Art in America

Larry Miller at Emily Harvey


March 2000

Larry Miller became associated with Fluxus in the early 1970s, at a time when the relationship of the artist-as-performer and the audience-as-witness was no longer clearly defined. For artists like Miller, art took the form of participatory, often parodic, actions that collapsed the distinction between art and life. Miller remains literally true to that position. This exhibition, at its wry and witty core, concerned the artist's originality and reproducibility, that is, the artist himself as medium for the fabrication of the ultimate, unique work of art.

Miller gathered genetic specimens, photographs and legal documents representing himself and others, and offered these for purchase and revivification at a moment convenient to the collector. In Genomic License No. 8 (Ars Manifestus), 1998-99, he mounted photographs of 11 artists above light boxes containing specimens of blood cells or skin cells. These artists were certified as "original humans" in a document authorizing Miller to act as agent in any transaction involving the "distribution of genomic information." The collector receives limited license to reproduce phenotypes that when properly assembled will contain artistic talent--defined as the ability to detect nuances in the environment, render perceptual stimulus onto surfaces and understand the implications of that activity.

Revivified Self-Portrait No. 3 (20th-Century Romantic), 1966/ 1999 and Revivified Self-Portrait No. 4 (Anxiety), 1971/1999 featured photographic portraits of the artist as a young man, DNA specimens and tableaux restaging the events recorded in the original photograph, minus the representation of the artist himself. One was accompanied by an instructional videotape. The collector would be photographed in the position once occupied by the artist and assume the same legal rights as the "original human." A camera on tripod stood ready to document the reconstructed scene.

Elsewhere Miller assembled a video monitor, table, chair, tablecloth, chocolate crucifix and glass of red wine, inviting the viewer to sit and observe the artist (in the video) slowly devouring the cross, drinking the wine, wiping his lips on a napkin and finally leaving the empty glass, to the accompaniment of his own musical compositions. Among the sculptural objects in the exhibition were several casts of the artist's hands, one with fingernails and blood sample, and several casts of feet. Finally, Miller commemorated his mother in a series of photos and objects noting the personal and ephemeral nature of experience. Somewhere around 1973, Miller's mother painted one of the feet, placed a bracelet around its ankle, rigged a light socket and lampshade upon it, and placed it on a handmade doily, a tender memento and testament to the notion that blood will tell. -- EDWARD LEFFINGWELL

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