Artist conversation week 8, Maccabee Shelly

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Upon initial view performance art is strange. It is not painting, sculpture, or ceramics, or any thing remotely thought of as “art”. This art comes from experiencing something different and strange, that is also fleeting. For example in a video we watched in class, a performance artist built a rectangular ice brick structure that would inventibly melt over the day. While you could see a video of the performance, the actual event only occurred once. In its enterity it was perceived in the moment by the onlookers. People who witnesses the structure at different times saw completely different things.

Maccabee Shelly is an artist who did a performance art piece, and his performance was tinkering around with electronics to build small gadget type machines. One machine was a box that could tell the future, and another in construction could enhance the musical capabilities of a typewriter. But what truly struck me as strange was that Shelly said that as long as you had his permission first you could touch and hold some of the objects on display. For example he let the future telling machine be passed around. So,when I asked if I could know what material was covering his hammer he answered the question and let me feel it myself. And I realized that this experience of touching the hammer and the holding the box was specific to me. How many other people would ask that same question, or examine the box like I did? Shelly himself praised this feeling, calling it one of the benefits’ of performance art being that everyone walks away differently from a performance.

Lastly because I noticed that Shelly was working with machines, wires, and circuits, things that involve knowing a far amount of science, I asked him an age old question. I asked, how do you feel about science vs. art? And the response I got from Shelly was not combative at all, in fact is was the opposite. He said that through the ages technology changes and in doing so gives artists different ways to express themselves. Just like cavemen used rudimentary pastels to paint walls, Shelly uses wires and circuits for his art show. His answer shows that the two groups are not mutually exclusive. Just because you are a better artist does not mean you have to shun science.


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