Art & Art History ETDs

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Activity art is an art form which allows the viewer to become a participant in the creation of the work of art. Activity art is presented as a group of people participating in an ordered activity or event. An ordered activity is one which is limited by a special set of rules, boundaries or instructions. It is an activity in which each participant knows, in a general way where to be and what to do for each moment of the event, and, each participant knows, in a general way, the wheres, whats and whens of some or all of the other participants. The rules or instructions are communicated to the participants verbally and in writing, usually in the form of a script or score. Since the participant knows what to do only in an unspecific way, his specific behavior during the activity is determined by his personality and by the influence of others in the group. The participant knows that he is determining the details of the activity. The participation and the knowledge of its uniqueness and importance to the activity gives the participant a heightened emotional experience and a strong memory contact with the event. In addition to the rules or instructions, the activities are ordered with sculptural objects or props. When the activity is finished, display of the sculptural objects intensifies the effect of slide or movie documentation for nonparticipants, and helps trigger memory responses for participants. Two examples of activity art are “Ceremonial" and "Spongebath Initiation." In "Ceremonial" two elaborately costumed beings capture a human being and transform him from human form to their form. The new being is allowed a limited freedom for a short time, and is then transformed back to human form. The activity is simultaneously symbolic of (a) the oppression and ultimate extermination of one group by another group, and (b) a child bearing-rearing sequence in which the child takes one more evolutionary step than the parents were able to take. In “Spongebath Initiation” an initiate is chased by a large group of people toward a snare operated by a group of initiators. The initiate allows himself to be ensnared the initiators proceed to initiate him by throwing wet sponges at him. The sponge throwing stops. The initiate is released from the snare, and is dressed like the initiators. The initiate and the initiators then leave the premises. "Spongebath Initiation" is symbolic of the process of change in a person's life. The changes are equated with traps which people build for themselves. There are four parts to this process of change: the pressure towards making the change, the commitment to make the change, a time of initiation and the final absorption into the new situation. The attraction to activity as an art form is that it provides a deviation from the normal mental and physical patterns of the participants. Physical activity has a great effect on mental activity. If the physical activity is properly ordered and set in the proper environment, the participants can release sane of their inhibitions and have meaningful personal experiences.



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Department Name

UNM Department of Art and Art History

First Committee Member (Chair)

Charles Mattox

Second Committee Member

Peter Walch

Third Committee Member

Thomas R. Barrow