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[Sticky] CiC Lecture by Dominic Johnson /// Idiot Bliss: Charles Ray’s Plank Piece I-II (1973)

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/// Idiot Bliss: Charles Ray’s Plank Piece I-II (1973)

Lecture by Dominic Johnson, Head of Drama department at Queen Mary, University of London

Minutes/- open to be complemented with yours:

  • Context of this lecture comes from Dominic Johnson’s specific interest to look, read, find surprising aspects into artistic archives that failed meaning, aspects that were neglected, or marginalised for different sociocultural reasons/contexts.
  • In the lecture he makes attempt to question only formal and minimal critical perception/ description of the Charles Ray Plank Piece I-II, which lacks empathy and deeper meaning.

“My body is a sculptural element pinned to the wall by a wood plank” -Charles Ray.

  • Provoked by the statement of the artist friends “You idiot, it looks like the aftermath of a car wreck or a Goya print”, Dominic is showcasing us the reading of the Plank Piece in relation of the historical contexts of the 70’s when it was created, specifically putting it into relation with epochal moon-shot, “Whitey on the moon” – that was perceived as the outrageous waste while down there Afro-American girls are raped, “images of horror” form Vietnam war, social injustice, suffering are present. Can they somehow be related with the posture of the body on the wall supported by a plank (pain, persistence of the human body, while “whiteys” are levitating)? .  
  • Dominic referred to several performing artists that involved the body and civic art in general as comment to the historical contexts mentioned on the lecture. We might also refer and make some comments on the proposed artistic works…
  • Noncommittal side that Charles is holding about his piece in relation with historical turbulences is also a result of the Political exhaustion in the 70’s where “politics of art split between in a one hand, hold over “punknialism” believe into revolutionary creation of new society” and “the evolving cultural favouring of going “blank”” (Martin Herbert, “Tell them I said no”) Later Charles is claiming that his peace is more dynamic or promiscuous rather than meaningless. Artist efforts to keep meaning moving, doesn’t mean that it cannot find landing, meaning, critical approach, and reference (Goya, car crash accident and the horrible circumstances in 70’s)
  • So the phrase Body becomes an object, body becomes a raw material should be unpacked and understand not just as transformation but it resembles the worst things that happens in the real world. it articulates the violence that transform living bodies into objects, into violated things.



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