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Leisure performance: Loie Fuller

(Added 4 January 2007)

Loie Fuller Untitled 1905
Photo credit: Roger Sinek


At the Exposition Universelle held in Paris in 1900 – Loie Fuller helped announce the birth of Art Nouveau through her wild dance with veils in which she transformed herself into a flower. This performance, held in the pavilion designed by French architect Henri Sauvage, worked to inspire many art nouveau artists. Loie became the embodiment of the Art Nouveau movement, and was particularly known for her Fire Dance. She was also quite scientifically minded – working with scientists to registered patents for chemical compounds creating colour gels and chemical – for her scarves and dresses – which would react to luminescent lighting while on stage. She has lately been re-remember – in 2004 images of her work from the Exposition Universelle were featured alongside those of Robert Raushenberg, John Cage, and Duchamp’s Rrose Sélavy in the Tate exhibition Art, Lies and Videotape: Exposing Performance.

‘At the Coliseum Loie Fuller’s dancers have been delighting everyone with a feast of vision. Her effects are obtained by the use of coloured limes thrown upon white and pale pink costumes, and they are really wonderful. A particularly pleasing result was obtained by painting a gilt network on the slide through which the light was thrown. This colour projected on to a white costume very justly took the title of “The Magic Veil”. -source: The Dancing Times, London, January 1922, p.353

Tate Liverpool:

It was only with the invention of photography that performance began to make its mark in the history of art. Prior to this there was no instant means of making a visual record of live events. As film and video equipment became more readily available, artists with access to this technology experimented not only with recording live action but also with the moving images they created.

Many well-known figures in the history of art have been involved in performance during the course of their careers, from scandalous dance performances of the late 1800s to the happenings and actions of the New York loft scene in the 1960s. However the focus on the art object has meant that the ephemeral elements of these artistic practices are often lost or overlooked. -source Lost Histories Art, Lies and Videotape, Tate Liverpool, 2004

Art, Lies and Videotape was the first major exhibition at Tate Liverpool devoted to the history and significance of performance art. It brought together a selection of objects, photographs, reconstructions, films and videos spanning the last century, and gave insight into the various challenges associated with recording live events for history.

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