Mike Parr: Early Performances on Video

2 June–28 July 2007

Mike Parr is one of Australia's most celebrated artists. He has been working since the 1970s. He began as a concrete poet, moved into conceptual and performance art, and in the 1980s started making large scale drawing works and installations. His work is remarkable for the way it combines opposites: conceptualism (with its analytic interests and focus on language) and expressionism (concerned with the emotions, cartharsis). Parr's key concern is the constitution of the subject, the self, identity; often explored in its mediation to an audience. This video compilation gathers film documentation of groundbreaking early Parr performances, made between 1972 and 1975, where he tests the physical and emotional limits of his body through extreme actions. An inventory of tasks—including 'Hold your breath for as long as possible' and 'Hold your finger in a candle flame for as long as possible'—was made, then enacted. Parr's performances were not only hard on himself, they were grueling to witness. Parr's exemplary suffering provides us with a means to measure the state of our own psychic health.