âHAYLEY NEWMANâ, REVIEW FOR FRIEZE MAGAZINE BY PETER SUCHIN
Hayley Newmanâs first solo show at a major international venue worked as a reminder of the written wordâs immense influence on the reception and interpretation of works of art. The exhibition at first appeared to be the visual record of a large number of her own performance works. Presented as a display of neatly framed photographs complete with captions detailing titles, dates, venues and related information, âConnotations - Performance Images 1994-98â (1998) and âConnotations Iâ (2002), the latter constructed especially for the exhibition, allegedly documented some 40 live art actions carried out in diverse locations over a period of several years. A careful inspection of the earlier anthology revealed, however, that these âcaptured actionsâ were all in fact staged during a single week in 1998, and recorded not by a range of on-location photographers but by a solo collaborator, Casey Orr.
Each photograph in Connotations - Performance Images 1994-98 represented a single work, with the adjacent caption succinctly describing what had supposedly taken place. We see what we are told is Newman dressed as a ghost in a Soho pub or wearing special âcrying glassesâ while travelling on public transport, a crack in a wall caused by a PA system blaring out at high volume, thousands of small plastic bags filled with the artistâs own breath, and a sponge jammed in the door of the artistâs studio. These and other such âworksâ point to the fact that the history of performance art is in large measure constructed through individual, iconic images of now classic actions or events, together with their reproduction in catalogues, magazines and books. In some cases Newman references performances by seminal figures such as Chris Burden or Robert Filliou, as though restaging them for an in-the-know audience of experts or critics. The prose employed similarly alludes to the deadpan, matter-of-fact writing style used by Burden when assembling his own archival material.
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