Slide courtesy of Franklin Furnace Archive, Inc.

Western History as a Three-Story Building (1989)

“Western History as a Three-Story Building was first performed at DC Space, followed by Intermedia Arts, and then at Franklin Furnace. Sherman Fleming and Kristine Stiles drew upon this passage from Ishmael Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo (1972): ‘Upstairs is a store which deals in religious articles. Above this is a gun store; at the top, an advertising firm which deals in soap accounts. If Western History were a 3- story building…it would resemble this.’ Beginning with a prologue to their 3-part action, Fleming and Stiles appeared nude, separated only by a plank of wood extending from their feet to their chins. They shuffled into the space, hugging each other to maintain the position of the plank, and stopped in the middle of two contact mics. Still holding the plank of wood between them, they began drumming each other’s buttocks until the rhythm became that of a heartbeat. They departed. Blackout.

Now dressed, they began Part I: Fleming constructed a ritualistic labyrinth of ribbons, hanging coke bottles filled with water and suspended above metal bowls filled with burning coals, flowers, and candles, while Stiles copied esoteric terms and phrases from the Maori language, the I. Ching, the Bible and other texts on a blackboard. Fleming released the water-filled coke bottles which doused the coals in each bowl, filling the room with smoke. Next, they violently chopped onions and cilantro, and using fans, blew the smoke and scents into the audience such that it produced tearing among viewers. Blackout. In Part II, they reappeared dressed in formal attire: Stiles wearing a black ball gown, elbow length white gloves, heavy strings of pearls, and Fleming wearing a tuxedo. Both artists were blindfolded and Stiles, in high heels, carried Fleming on her back, causing them to crash through, become entwined in, and eventually destroy the labyrinth. Blackout. In Part III, the artists appeared again dressed in street clothes as in Part I, and projected slides with images of religion, violence and destruction, and advertising. Throughout Parts I through III, Fleming and Stiles also projected an image of Man Ray’s Compass (1920). It is a photograph of a huge magnet holding a gun. They used it to emphasize forbidden erotic and emotional attraction, metaphysical and physical phenomena, and the violence and destruction underpinning American society.”

Sherman Fleming & Kristine Stiles, 2017

SHERMAN FLEMING identifies cultural and social mechanisms through his art practice and community-based projects as a public arts manager. Fleming’s performance work has been featured at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Intermedia Arts, and Franklin Furnace. His solo exhibitions include Big Rebus Paintings (1990) at Nexus Gallery, Watercolors (2001) at International Visions Gallery, and Codewords (2006) at VIAP Galerie. Fleming has participated in group exhibitions such as Other Bloods (1995) at Arti et Amicitiae, Endurance (1995) at Exit Art, Whisper! Stomp! Shout! A Salute to African American Performance Art (1996) at Colorado Springs Fine Art Center, and The Postmillennial Black Madonna (2007) at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts. He has lectured at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Design and has stewarded public art projects for the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. Fleming holds a BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University and a MFA from Hartford Art School.

KRISTINE STILES is France Family Professor of Art, Art History, and Visual Studies at Duke University. She specializes in contemporary global art, focusing on performance, artists’ writings, trauma, and destruction in art. Her publications include Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art (1996 and 2012), Correspondence Course: An Epistolary History of Carolee Schneemann and Her Circle (2010), and Concerning Consequences: Studies in Art, Destruction, and Trauma (2016). Stiles was the curator of the exhibition Rauschenberg: Collecting & Connecting (2014–2015) at the Nasher Museum of Art. She is currently working with Kathy O’Dell on completing their manuscript Mapping Experimental Art: Studies in Contemporary International Art Since 1933.

Sherman Fleming identifica mecanismos culturales y sociales a través de su práctica artística y proyectos comunitarios como un manager de arte público. Su trabajo se ha presentado en el Instituto de Arte Contemporáneo de Filadelfia, Intermedia Arts en Minneapolis y Franklin Furnace en Nueva York. Sus exposiciones individuales incluyen Codewords (2006), en VIAP Galerie, Heerlen, Holanda; Watercolors (2001), en International Visions Gallery, Washington, DC; y Big Rebus Paintings (1990), en Nexus Gallery, Atlanta. También ha participado en exposiciones colectivas como The Postmillennial Black Madonna (2007), en Museo Contemporáneo de Artes Africanas de diáspora, en Brooklyn, Nueva York; Whisper! Stomp” Shout” A Salute to African American Performance (1996), en Colorado Springs Fine Art Center, Colorado; Other Bloods (1995), Museum Arti et Amicitiae, Amsterdam; y Endurance (1995), en Exit Art, Nueva York. Ha dado conferencias en la Escuela de Diseño de Graduados de la Universidad de Pensilvania y ha dirigido proyectos de arte público para el Programa de Artes Murales de la Ciudad de Filadelfia. Fleming posee un BFA de Virginia Commonwealth University y un MFA de Hartford Art School.

 

Kristine Stiles es profesora de arte, historia de arte, y estudios visuales en Duke University. Se especializa en arte global contemporáneo, con enfoque en arte performático, textos de artistas, trauma y destrucción en el arte. Entre sus libros se encuentran Theories & Documents of Contemporary Art (1996, 2012); Correspondence Course: An Epistolary History of Carolee Schneemann and Her Circle (2010); y Concerning Consequences: Studies in Art, Destruction, and Trauma (2016). Stiles y Kathy O’Dell están actualmente terminando su manuscrito Mapping Experimental Art: Studies in Contemporary International Art Since 1933. Stiles también ha sido curadora de Rauschenberg: Collecting & Connecting (2014-2015). Además de académica, es artista y jinete.

Sherman Fleming identifica mecanismos culturais e sociais através da sua prática artística e projetos baseados na comunidade como um gerente de arte pública. A obra performática de Fleming já foi apresentada no Institute of Contemporary Art na Filadélfia, na Intermedia Arts em Mineápolis e no Franklin Furnace em Nova Iorque. Suas exibições solo incluem Palavra-código / Codewords (2006), VIAP Galerie, Heerlen, Holanda; Aquarelas / Watercolors (2001), International Visions Gallery, Washington, DC; e Pinturas de grandes rébus / Big Rebus Paintings (1990), Nexus Gallery, Atlanta, Georgia. Fleming já participou de exibições coletivas como A Madona negra pós-milenar / The Postmillennial Black Madonna (2007), Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, Brooklyn, Nova Iorque; Sussure! Bata o pé! Grite! Uma saudação à arte performática afro-americana / Whisper! Stomp! Shout! A Salute to African American Performance Art (1996), Colorado Springs Fine Art Center, Colorado Springs, Colorado; Outros sangues / Other Bloods (1995), Museum Arti et Amicitiae, Amsterdã, Holanda; e Resistência / Endurance (1995), Exit Art, Nova Iorque, Nova Iorque. Ele já palestrou na Graduate School of Design da University of Pennsylvania e tem dirigido projetos de arte pública para o City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. Fleming tem um bacharelado em Belas Artes da Virginia Commonwealth University e um mestrado em Belas Artes da Hartford Art School.

Kristine Stiles é professora France Family de Arte, História da Arte e Estudos Visuais na Duke University. Ela é especializada em arte global contemporânea, enfocando a arte performática, textos de artistas, o trauma e a destruição na arte. Dentre os seus livros estão Teorias e documentos da arte contemporânea / Theories & Documents of Contemporary Art (1996, 2012); Curso por correspondência: uma história epistolar de Carolee Schneemann e o seu círculo / Correspondence Course: An Epistolary History of Carolee Schneemann and Her Circle (2010); e Consequências preocupantes: estudos da arte, destruição e trauma / Concerning Consequences: Studies in Art, Destruction, and Trauma (2016). Stiles e Kathy O’Dell estão concluindo o seu manuscrito Mapeando a arte experimental: estudos da arte internacional contemporânea desde 1933 / Mapping Experimental Art: Studies in Contemporary International Art Since 1933. Stiles atuou como curadora da exibição Rauschenberg: colecionando e conectando / Rauschenberg: Collecting & Connecting (2014-2015). Ela é também uma artista e amazona.