“Performance that is improper can shift the air.”

by Thomas DeFranz

Move over Marina Abramovic! Black artists have been creating performance art for decades. An often misunderstood art form. Performance art disrupts conventional thinking and the presentation  of art. The West Harlem Art Fund has invited Harlem-based artist Dianne Smith to present her 1st performance work Tug of War for our Under the Viaduct, 2015 series.  Please read her artist statement.

Works by Terry Adkins, Sur Rodney (Sur), Maren Hassinger, Dread Scott






The artist as cultural worker, uses their work to create aesthetic interventions, thus causing us to think and/or imagine worlds and ideas beyond our own. The push-pull or Tug-of-War if you will is to shake the larger society out of its hypnotic state.  Certainly I am no different, our charge as truth tellers is to challenge the status quo. We are not limited to white box spaces, and thrive on having our voices heard in the streets. The mere act of making art is disruptive and revolutionary. As such, the artist as cultural worker often finds themselves at once the protagonist and that of antagonist. We create work in order to liberate consciousness thus confront sociopolitical and socioeconomic issues, as well as, injustices of all sorts. The beauty and splendor of a work may at times trick us into engaging with things that may otherwise escape our attention. However, allowing ourselves to see and create meaning can take us on unimagined journeys. Art is the epoxy that holds a culture together, as such the artist as cultural worker understands his or her place in society, as well as community. We are charged with the strengthening and building of both. This charge does not come without trepidation for all parties, but the artist as cultural worker is unwavering in their efforts for truth, justice and equality. We understand that these efforts will always produce a Tug-of War.


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Documenting Black Performance Art

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