 and 1986 Brisley instituted
The Georgiana Collection, working with his local community, in this
case homeless people sharing the same street where he lived.
'Recently Brisley, in a series of performances and an extended
text, has concerned himself with ordure and its collection by a
character named Rosse Yael Sirb, a character he - the artist
narrator – claims to have first met while he was a corporal in
charge of stores during national service in West Germany', Sirb is
contrasted by another figure, Bertrand Vollieme, collector of junk